The Current State Of AAA Games Worries Me For The Future

Save for a few outliers, the future of AAA games look quite bleak.

Story Highlights

  • AAA games have declined in various ways over time, painting a dark future for the industry.
  • Devs only focus on repeating formulas and profitable trends. It has led to a drop in creativity.
  • The corporate structure has made AAA titles more concerned with statistics than enjoyment.

Remember the olden GTA San Andreas days? When we used to wonder about the way gaming would evolve in a decade or two? I was quite an optimistic gamer back then, and I still am to some stretch. However, a lot of that sanguinity has come crashing down in the many years since. AAA gaming—while it has reached heights that no one ever imagined—also sits atop a cliff of predatory practices and worrying trends worth fretting over.

The devs have completely siphoned the fun out of these large-scale projects due to numerous questionable business practices. It all began with a single microtransaction when The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion introduced horse armor as a purchasable DLC.

Since then, entire business models have been built around microtransactions. However, that is far from the only concern that threatens AAA gaming.

The Obsession Over Visuals Has Arguably Caused More Harm Than Good

Starfield Has Fun Gameplay Elements Buried in Frustrating Gameplay | Image Source: Steam

One thing that most of us failed to consider was that visuals would become most AAA studios’ main obsession to improve over time. Over the last decade, we have seen a bundle of amazing franchises become eye candy. Yet, they have seen no major creative gameplay upgrades or have completely fallen short of their legacy to pursue profits.

Better visuals do not necessarily result in engaging gameplay. Even the best-looking experiences can end up soulless in the end. One recent example is the aesthetically pleasing Starfield. I was so excited when I saw Starfield Direct. But the gameplay turned out to be mundane, with a jumbled mess of loading screens and inconsistent gameplay. 

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Compared to that, No Man’s Sky has come a long way with its slew of updates and fixes and the unique art style that has not prevented the devs from offering entertaining gameplay mechanics. I found every session enjoyable, which continues to secure huge player retention compared to Starfield.

Most AAA devs play by the “rinse and repeat” formula to release sequels that look pretty but avoid taking any creative leaps for the players. It is far more convenient for the giant conglomerates to secure all the sales that would have been lost otherwise. Ubisoft’s Far Cry and Assassin’s Creed series have been victims of this strategy.

Execs In Suits Often Decide What And How Games Are Developed

The passionate devs brimming with creativity are often bogged down by game publishers. It is all too common for these companies to steer the direction of titles per their whim to satisfy investors. As per Dead Space 3’s co-producer and writer Chuck Beaver, devs were not allowed to develop a horror game from the get-go. It was a huge blow to the excellent IP. 

We weren’t allowed to make a horror game from the beginning,” said Chuck Beaver.

Publishers also often cause titles to be released early in order to make yearly financial reports look good. However, it leads to massive crunch times and stress for the devs who end up sacrificing many aspects of gameplay.

Dragon Age 2 is an infamous example of this; it was a fun venture that still garnered good ratings. However, much of the planned content was slashed to meet the 16-month deadline set by EA. Redfall is another recent instance that puts a bitter aftertaste in my mouth. It is one of the biggest flops of recent times.

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Chasing Trends And Profits Has Turned Players Into A Statistic

Are you satisfied with The state of AAA games?
byu/Nomnom039 invideogames

Most open-world games tend to be more bloated than ever before, with MTX at every possible juncture to squeeze your wallet dry. Sometimes, it becomes impossible to progress through a free title unless you pay for certain features. All this makes me feel like we are nothing but a mere statistic for most game developers.

Now, I am not denying that live service and MTX-filled entries can be successful—some of them are quite fun, actually. However, only so many can dominate at a time. Fortnite and some other big names have been only up there because of player-friendly practices compared to other predatory live service titles.

Many notable titles could have simply fared better without the live service models, like the recent Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League. There have similarly been many others that failed just because they adopted trends centering around profits rather than players.

Some Devs Are Challenging The Toxic Norms Of The AAA Industry

Before the corporate culture, devs used to be quite connected with their players. This is now only found in a select few studios—especially on the Indie scale—which has caused a dissonance between gamers and devs. Studios chase numbers before player satisfaction, as reflected in the live service and FOMO models. These trends only drive my unease about the seemingly dark future of AAA gaming.

Palworld Is A Fun Blend Of Cuteness And In-Depth Survival | Image Source: Steam
Palworld Is A Fun Blend Of Cuteness And In-Depth Survival | Image Source: Steam

However, I am still hopeful due to a few overachievers that launched in recent times. Baldur’s Gate 3 has defied all odds and challenged the modern norms set by AAA gaming studios. It was highly successful and featured no MTX or live-service elements. Similarly, the simple yet fun Palworld is a “Pokemon with Guns” survival venture that can reignite your love for gaming. 

And after seeing the triumphs of Helldivers 2, I hope that more AAA studios will develop passion projects that do away with predatory models and put players before anything else.

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Shameer Sarfaraz is a Senior News Writer on eXputer who loves to keep up with the gaming and entertainment industries devoutly. He has a Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science and several years of experience reporting on games. Besides his passion for breaking news stories, Shahmeer loves spending his leisure time farming away in Stardew Valley. VGC, IGN, GameSpot, Game Rant, TheGamer, GamingBolt, The Verge, NME, Metro, Dot Esports, GameByte, Kotaku Australia, PC Gamer, and more have cited his articles.

Experience: 4+ Years || Education: Bachelor in Computer Science.

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