By Jared Newman | Friday, July 23, 2010 at 9:33 am
Quotables from video game industry executives are usually not interesting to me, but I want to dwell on a comment from Ian Curran, THQ’s executive of global publishing, on why the company won’t be releasing sub-par video games anymore:
“[W]e can’t afford anymore to bring mediocre games to market,” Curran told CVG. “There’s no room for them. You’re either a standout, best in class, or you die. We won’t bring bad games to market anymore. You can’t spend $30, $40, $50 million on a bad game and expect to make a return.”
The point here is not Curran’s promise of better games from THQ, but the idea that anything less than the best is simply not worth developing. Review aggregation site Metacritic notes that average review scores in the first half of 2010 are up from the same period last year, even though overall game sales are down. Even a steady stream of top-notch games, such as Mass Effect 2, Red Dead Redemption and Super Mario Galaxy 2, can’t lift the games industry from its current rut.
The upshot, according to conventional wisdom, is that game publishers will take fewer risks and we’ll be subject to an endless cycle of mindless sequels, but that hasn’t proven totally true. Original games like Heavy Rain, Alan Wake and last year’s Demon’s Souls are still available to those who seek them. Meanwhile, Xbox Live Arcade, the Playstation Network and WiiWare have provided a refuge for less expensive game development, and we’ve seen some great stuff in those download stores. This week’s Xbox Live Arcade release of Limbo, a critical darling, is a great example.
In light of so many great games with budgets big and small, Curran is saying that the middle ground — games from major publishers that aren’t highly-anticipated — has eroded. Publishers will either have to try harder to create the next blockbuster, or focus on low-cost, low return development instead. I’m fine with either.