Ubisoft's Patrick Redding believes that the traditional 'AAA' game is going to evolve over the coming years, with developers focusing on "systemic depth" and creative gameplay rather than flashy graphics. Think Minecraft, not Modern Warfare. These smaller 'aaa' titles will apparently focus on player-driven storylines and gameplay, while requiring smaller teams and overheads for publishers.
Sounds good to us, actually. More details below.
"The market as a whole is going to undergo a critical shift in priorities, a shift away from the absolute primacy of graphics and production values and content creation toward systemic depth," Redding stated during a speech at Toronto's Gamercamp festival [via GamesIndustry]. “This trend is going to trigger a reality check for developers like me who work on established franchises with a large succession of sequels, and it’s also going to be a call-to-arms for smaller game creators.”
This change will apparently be driven by 'literate gamers' demanding more depth from the medium, alongside spiralling development costs, insane marketing budgets and the rise of digital distribution. Citing Minecraft as the perfect example of a 'aaa' game, Redding suggested that this new wave of published titles will resemble indie games in many ways, with smaller teams crafting deep systems for players to mess around in and accepting that problems can only be solved creatively rather than throwing money at them.
As far as Splinter Cell: Blacklist is concerned, Redding readily classified it as a AAA game, but suggested that its AI and lighting systems have been heavily influenced by the 'aaa' approach.
We suspect that the next generation of consoles will herald a major push for the prettiest graphics possible, but as more players yearn for exciting emergent gameplay over visuals, it's likely that more publishers will start to prioritise systems over shininess. This is already happening in the AA industry - with developers like Double Fine moving to smaller digital projects rather than stodgy retail releases - so we reckon that Redding might have a point here.