Could Big Developers Learn Something From Small Indie Teams?
Looking at some of the creative and innovative ideas that come out of indie studios today made me think about why, when there are clearly so many interesting and fun sounding concepts out there we're still stuck seeing Call of Modern Honour Duty Ops 256 from the larger devs.
To me, it seems the answer is simple - due to the way that these big development houses are run, these games that have had millions upon millions invested are under immense pressure to sell in vast quantities to do so much as to break even. This pressure forces designers to take less risks and stick to what they know will make money - Hence the lack of new IP's coming from the big publishers in recent years.
So, why should companies like EA and Activision stand up and take notice of teams like the one at Mojang AB that are almost infinitesimally smaller than one that would be working on a standard blockbuster game? Well, the answer is simple: Innovation. You cannot keep a company running simply on old ideas that have been rehashed countless times in different forms, as the games will simply get boring and the gaming public will lose interest. An example of how this is happening at the moment is the Call of Duty series - More and more people are becoming disillusioned to the almost endless yearly sequels and quite frankly ridiculous amount of money required to stay right up to date with the games, when they really haven't changed all that much since the original Modern Warfare.
My suggestions is for these larger devs to completely restructure the way they handle new ideas. Employees who have an idea should be encouraged to take them on as side projects, and develop the concept.
Once the idea has been fully formed, it should be reviewed by both developers and a focus group of gamers from the target audience to see whether the game is worthing taking to the next level.
At this stage, the original designer/s of the game assume control of the entire project. They can then choose to either recruit fellow developers and expand or continue to work on the game alone. These recruits must be volunteers that have a genuine interest in furthering the development of the game, and not assigned there by the management.
Once the game is complete, it should be reviewed again as before and the advertising and release budget should be agreed.
The advantages of this system are:
- The developers working on the games are there by choice and are more productive due to their personal interest in the furthering of the project.
- More games are released in less time.
- The lack of a huge sales target hanging over their heads frees up the developers to make the game they want to make.
- The lack of a strict deadline further frees up the developers to expand and build upon the project as they see fit.
- The games that are released are more varied and include more new and exciting ideas that help to move the games industry forward as a whole.
I understand that a system like this is unlikely to be implemented by any triple A developer any time soon, but it doesn't stop it being an interesting concept. Google encourage their employees to take on side projects and the evidence is plain to see that Google are almost constantly releasing new products and features that have been developed in this fashion.
It's all about gunning for the highest possible reward while taking the least risk. Like it or not Cookie Cutter Established Franchise Manshoot 7 can sell 7 Gazillion copies on day one and give nameless shareholders enormous erections. That is why big publishers are always out to create the next blockbuster franchise.
I think it is great to see different models out there giving the choice between AAA and quirky Indies.