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Brian Mitsoda has what he wishes for, if only he looked a little bit harder

By on September 23, 2010
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Earlier this month, Tom Jubert put up a guest post: an interview with Brian Mitsoda, narrative designer on Vampire:the Masquerade – Bloodlines and alumnus of Black Isle, Obsidian and Troika.

In it, Brian said:

“I completely understand when projects with $50 million+ budgets play it safe, though it would be nice if there were more $500,000 projects that made you felt like you were playing something unique.”

One of my regular correspondents took umbrage at that. Admittedly Ben Board (for it was he) works for Microsoft, but he said this:

“Has Brian looked at


That is a long list of titles that are frequently unique, rarely sequels, often leftfield and risk-taking, sometimes great, sometimes rubbish, sometimes successful, sometimes not. At least, it’s not a list of safe bets. And if I was to guess an average dev cost across them all, 500k is not a bad estimate. Some are $1-2m, most probably $500k-1m, many less. And I think that more and more games are going to appear at that $500k cost point as the iPhone/Facebook devs look to console, as many are starting to do.“

I see his point.

Xbox Live Arcade logo

I’m not the world’s biggest console cheerleader, but both XBLA and PSN do allow game makers to develop risky projects at one hundredth the cost of AAA title.

So go on, Brian. Treat us to one of those.

About Nicholas Lovell

Nicholas is the founder of Gamesbrief, a blog dedicated to the business of games. It aims to be informative, authoritative and above all helpful to developers grappling with business strategy. He is the author of a growing list of books about making money in the games industry and other digital media, including How to Publish a Game and Design Rules for Free-to-Play Games, and Penguin-published title The Curve:
  • Marque Pierre Sondergaard

    Perhaps they remain rare because the creative talent to develop them… remains rare.

    Over the years you hear every man and his dog lamenting that if only had a budget and a team then the world would see what creative geniuses they are. Sadly, as the Greeks realised a few thousand years ago – there aren’t that many original ideas kicking about.

    In any case, with platforms PSN and PlayStation minis, it is not the barriers to entry that should stop people from experimenting.

  • Anonymous

    Definitely that too 🙂

  • I agree that they remain rare. But surely you have to agree that XBLA *is* a platform that enables games with budgets of below $500,000 to reach an audience.

    Perhaps you’re just bemoaning that audiences seem to prefer Joe Danger to meaningful interactive narrative experiences.

  • Anonymous

    I’m going to read between the lines of Brian’s comment just a little. It was raised in the context of providing meaningful (obviously a loaded word, but let’s move on) interactive narrative experiences.

    I would certainly agree that delivery platforms like XBLA have done fantastic work in allowing more experimental, lower budgeted games to be profitable. The vast majority, however, remain in the typical arena of retro remakes (each to their own, but clearly antithesis to what Brian, myself and a great many other developers are pursuing) and more traditional experiences. Those games which do push boundaries often do so purely in gameplay terms, remaining at heart somewhat shallow experiences – challenges and time sinks rather than stories to take to your deathbed.

    A World of Goo or a Braid remain rare.

  • You are correct that a completely off-the-wall idea is going to find it difficult to find an audience in general, and especially on the home consoles. No publisher would look to have published “FarmVille” on the consoles, but there’s no doubt that there is an audience for it. If the platform holders are serious about expanding their audience base away from the core then games that don’t just tick the prescribed boxes on the concept submission form need to be given their chance.

    Getting an audience for something brand new is always going to be a struggle, probably more so on the consoles I guess.

    Also I wasn’t having a dig at XBLA 🙂 The Indie Games channel is a good thing.

  • I accept your point, Graeme, but Brian was bemoaning the lack of opportunity for £500,000 games to get to market, and the downloadable consoles definitely offer this opportunity. That’s got to be a good thing, hasn’t it?

  • Unmanaged, but it still turned down Privates 🙁

  • Ben Board

    There’s a strong argument that on home consoles, any game which no single publisher ‘gets’ is not likely to be ‘got’ – or bought – by the audience either. Any developer who can’t get any publisher to back their XBLA idea should consider whether their proposal is quite as commercially viable as they first thought. A publisher’s success depends on their ability to spot good ideas.

    I should add that, to my knowledge, Xbox is the only home console to provide an unmanaged portfolio, namely the Indie Games channel.

  • I agree with the post that XBLA, PSN, and to a lesser extent WiiWare do offer a market for smaller budget, more unique titles. Unfortunately these markets are still gated communities where the platform holder needs to approve the developer’s game concept. If you’re game concept is really unique then you run the risk of the platform holder just not “getting it”, and you’re scuppered.

    Also in the case of XBLA, Microsoft require you to have an approved publisher for the game as well.