The head of Xbox Game Studios Matt Booty has said that the days of a single developer being able to make a triple-A blockbuster title have come to an end.
Speaking at PAX West 2022 – as reported by VGC – the exec said that modern video games are simply too big to be made by one studio.
This would be why multiple teams appear to be contributing to most triple-A releases these days, including Xbox's own Perfect Dark reboot. This was initially being helmed by Microsoft's The Initiative studio, but Crystal Dynamics was also brought in to help out on the project in September 2021.
“How we make games is evolving,” Booty said.
“The idea of a single team under one roof really doesn’t happen that often anymore. I’ll use an example – our Perfect Dark team down in Santa Monica, The Initiative.
“So, we just did this big partnership with Crystal Dynamics, and I read online, ‘oh, this must mean there’s a problem or something’ – it’s quite the opposite, right?
“You’ve got this veteran team at Crystal Dynamics, a big triple-A team with over 100 people that becomes available. Of course, we want to work with them, particularly if they’ve made a game like that before.
“And that’s how we’ve done an awful lot of work. If you think about Age of Empires 4 which just launched last fall, that was made in partnership with Relic Studios up in Vancouver, great partnership. And even something like Flight Simulator, we worked with a studio in France called Asobo.
“And that kind of co-development, when you’re working out with people like Certain Affinity, Iron Galaxy, Blackbird [Interactive], all those studios are so key to the products that we make.
“That, though, also adds some complexity where if one of those studios has problems it then impacts the schedule.
“So the days are gone when you can sort of go ‘everybody, round up the team in the cafeteria, I want to tell everybody to work harder this Wednesday.’ That’s long gone, it’s gotten a lot more complicated than that.”
While Booty's point that triple-A blockbusters are too big and ambitious to be built by one developer is valid, there are other solutions to the problem. One was found by Finland's Remedy, which opted to attempt making a game with triple-A quality but on a relatively much smaller budget with Control. This was made for between 'only' €20 million and €30 million. Compared to most triple-A releases, this is a tiny budget and only required the studio to sell two million copies to break even.