AAA games development is in a very peculiar position right now as sales are falling short of expectations. Major IPs are finding it hard to break even which is encouraging developers to move to mobile platforms or introduce a burdensome microtransactions system within their games.
Just this year alone, many IPs including Call of Duty, Titanfall, Mafia and more failed make a mark commercially. Call of Duty, which is the biggest shooter IP in the world, saw a drop of %50 year-over-year. Just recently, GameStop released its financials, reporting total global sales of $1.96 billion, a decrease of 2.8 percent year-over-year.
GameStop mentioned that games released in the “last few weeks of October” underperformed, so it is safe to assume that even Battlefield 1 is on the list. We are starting to see the effect of poor sales on titles as publishers now more frequently use microtransactions that often don’t make any sense.
One example here is Square Enix’s Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. The publisher added Praxis Kits and Credits to make the game super easy but what’s odd is that all items are one-time use only. You are paying for something you can not use during your second or third playthrough of the game.
So what can be done to improve the situation? Well, change is required. Releasing quality products that don’t dent the reputation of an established IP, at the same time, gaining the community’s trust and encouragement for new and creative work.
How was Rockstar able to sell millions of copies of Grand Theft Auto V? How The Witcher 3 turned out to be a commercial and critical hit? It is about quality.
I believe the situation will change as publishers are indeed changing their ways. Slowly but steadily, major companies like EA and Ubisoft are opting for quality over quantity and are not afraid to remove season passes or put an IP on hold on, ensuring quality. It would take some time to regain the community’s trust to a point where they are ready to spend $60 on day one on your AAA game, but it will happen.
Meanwhile, those who are still milking their IPs and using aggressive monetization models are bound to fail.