And no, that is not a typo. According to Splinter Cell director Patrick Redding, the games industry is moving away from high production values towards systemic depth. In his words, we're moving from AAA to a "lower-class" (lower case) 'aaa' model.
"The market as a whole is going to undergo a critical shift in priorities," he said, as reported by Games Industry International, "a shift away from the absolute primacy of graphics and production values and content creation toward systemic depth. This trend is going to trigger a reality check for developers like me who work on established franchises with a large succession of sequels, and it's also going to be a call-to-arms for smaller game creators, including a number of people who are sitting in this room, I hope."
The example Redding used was Minecraft, which he claims is the best current example of a 'aaa' game: a user driven experience with systemic depth over production values, a game pushed forward by its own core audience. Innovation is the key here, and Redding believes that may be a problem for some studios, particularly since many current AAA development is driven by investment and dollars. It's easy to add the polish with the kind of production values more cash brings, but it's more difficult to come up with the million dollar idea.
AAA not the future, says Splinter Cell: Blacklist director [Games Industry International]