Cliff Bleszinski: A Certain AAA Game Needs to Sell 10 Million to Break Even

Cliff Bleszinski is an interesting guy. Since leaving Epic Games he’s written some interesting stories and brought to light a few tidbits about the game-making process. Sometimes he’s defended the games he’s made, other times he’s argued for a better video game future.

Today he’s using Twitter to highlight something he overheard at E3. Something scary.

10 million copies just to break even. That’s how expensive AAA game development has become. And it’s a frightening thought. What costs are going in to that development?

It unfortunately reminds us of just how important game sales are today, how profit means everything. Shiggy has already talked today about ZombiU and the fact that we’ll never see a sequel due to poor sales – Rayman Legends even switched from being a Wii U exclusive as a result. One game’s sales affect a lot of different things.

This week we’ve heard that Naughty Dog’s latest game The Last of Us has managed to sell over 3.4 million units in only three weeks, an incredible number and one that they’ve said has ‘exceeded all sales expectations’. Yet those same numbers were a disappointment for Square Enix when it came to this year’s Tomb Raider reboot, and that confused a lot of people – Tomb Raider reviewed well in both the professional and public eye and 3.4 million sales in a month is incredible, but Square Enix wrote if off as disappointing because it failed to meet sales expectations of six million units. We felt confident the game would see a sequel, or any future support, until Square Enix spoke up, and now it’s a little more doubtful.

We’re thinking a lot about AAA games and development costs these days and the more jaded of us will relish in the opportunity to make the claim that the sales are the only things that matter to these publishers and they don’t care how they achieve it – like attempting to reach a broader audience with Dead Space 3 by introducing a co-op mode at the expense of some of the game’s horror elements. When false rumours that EA had dropped the Dead Space franchise because the third game failed to meet a sales expectation of 5 million units, a large number of us found it incredibly believable. That’s the point we’re at with the gaming business today.

So when Cliffy B makes a tweet like this, we’re also strangely inclined to believe it. Which new IP could he be talking about? Watch Dogs? Beyond: Two Souls? Destiny? Or Titanfall? There’s a case to be made for many games coming out in the next year and that in itself seems a bit worrying. It’s a lot of stress on a new IP, in any case.

3 comments

  1. It’s gotta be Destiny. Bungie has been developing that for years.

    1. I’m thinking either that or Watch Dogs.

      I think both of them will do it though.

  2. It’ll be Call of Duty or another one that would be reasonably expected to sell well in excess of 10 million units across all the SKUs – maybe Assassin’s Creed, maybe a couple of others.

    Publishers are greedy but they’re not stupid. If the game wasn’t actually reasonably expected to hit those sorts of numbers they wouldn’t set it up to need it.

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