It has been revealed that Grand Theft Auto V has made over $800 million in revenue in 24 hours. Do you know what that means? That means that, at $60 per copy, GTA V has ALREADY sold more than 13.33 million copies. In 24 hours. That's about 154 copies per second over 24 hours. For comparison, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3's first-day record back in 2011 was "only" more than 6.5 million copies and over $400 million in revenue. Activision CEO Bobby Kotick said,
"We believe the launch of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is the biggest entertainment launch of all time in any medium"
Yeah, not anymore! Rockstar Games and Take-Two Interactive one-upped you, Bobby. Maybe if you didn't do annualized releases more people would buy each Call of Duty?
So here is the huge problem. Look how much Grand Theft Auto V cost to make. $266 million. That's the most costliest game to develop in the history of the industry. It's taken almost the whole generation to make (last-generation, anyway). Five years!
Many other developers simply cannot afford making these AAA games. This is redefining what the term "AAA" means. Grand Theft Auto 4 had a budget of $100 million back in 2008, and that was something other "AAA" developers looked up to. As a result, expectations by gamers were shaped by these massive budgets, and we have this divide in the industry between "indie developers" and "AAA publishers". There's really nothing in-between now. The big companies are trying to crowd the small companies out of the market with these ridiculous splurges of money. It's not healthy for the market. After all, you don't want every company releasing only one game every five years, do you?
And what do you get out of it? Now you can smoke marijuana in a videogame! And everything is rendered in pain-staking detail. And for all that money, do we really get anything that different for the actual experience? From what I can tell, the driving mechanics are still dumb and on the level of the motorcycle from No More Heroes. So compare Grand Theft Auto V and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City from 2002. Over a decade and hundreds of millions of dollars difference here. What is there to show for it?
One reason (the main reason) I liked the 2DS upon announcement was that it provided an opportunity for developers to cut on the 3D effects for 3DS games, because that adds a bit to the graphics budget and therefore the cost of making games. Nintendo is shaping the expectations for both developers and consumers. Already we can see the results of their efforts for Pokémon X/Y, where 3D effects are disabled in the overworld. Nintendo is using their second-party developer Game Freak as a sort of emissary telling others, "It's okay to lower your budgets!" That's why it's good the Wii was a standard-definition system. That's why it's good the Wii U is cheaper to develop for than the other next-gen systems. Nintendo doesn't want to spend hundreds of millions of dollars and neither should anyone else!
Game developers say all the time that restrictions or limitations help develop creativity. That's definitely true. Grand Theft Auto V is the wicked result when game designers have no self-restraint when it comes to developing scope in the game design documents. It's like a boy eating the entire aisle in a candy store. You're going to quickly become a dying diabetic piece of shit.
I don't want our industry to be diagnosed with diabetes. Do you? We already had a sugar crash in 1983... Now 20 years later...?
Ludwig is a game developer and knows what he's talking about. He co-made Trayvon Tyson's Punch-Out!! for free and had a clear sense of scope when beginning the project. Follow Ludwig on Miiverse at NNID PrinceOfKoopas, where he recently posed the question, "What if Super Smash Bros. 4 had a $266 million dollar budget?"