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Game budgets are out of control - and it's killing what gamers want: innovation

Industry Insight: "Games are expensive because publishers make them expensive," argues Halo Anniversary head

Game budgets are out of control, reckons Saber Interactive CEO Matthew Karch, who argues that triple-A titles are expensive "because publishers make them expensive".

In a world where top titles can cost upwards of $100m to make, the affable and ever-enthusiastic Saber boss - who's heading up Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary's sinlge-player campaign - thinks the desires of actual gamers are being sacrificed.

Writing for CVG, Karch argues that the cost of game development has spindled out of control...

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Publishers will spend so much money to make a game. It becomes so bloated that you can't innovate, because if you're spending $15 million on something, you want to make sure that it's a safe bet so you can't take those risks.

Ultimately you end up with the fourth or fifth sequel of a game, which really is a tried and true formula without much innovation.

It's not necessarily because games are not as expensive as publishers make them out to be. Games are expensive because publishers make them expensive. They overspend on things that they shouldn't be overspending on, they misspend in many respects.

I've heard stories of guys - and I don't want to poo poo this because sometimes it makes sense - who have a half a million dollar music budget. Most people can't appreciate the difference between a half a million dollar music score and a $25,000 music score.

Or sometimes there are certain writers that I know that are making 30 to 40 thousand dollars a month in writing fees. That's what they're getting to write. I mean, really? Why? There are so many good, talented writers out there who will work for reasonable amounts of money.

More power to you if you can make that money, but when you add up all of these overpriced components that make a game, you can add five, seven to ten million dollars to the bottom line of the game.

You hear about these twenty to thirty million dollar budgets and it's not really called for. I think people need to focus on what gamers want, and I think what the gamers want is innovation of the core gameplay experience. Graphics as well, but I think it's even less graphics these days because everybody has attained a certain level of visual fidelity. I think it's more about innovation.

I think games publishers spend the money because it's a matter of habit. Executives think that if they don't spend the money they're not going to get the results. There's a right way to spend money and a wrong way to spend money.

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I'm not privy to what people spend on things but I think a good example of a smaller game is Trials HD, which was clearly a fun game, simple and wasn't overly expensive to make.

I can't speak particularly for Trials HD but ultimately what will happen is if the first one took one million dollars to make inevitably the next will take five. It might not necessarily be a better game but all of a sudden it will just get bloated because people will focus on the wrong things.

'Oh we need to have Jack Nicholson voice the guy riding the bike'. I'm exaggerating but you get the point, the money starts going in the wrong place.

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