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What Are Some Lessons That Game Developers Need to Learn?

The gaming industry is no longer as fresh and innovation-driven as it once was. Massive game developers are getting by with more than they should. They’re selling the same (poorly reskinned) game year in and year out, remaking games that are barely a decade old instead of developing new intellectual property, yet, somehow, this just slides. 

However, there are a lot of recent events and developments in the field that are indicators that these things might not go unpunished indefinitely. So, here are some lessons that game developers should definitely learn before it’s too late to apply them successfully. 

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  1. AA exist, and they’re a force to be reckoned with

In the last few years, all we hear are either indie developers or major studios. Therefore, someone who’s not that well acquainted with the field might deduce that these are the only two forms of developers out there.

Sure, it may not fit the narrative of “massive corporation bad; small developers good,” but that’s exactly the point. The world is never binary; there’s a lot of nuance. The existence of AA games just goes to prove the point that there’s a benefit to having a lot of strong companies competing for the same market.

With modern tools and resources, even a small team (even a one-person team) can make a world of difference. However, why wouldn’t they have the resources? If they had that same drive and ingenuity, why is a scenario where they also have resources, more people on the team, and a proper structure a bad thing? 

Some would even argue that The Witcher II: The Assassins of Kings and BG3 are AA games. They are made by indie studios, but proper studios nonetheless. Another amazing example of this in the field of RPGs is games like Technomancer and Greedfall.  

  • Kingdom Come: Deliverance
  • Disco Elysium
  • Nier Automate
  • Cuphead
  • Sifu

These are all AA games. Chances are that you’ve heard about most or all of them without even realizing that they were AA instead of AAA games. 

The thing is that the ideal path should probably be the one of CDPR. They started as an indie studio, and became AA studio (for Witcher II), while during the iconic The Witcher III: The Wild Hunt and Cyberpunk 2077, they were clearly already a AAA studio. 

  1. Don’t dismiss the role of crypto just yet

When it comes to crypto, the majority of people only look at it from the perspective of an investor. What they care about is finding the cheapest tokens with the greatest growth potential and dumping as much money there as they can.

However, what they often lose sight is the fact that cryptos have a role in the gaming world that shouldn’t be dismissed. 

Sure, the use of in-game currency may not be seen as the favorite application of crypto, but the truth is that if the game is already pay-to-win, you want a currency that cannot be manipulated as easily. In other words, you want something protected by the blockchain and all the available anti-counterfeiting methods there are.  

Blockchain can be used in other ways, mostly to ensure the immutability of in-game files and validate transactions, regardless of whether it’s the in-game currency or the real money that we’re talking about.

Some games already have auction houses where real currency is traded. It’s really easy to see how the concept of NFT would fit this economic system quite handily. 

The fields of eSports are also growing, even eSports betting, and here, crypto could make things a lot simpler for a lot of players. 

Ultimately, regardless of what you think about microtransactions, there’s no doubt that crypto can make it all more efficient. 

  1. You can make money without being too greedy

In the age of microtransactions, it seems like there’s no way for a game developer to make it without monetizing every single aspect of the game.

On the one hand, you have companies like Paradox, adding minute changes to the game and charging a full DLC price for it.

Then, you have developers who add loot boxes and microtransactions to the game, which are some of the shadiest and most frowned-upon practices in modern gaming. In fact, there are some countries that are banning lootboxes, some accusing them of being a gateway to gambling, with others accusing them of actually being a form of gambling already. 

Then, you have the notorious “Freemium” games, or pay-to-win games. This is a game that’s free to play, but you don’t have access to all the features or the other players have an unfair advantage. 

This doesn’t include games like CS: GO or LoL, seeing as how all you can actually buy are cosmetic changes. You could, technically, play indefinitely without spending a single dollar on it.

Then, you have those who defy these rules, making incredible amounts of money in the process.

The best example of this is the Concerned Ape, the creator of Stardew Valley, who made upwards of $300 million, without adding microtransactions, paid DLCs, or anything like it to the game. You just pay the game once and have access to everything. 

Another amazing example is Luca Galante (Poncle), the creator of Vampire Survivor. A $3 Steam game that made an estimated $20 million in gross revenue. 

  1. Go a bit easier on the salt

Palworld is really the best example of just how salty some developers have become. Is Palworld a ripoff of Pokemon? Well, kind of. However, its success is definitely Nintendo’s own fault. 

It’s the same thing as with the emergence of PES. People got tired of every FIFA game being like the previous one. They didn’t just want a reskin of the previous game with the changed player roster.

Nintendo did the same thing with their Pokemon games.

Sure, the Switch is an amazing console but when it comes to game development, Nintendo’s latest track record is not exactly stellar. 

Now, one more thing worth mentioning here is the fact that this is really not what the majority of developers are obsessed with. It’s the fact that such a small studio made something so monumental. What they hate even more is the fact that this just sheds more light on the fact that this is something that can clearly be done. So if it can be done, why haven’t they?

There are so many tweets from game developers claiming that the game just “feels off” or that it “feels like it’s made like AI.” To anyone willing to think about this, it’s clear that this is just jealousy speaking.

None of this criticism seems valid, and none of it sounds like anything other than just one’s opinion on the subject matter. 

So, if they were just to go a bit easier on the jealousy and direct this energy toward making better games, the world of gaming would be a better place. 

Some game developers are forgetting how quickly this field evolves

As more money entered the field, the decision-making passed from people actually making games to people in suits. This is never a good recipe, and the recent success of indie and AA games is just one example of this. Fortunately, the above-listed four lessons might be enough for the much-needed perspective shift.