Innovation and mass market appeal simply don't go hand-in-hand. They never have.
And that's why Ubisoft Toronto boss Jade Raymond says the increased expectations for big-budget AAA productions infringe on originality. During a recent Digital Spy interview , Raymond said that as costs rise and teams get bigger, innovation will take a back seat:
"That's for sure one of the things that is going to stifle innovation eventually. Anytime you want to make a big triple-A, you're spending, let's say $100 million, you're not going to want to take a chance. It's got to be, I'm making the next Call of Duty or the Assassin's Creed and I know it's going to make 'X' amount, so we'll make money. I think that's the tougher thing."
So how to get out of the quandary? Raymond says that if designers want to push forward with original concepts, they must find ways to reduce costs via new developer tools and business models. She says that this could allow developers to "perhaps make ten times the amount of content" with about the same effort and resources. Also, as the way people consume games continues to change, game makers must adapt:
"What's the business model that makes sense to you? What's going on with free-to-play, what does that mean for the console market? I think there are a lot of questions around profitability, and I think that's probably why the reason the new sexy thing is the indie game, because ultimately everyone who is in games has a game idea and wants to be creative, and it's harder to get your game idea to life when there's that much cost behind it."
She believes that free-to-play and microtransactions "absolutely" have a place in the AAA market, and her team is currently examining ways to take advantage of those newer models. However, she did add this-
"You have to be careful about how you do it though, right? You can't set up the microtransactions to be, 'I pay money to be a better a gamer', because that's not obviously not going to work."
Hard to argue with anything she's saying.