Next-Gen Development Costs Will Rise, Says Bobby Kotick

By William Usher 2 years ago discussion comments
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We've hit the technical ceiling with video games on home consoles. Developers can't make games any bigger, better looking or more expansive than what they are due to hardware limitations. Some studios spend inordinate amounts of money trying to optimize and condense massive games down to run on today's generation consoles, such as BioShock: Infinite. Well, according to Activision CEO Bobby Kotick, dev costs will sky-rocket once more once the next-gen consoles launch. Why? Because Bobby said so.

During an earnings call, CVG picked up quotes from Bobby “Money Balls” Kotick who stated...
"This is my 22nd year doing this, and every single console transition we've seen an increase in development costs. Over long periods of time it gets smoothed out, but I would say this is not a transition where that's going to be an exception,"

"We're going to have to figure out how to take advantage of the unique abilities of new hardware and that requires new skills and investment in tools and technology and engines and so yes, that's likely."

In regards to investment in tools, technology and engines, I'm pretty sure he's referring to Call of Duty, which has been running on outdated tech for ages.

However, had Activision been smart, they would have knocked the R&D out of the box during the end of this current gen so that they would be “future proof”, sort of like what Strauss Zelnick mentioned late last year when said that dev costs would actually come down because the leap from this gen to next-gen has already been adjusted for with design tools and console-ready engines.

As much as we hate on Electronic Arts, this is an avenue in which I must commend them for playing their cards smart: They don't have to do any R&D for new tools and engines because Frostbite 2.0 is already next-gen ready. Using a next-gen engine for today's current gen consoles was smart, as it prepped the team to scale projects for bigger and better hardware with streamlined efficiency.

The other thing that has me boggled – as mentioned in the opening paragraph – if current gen consoles have their versions of games down-scaled, wouldn't it be cheaper to spend less money optimizing for next-gen consoles? Essentially, the next-gen consoles are just beefier versions of the Xbox 360 and PS3, based on the “leaked specs”. Both consoles will also supposedly use dev-friendly APIs and design architectures to condense on multithreaded outsource support and design tools. So, cutting out and cutting down on middle-man development costs makes development costs rise, how?

So, again, if the design architecture is being made dev-friendly (as opposed to the PS3 this gen) and many engines and tools are already scaled for next-gen (Luminous Engine, Unreal Engine 4, Unity 4, Frostbite 2.0, RAGE, etc,.) why the heck would Activision need to spend more while others could potentially be spending less?

Some speculate Kotick is saying that next-gen dev costs will rise to prep shareholders for the inevitable announcement that the company may be hiking up the price of their next-gen titles to potentially make even more money per every release.
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