As the years go by the prevailing message from a lot of game developers is that game development costs continue to rise and that it becomes increasingly expensive to create AAA content. It’s true that the PS4 and Xbox One have provided an unprecedented level of potential for developers to tap into, but it’s always an interesting thing to talk about development costs and how they really are or aren’t increasing.
Square Enix knows about development costs as much as the next major publisher or company does, and with several major games upcoming in 2015, it’s a good time to talk about development expenses with them. “I think what has happened [can be described as] ‘pressure creates diamonds’, and what that’s talking about is how do we create within certain budgets and constraints? You can create absolute diamonds. I think developers, generally, at all of our studios are all smarter than they were five years ago in thinking about production,” Rogers said.
Developers are finding new ways to be more shrewd and resourceful with costs and that has helped companies manage expenses, while keeping game quality high. Another element that comes into managing costs is how quickly a studio can learn these new technologies, and from many accounts over the first couple years of generation eight, knowledge is far easier to acquire compared to generation seven.
It’s not an easy thing to manage or contain costs as technologies advance and more and more content is constantly put into games. Eventually, it can be impossible to not help but let out some slack on development costs. Rogers didn’t seem as satisfied to just accept that costs are rising and that’s it.
“What I say to the question of development costs is that now there’s more range in development budgets. Now everyone is saying ‘oh it’s last [game] plus 10 percent.’ That’s lazy thinking, so how should we think about this? How do we really get more creative? Tools are improving, engines are improving and I think those are really positive things for the industry as a whole,” Rogers said.
The sweet spot for Square Enix seems to be when they can strike an effective balance between budget and what a studio needs in order to realize their vision for a game. It’s easy to tell that some games deserve a bigger budget compared to others. A game such as Life is Strange wouldn’t warrant the same budget as a Just Cause 3 would, but who says the experiences have to be of any less quality as a result.
“I think everyone is aware of budgets, just like in every credit sector, you have to be mindful of it. I love the fact that we can look at products and fall in love with them. Those games can really be different sizes and shapes, all within a range of different budgets. I think that’s really healthy for us,” Rogers said.
Square Enix’s press conference was a fantastic example and showcase of the very diverse and unique games the company has coming up in 2015 and beyond. Brands like Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts are just a couple of the very exciting, upcoming games Square Enix has, and Rogers spoke further about the firm’s brand diversity.
“I think one thing we really want to do is embrace [our company’s] diversity. When you see it together, it is a very diverse business, [with diverse] IPs and games that we work with. I think if there’s one thing we hope to keep our eye on is embracing that diversity. We all don’t want to be the same, I mean there are common threads so when you start playing these games, you love them,” Rogers said.
The gaming industry is in the midst of a very healthy time as an industry and E3 2015 was evidence of that. With all that we saw and the exceptional technology and software that’s upcoming, there is a lot for everyone in gaming to be excited about.
“The more we push our boundaries and maintain the health that you alluded to earlier, [the better]. Again, shows like this for an international company like Square Enix, we have a truly global footprint and it’s great when we come to events like this, it feels like a family. It feels like we are connected with the badges we wear and the games we play so I think it’s wonderful. To be able to maintain all of that is really key for us,” Rogers said.