The video game industry grew rapidly since the pandemic started — 23% in 2020 from the year prior — and this doesn’t seem to stop in the nearest future. According to recent research, the industry’s revenue could reach $219 billion by 2024.
One of the biggest perks of the modern game industry is its variety. These days, you don’t have to own a powerful PC or a console to enjoy great games — some of them, like Disco Elysium or Among Us, run on less demanding software. At the same time, if you want to enjoy outstanding graphics, you can do this too by playing well-known titles like The Witcher or Last of Us.
You have this choice due to the different types of games presented on the market: the AAA games and the indie ones. What do indie games mean, and how do they differ from AAA titles? Read further to find out
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What are AAA games?
AAA or Triple-A games are big and popular titles developed by large studios. They are usually long and have beautiful and detailed graphics, complex plots, and rich worlds. Such games are often quite demanding in terms of software.
How much do AAA games cost to make? The budget is different for each title, but we can say for sure that in general, they are very big. For instance, it cost around $140 million to develop the Grand Theft Auto V — and this doesn’t include the money spent on marketing.
Big budgets grant more opportunities to AAA game developers. Such titles are usually created with large teams that have every position filled. This means they can easily allocate professionals to work on research, development, design, testing, and marketing. The roles in such teams are determined from the start, which allows employees to focus on the tasks related to their job description instead of having to combine multiple roles. Sometimes even large game companies cannot take on full-cycle game development services, since they often run several projects at the same time.
In this case, one leading studio can be in charge of the game development, distributing tasks to other studios that contribute to different aspects of the game.
However, big budgets come with big responsibilities. As studios invest so many costs in developing AAA games, they have to be sure that the titles will pay off. That’s why they conduct meticulous market research and try to reach as many people as they can with the help of the game developed. On one hand, this allows AAA titles to have a massive cultural impact and deliver important messages on tolerance, acceptance, and other things. On other hand, it doesn’t give the developers as much flexibility as possible. They often have to weigh every step and plot twist that might turn out to be controversial or simply not appealing to the part of the audience.
What are indie games?
“Indie” stands for “independent”. Such games are developed by smaller studios or teams of individuals. They are usually less expensive and complex than AAA ones, but at the same time, they too can be very appealing and become popular among the players.
Due to smaller budgets, teams responsible for indie game development usually consist of specialists able to fill multiple roles. For instance, a programmer can be responsible for dealing with enemy AI and networking.
At the same time, smaller budgets give indie game developers more flexibility. They don’t need the game to sell as massively as AAA titles to pay off. This means they can afford more creative risks and experiments, starting with unexpected plot twists and ending with unusual graphics and unorthodox designs.
However, indie game developers are also less stable than AAA ones, because they basically live from one game to the next. If the current game sells well, they can use the revenue from it and invest it into the development of a new title. But if a current game fails to perform well on the market, the game studio might not be able to collect funds for the new one and therefore will close.
AAA games vs. indie games: which are more popular?
It might seem that indie games cannot compete with AAA titles because they don’t have their extended funding and large teams. However, this isn’t guaranteed. There are enough AAA games that failed to deliver the promises made to their potential audience: for instance, Cyberpunk 2077 and Mass Effect: Andromeda. At the same time, games like Don’t Starve Together and Hades receives great approval from the audience despite being indie ones.
In the end, it always comes down to what people prefer and expects from the gaming process. Indie titles usually try to offer something new to the players, while AAA ones prefer to stick to more stable tropes and plots. At the same time, strong AAA games can immerse players in their world for weeks, while indie games usually are quicker to complete. That’s why both types of games find their loyal audience and continue to develop.
To sum up
AAA titles are bigger in terms of budgeting, teams, and market research. Because they receive more investments, they have to deliver stable results and reduce the risks as much as possible. Indie games have smaller budgets and are developed by not-so-big studios and teams of individuals. Indie game developers can be more creative because they don’t require very massive sales to return the investments. That’s why such titles are usually more diverse in terms of graphics and plot. However, indie game studios are less stable than AAA ones as their future work depends on how the current game sells.
Yuriy Denisyuk is Game Production Lead at Pingle Studio. He’s responsible for successfully
managing the Game Production pipeline. Yuriy is this lucky person who plays the best
games for work in order to keep up with trends and create new ones. He likes writing,
reading Manga, fantasy, and professional literature in his free time.