The Shape Of Game Development In 2024

It’s common to hear the opinion online today that games take too long to make. You’ll see comparisons of how three Bethesda-developed Elder Scrolls titles came out in eight years between 2003 and 2011, whereas none have been released in the twelve to thirteen years since. The same comparison is often made of the Grand Theft Auto series or of Bioware’s release schedule.

So, it’s far from an exclusive problem. Why though? To answer that, you need to zoom out – as far as you can – to see the state of game development as a whole, as it’s much more of a multi-faceted issue than it might first appear.

The Shape Of Game Development In 2024

The Increasing Scale

If you do decide to go back and compare modern titles to older ones, you’ll likely quickly notice the difference in scale. Not only are many modern titles incredibly large and expansive, spanning hundreds of hours, regularly in open worlds (facts that are not always seen as positives), but the graphical fidelity and size of the teams behind them have also increased. It’s easy to assume that simply because the technology behind games steadily improves, game developers will naturally adapt to this, but that’s not the case. Keeping up with the curve takes more work, especially as expectations skyrocket with each new benchmark release.

Red Dead Redemption 2 is a game that received incredible commercial and critical success. However, it also set a benchmark in several areas – including the cost to the workers behind it. That was back in 2018, meaning that expectations have only risen since then.

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Development Itself

What of those developers? How have conditions changed for them in recent times? As mentioned previously, the technology in use has changed. Cloud development tools and AI have been integrated into the process, meaning that network routing, deciding on the benefits of control plane vs data plane, and using the latest technology are all potentially part of the development process.

However, economic pressures have also meant that lay-offs have become a regular occurrence in the games industry. Games are expensive to make, and they need to make enough money to justify that cost. Many publishers strive for live service success because it would mean a continuous revenue stream, but many also fail to meet these standards because of how high of a bar that is.

Long Waits

Another often chided fact about the modern games industry that you might see often is the long waits between the announcement of a game and the release. The next installment of the Elder Scrolls series has actually been announced – way back in 2018. However, current estimates of its release put it in the back half of the decade, potentially ten whole years after that initial announcement. The same is true of the next Mass Effect title and has been true of Dragon Age.

The initial announcement of a game is often thought to be as much for investors as it is for prospective players. The interest garnered by that announcement can encourage people to believe that the game is a worthy investment. That, compounded with the aforementioned developmental struggles, can lead to these long waits and the length of production in general.

Images by DALL.E based on descriptions provided by Mikeshouts.