Ben Feder, CEO of Take 2 Interactive is urging games publishers to ditch B-title games and just stick with a smaller selection of A-grade games.
And that might be all well and good if it weren’t for a few simple truths, the first and foremost of which is that games publishers don’t seem to have a good handle on funding games that do not suck.
Games publishers are generally somewhat risk-averse (especially with the sorts of dollars required to produce an A-title or a AAA-title), and generally trend to drive game franchises towards mediocrity over time (this is a process that is called ‘innovation’, in the games publishing industry).
If you were forking over umpty-million dollars for something that could flop like a broken-winged eagle with avian influenza, you’d probably be a bit on the risk-averse side yourself.
The second issue that comes to mind is that A-grade titles need A-grade talent. A-grade talent is made, grown and nurtured. It doesn’t spring fully grown from one’s forehead, like Athena.
There’s only one sure way to grow A-grade games-developers, and that’s to move them up through B-grade games.
B-grade games are, ultimately, cheaper to develop, and may be quite well-received if expectations are lower because you didn’t charge as much for them as for your A-grade titles. You didn’t price them right up there with your A-grade titles did you? Oh, why do I even ask, sometimes?
“Gameplay innovates in B-titles”
B-grade titles are where what everyone else calls gameplay innovation generally occurs. Technological innovation? That’s usually A-grade money-talk, but gameplay … gameplay innovates in B-titles. There’s wiggle-room, smaller teams, lower risks.
Katamari Damacy is an excellent example of a B-grade title, Braid too. Not every B-grade title is going to turn into a hit like those, but they were even more successful than their raw sales-figures suggest because they were vastly cheaper to make.
As for Take 2 Interactive… do you think, as a result of Feder’s position on B-titles that they’re going to drop their 2K Sports line? Because if those are considered A-grade titles, then we’re right back to point one, about the whole not-sucking thing. They’re essentially apparently supposed to be A-grade titles, but ones that don’t seem to have ever made it to B-grade quality. Maybe now would be a good time to start.
More B-grade games at a reasonable price-point, please. That’s more sales for the publisher, less risk for the publisher, and more potential gameplay innovation to pick over for use in A-grade titles.