Are We Witnessing A Mass Extinction Of AAA Game IPs?

Are We Witnessing A Mass Extinction Of AAA Game IPs?

Xbox’s decision to shut down multiple studios this week has me worried we’re witnessing a mass extinction of diverse and unique game IPs, and it’s an issue we should all be concerned about.

Xbox closing Tango Gameworks, Arkane Austin, and Alpha Dog Games might be the hot gaming topic of the week, but they’re not the only large company guilty of buying up smaller developers with successful titles under their belt, only to shutter them soon after. All of these IPs and potential sequels and DLC getting quashed by studio closures and layoffs has me worried on a much grander scale for the future of the industry.

If developers aren’t making the profits that larger companies want, why are they not simply divesting them or selling them off? Are we witnessing a chain of events that leads to an ultimate gaming monopoly beyond the essentialising of studios and companies to a future where new AAA titles are from one of an even smaller handful of ‘reliable’ franchises?

It’s a concern I’ve held for some time now. With each unique developer that finds their doors shut as opposed to their parent companies simply divesting, the concern grows larger. I worry that in the next decade, we might find ourselves faced with a AAA release offering that only looks like this: Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed, Fallout. Variation is extinguished because variation introduces risk, and there’s no room for that anymore.

Obviously, the idea of only three major releases in a year is pretty damn unlikely – from a financial perspective, that simply won’t be enough for companies to garner the profits they chase. But the core of this gaming reality I handwring over is that we’re haemorrhaging potential GOTY contenders in the AAA sphere at an alarming rate. 

While studio closures don’t mean the individual game industry employees are unable to make their own games (although there is a discussion to be had about the percentage of laid-off staff that straight up don’t return to game development after losing their jobs and studios), it does present a challenging scenario for their already-existing titles. 

Tango Gameworks was reportedly pitching a Hi-Fi Rush sequel when they were shut down – a sequel that will now likely never see the light of day. The Evil Within series won’t be getting any more games through Tango, either. The Redfall DLC has been nixed alongside Arkane Austin. These studios, now gone, won’t be able to create more of the gameplay and narratives their audience loves.

I don’t know what the solution here is to the gaming industry’s penchant for layoffs and throwing in the towel is – even when companies record massive profits, and studios turn out successful games, the metaphorical woodchipper continues running. I mourn for the games that could have been and never will be as much as I feel for the people behind them now trying to pick up the pieces after losing their jobs. Right now, it feels like public outcry isn’t budging this strategy of closures (perhaps in the name of juicy tax write-offs) a single millimetre. 

It can be easy to feel pretty doom and gloom about where game development and the industry at large is going right now. We can only hope that being vocal and supporting small devs doing great work will do something in the end, because the only other solution comes from much higher up the chain of authority in a legislative sense. 

For now, keep supporting projects you love and the studios releasing things that don’t feel like a copy-paste. If not for the developers and studios for themselves, at least for your future enjoyment of titles that aren’t just re-iterating the same thing, over and over again in an infinite loop that would rival that of Returnal.

Image: Xbox / Tango Gameworks

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