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Monday, May 16, 2005

Them's Fighting Words

If you can take yourself away from refreshing kotaku to see if Sony will reveal their PS3 for a few minutes, please take note of the following:

The high cost of game development means that only the largest companies can afford to be in the business. While low-budget movies can occasionally become hits, "it is now impossible to 'Blair Witch' this business," said Jeff Brown, vice president for corporate communications at Electronic Arts, referring to the successful independent film.

--HDTV Is a New Reality (NYT, registration blah)

Grand Text Auto has a sweet post declaring that the age of Big Hair Games has begun. And if you believe Mr. Brown - it will be impossible to take part in the age with your normal sized hair. He's really throwing down a gauntlet here and saying that the next leap in graphics will outshine anything a small studio can accomplish to the point where they might as well not bother.

What do I think? I think he can eat a bag of hell. This is precisely the kind of narrow minded outlook which keeps Electronic Arts from having any serious fun. Sure, let's ignore Katamari and Alien Hominid. They didn't sell as well as Madden, and surely that was because they didn't have eye dropping graphics and NOT having anything to do with a juggernaught influencing things from the backside.

Mr. Brown seems to think he can put the small shops on notice. I think it's he who should be taking notes. Big Hair Games will cost more not just to make, but eventually to play. Ah yes, the weird math which has kept high end games at about the same price for nearly a decade is going to pop as soon as the big publishers all nod at the same time. They want to take the lid off their budgets ... in fact it's the only way they know how to compete with each other.

The problem Mr. Brown doesn't seem to understand is quite simple:

Gamers will not want to pay $60 for a title that they can beat in ten hours.

Now that's going to happen. You will see $60 titles soon enough. And some people will buy them, but this is also going to leave the backdoor wide open for someone to offer a valid $30 alternative.

Right now, budget often is equated with cheap and undesirable. When compared next to the Big Hair Games, that might change to simply affordable.

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