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When you hear something is “A, AA, or AAA” what immediately comes to mind? More often than not you hear it as a mark of quality or how large something is. If you happen to be in the games industry though, this will probably bring to mind the amount of money being spent on a particular project with “AAA” being the greatest dollar amount spent. It can also refer to the size of the team or even with a particular company known for producing certain types of games. This means when you hear about something being an “AAA game” you are being told that a large studio is putting a large amount of money down to create a game. Companies such as Epic Games, Bioware, and Bethesda are known for their “AAA” titles such as “Gears of War, Mass Effect, and Fallout” respectively. All of these titles had multi-million dollar budgets and large teams creating the content.

Then you have the indie game developer. “Indie” games are those usually made with much smaller teams and with much, much smaller budgets. In fact an “indie” game may just be one person working on it in their spare time because they want to make a game. It may also refer to a new company, one that has not made a “AAA” game before or does not have the money to do so. Companies like Mojang and even Paradox are some of the indie companies that come to mind. Games like “Minecraft, Fez, and Braid” all are examples of those smaller, “indie” companies.

Which of these is the “right” method for games development? Personally I believe that both have their benefits and their disadvantages and that neither is the one design to “rule them all.” If you think back just a short period of time in the life of game development, especially on the PC front, almost all games would have had the title of “indie” by today’s standards. Its only as the industry grew that “AAA” titles started to become the norm. Now we are back to the burgeoning “indie” industry side by side with the “AAA” industry.

One of the major disadvantages of a “AAA” company is that they have to have a successful game. Many of the high end game companies are on the stock market so they have shareholders they have to report to at the end of the day and make sure they score a profit. This means that they can take fewer risks on new properties because they have to guarantee that profit. Its why we seem to have a massive amount of “sequelitis” on our hands when it comes to games.

I think a measured balance between the two will be the next path the industry takes. You will always have your “AAA” studios and “indie” studios but studios that do not have shareholders and who have a median amount of funding to dedicate will start becoming the norm. Thanks to the “Indie” scene and the current generation of Consoles and PCs we have seen what smaller companies can create again and make millions doing so.

If game companies are willing to spend less on a project but fund more of them, they are more likely to hit one out of the park and make the money they want. That is called “diversifying” and it is not something the game industry seems to know a lot about. While it is all well and good to make “Super Game 14,” which will possibly be a success for shareholders, would it not make more sense to make three separate games that might all be a success themselves?

This is the path I would like to see our games industry take; one of diverse games rather than just “AAA’ and “indie” games. Perhaps one day we will see all of these games on one shelf together.

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