Obsidian 's Feargus Urquhart recently spoke at a GDC Russia panel entitled "The decline of the gaming industry as we know it—is there a way out?" While he cast doubt on the notion that huge, console-focused, "AAA" titles are going anywhere, he declared them "not relevant for the development community as a whole." The inflated budgets and team sizes required to make such titles, he cautioned, can also be detrimental to the creative process.
"Trying to manage a team of 1,000 people, I think is just crazy... and it costs a ton of money," Urquhart said of the model used to produce games like Call of Duty and Battlefield. "The result of that is we get fewer games. And I just don't think that that's good. It means we're going to get less innovations... No one wants to try new things. Because if you're going to go spend $100 million, $200 million on a game, it has to make its money back."
Urquhart revealed that some games we think of as AAA actually cost significantly less—Skyrim and Fallout: New Vegas were called out specifically—due to a different development philosophy. He also stressed that better tools allow high quality games to be made for less money, and that the big publisher model is ultimately something that will remain restricted to a very small percentage of studios going forward.
"I question the relevance of AAA," he said. "AAA is not relevant for the development community as a whole, unless you want to go work on a team of 300 people, 400 people, and you want to make five specific games."
You can check out the full video above (though it's mostly in Russian). Obsidian's own Project Eternity became one of the most successful Kickstarted games ever last year, bringing in well over $4 million. While impressive, it's only a small fraction of the budgets for titles like Star Wars: The Old Republic , which was rumored to have cost as much as $300 million. This all seems to serve as an apt illustration of Urquhart's point: the games that get the most attention are often made by a very small percentage of studios working with wildly unusual development resources.