Well, it was bound to happen at some point and that point appears to be two years from now... for Ubisoft, anyway. Game development costs are always a hot topic because gamers don't want to pay more for better games, and publishers want to make more by selling more games. Devs just want to make great games. The impasse may not be too bad, as Ubisoft's CEO also confirms that the expenses may not be passed along to consumers, as the $60 price point is here to stay for AAA titles (along with day-one DLC).
In a fairly detailed interview with Game Informer, Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot spoke with Michael Futter about a number of subjects, mostly revolving around the leap into next-gen gaming, and of course the price of development seeped into the conversation.
Regarding development costs, Guillemot stated that...
In the first couple of years the costs should remain close to what we had before. After two years we think they will really grow because we will do – again, we will take more and more advantage of the possibilities of the machine. And the games will grow again, quite a lot.
Yves goes on to explain that they will support the Xbox 360 and PS3 for two more holiday seasons and then bring cessation to what we call the “current gen” of gaming.
He also believes that costs should be offset throughout the next year given that they will get to reuse a lot of assets for/from current gen consoles while also pumping stuff out for next-gen consoles.
Yves doesn't necessarily make it clear if the high production costs for more platforms is better for a brand or sales, since there is a lot of volume of the goods being moved, but he does seem to indicate that there is some sort of financial strain given the amount of platforms for which some games are in development. This slightly mirrors what Activision's Bobby Kotick mentioned about the move into next-gen, where he, too, hinted at a rise in development costs.
The idea that their current software setup will last them just two years into next-gen seems a bit troubling. It's not like there's a whole lot of growing room for the PS4 and Xbox One the way it was for the Xbox 360 and PS3, so it does make me question exactly what kind of costs they will incur for the next-gen consoles beyond the next two years? Building new engines for hardware that's not quite capable of running games like Battlefield 4 on ultra at 1080p and 60 frames per second doesn't really seem to necessitate the requirement of even more advanced and newer game engines... although, I imagine optimization will probably be the real killer over the long haul.
For now, Xbox 360 and PS3 owners can at least take comfort in knowing that they get at least two more years of Ubisoft games before the studio calls it quite on the archaic seventh generation consoles, for which they've hit the technical ceiling.
Hopefully, the low technical ceiling for Microsoft and Sony's consoles will force AAA publishers to reevaluate their games to focus more on creativity as opposed to pushing for bigger and better graphics. Sony's endeavors to acquire a lot of third-party support seems to show that they definitely care more about cutting costs and fostering creativity rather than sticking to the Hollywood blockbuster mentality of some publishers.
You can check out the rest of the interview over at Gameinformer.com.