Any time a new game console is revealed, the spotlight is invariably turned toward the biggest and loudest AAA-caliber games that will accompany the console at launch and beyond. Last month’s release of the Xbox One was no exception. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, Dead Rising 3, and Battlefield 4 have taken top billing in conversations about Microsoft’s new console. However, we shouldn’t forget the many great indie developers that have helped to make the Xbox Live Marketplace the veritable treasure trove it’s become.
A strong precedent
The last console generation, the Xbox 360, was home to some truly great indie games, including Cthulhu Saves the World, Escape Goat, Braid> and Limbo. These aren’t necessarily Xbox exclusives, but the fact that they call the Xbox 360 home has been an encouraging sign that Microsoft will continue courting indie game developers on the Xbox One. Even so, public opinion seems to favor Sony’s PlayStation 4 as the best console for indie developers. Given that, what can Microsoft do to win back the love of indies? It may already be on the right track.
In years past, it was relatively easy to produce a quality video game on a modest budget. In more recent years, however, the cost has risen astronomically, due in no small part to the advancement of technologies and the larger teams required to produce AAA-quality games. As a result, it’s easy to get caught up in sales numbers and “units shipped” and not realize that many games struggle to break even. As the cost of production goes up, so does the cost of the games.
The most expensive game of all time, in terms of production costs, is Star Wars: The Old Republic, with a budget of $200 million. The title is PC-only, which makes it even harder for publisher EA to recoup that expense.
The recently released Grand Theft Auto V (GTAV) comes in second place with a budget of $137 million. GTA V was released on both Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, but even with multiple platforms, making back that budget could be a tall order if there wasn’t so much excitement and hype for the game.
Where are we going with this?
The methods used to pass on that cost to gamers have been particularly annoying to gamers at the start of this latest video game generation. “Micro-transaction” has become a four-letter word.
There has been a veritable whirlwind of excitement, controversy and anticipation surrounding the release of Microsoft’s latest video game console since it was unveiled back in May. Microsoft has had to backpedal on unpopular policies regarding digital rights management and limitations placed on used games, but the electric feeling that surrounds every console launch has truly never wavered.
Despite some of the unpopular choices made by Microsoft, the Xbox One remains at its core not only a capable gaming machine, but also an all-around entertainment hub. The real question, then, is how to justify its $500 price tag: a $100 premium over the PS4.