This YouTube video by Bellular News provides an overview of the decline of corporate made AAA video games. For a few years, giant development companies including Electronic Arts and Activision/Blizzard have inspired the wrath of YouTubers who cover the industry. AAA publishers and developers use greedy and manipulative monetization practices, and overwork their employees to the point of physical illness. These companies used to be the leaders in game quality, but today they are bloated, corrupt, and the creative talent is striking out on its own.
The video begins with Google and Amazon’s misguided ventures into gaming. Google’s Stadia platform is almost defunct, having lured in renowned game creators, wasted the time of those creators with bureaucratic fiddling, and flopped with nothing to show for it. Amazon is on track to replicating that fiasco. Jade Raymond, who Google hired to lead its development houses, has left to start her own independent studio. It will have little corporate involvement save for investments by Sony.
Speaking of Sony, however, the video moves on to the topic of crunch, and the hellish work schedule of Sony’s Naughty Dog studio when making “The Last Of Us II.” The turnover rate was shocking. Another example is Mike Laidlaw, a creative giant at Bioware who left due to parent company EA’s heavy hand, only to be blocked and pinned down at Ubisoft and its overpowered executives. Laidlaw now leads Yellow Brick Games, an independent and intentionally small company that is more in touch with its developers.
Blizzard used to be the gold standard in PC gaming, but has lost its way since it merged with Activision. Most of the individuals who made Blizzard great aren’t there anymore, they joined smaller startups. All the established AAA corporations mentioned in this video have organizational problems; they tend to promote narcissistic social climbers rather than competent employees who know what they’re doing.
Thanks to modern technology, it’s easier for smaller teams to develop quality apps and sell them outside the corporate infrastructure. This mirrors the situation in Hollywood and news media, in which truly talented creators can succeed on their own. This leaves just the hacks and bad actors to work at the legacy organizations, and it shows in their products. We’re transitioning into a new paradigm of entertainment and journalism.