Guerrilla Games (the studio behind the PlayStation 4 launch title Killzone: Shadow Fall) lead designer Eric Boltjes has estimated that the effort to produce a next-gen title has increased fourfold over what is required on the current consoles.
Boltjes made his remarks about the cost of PlayStation 4 development during a recent interview with VG247, where he said in part:
“The really scary part is, all the tools and all the stuff we developed previously had to go out of the window. We had to re-do everything. We had the engine that we were rebuilding to fit next-gen – you know, the new architecture all that sort of stuff – all the assets had to be re-done, weapons had to be re-done and the animation systems had to be rebuilt. It was a lot like leaving your save data for something new and scary.”
“The architecture is really cool because it’s easier to develop for… [but] It’s also a lot more demanding, because the production effort needed just to make a next-gen title now is not doubled; It’s quadrupled. That’s because everything needs to look that much better. It takes a lot more people, and that takes a lot more communication. So it does it make things a lot more easier from a technical standpoint, but from a professional standpoint it makes things a lot harder.”
While it is unlikely that increased “production effort” translates one to one into increased development costs, Boltjes’ statement should ring a few alarm bells for anyone who has paid attention to the video game industry over the last several years.
Over the course of the life of the current high definition consoles we saw more than a handful of developers and publishers close up shop because the higher cost to develop in HD outpaced the increase in consumer demand for video games. If production costs on the PlayStation 4 and (presumably) the Xbox One double (or even worse, quadruple) it seems to be setting the stage for even more contraction in the so-called “AAA” development side of the gaming industry.