put on your tinfoil hats!
I believe the term AAA is marketing nonsense used to cow hardcore gamers into buying big industry games. If you think too hard about it, you might be brainwashing yourself.
I thougt it would be more interesting to know how the term originated. I found one answer online from someone who claimed to work at EA. He said in the mid 90s they had a meeting where the presenter claimed nbig budget, AAA games were thenonly hits, backed up with data from the previous year that showed the low budget, "B" games all failed badly. It seems like a plausible answer, how it got out into the minds of gamers, the thread failed to answer, but maybe it was more organic than I suggested above, e.g. maybe devs started using it in interviews with media. I feel like I started seeing it used often after Wii and DS launched, but that may be confirmation bias since I am a Nintendo bot.
Sorry no link, I'm on my ancient Samsung tablet, the origin thread is on gamedev.stackexchange -131731
I used to be the buyer for a video and game rental store. Before people corrupted the meaning of the phrase, it had to do with investment potential. Yes, exactly like how "AAA" is used in financial matters.
I used to get catalogs from major wholesale video and game distributors (oddly, there is a porn distributor that still sends me catalogs). Many of the games were rated with AAA, AA, etc. It was a way for retailers who didn't know much about gaming to select key releases with a high ROI.
It had absolutely nothing to do with how much a game cost to make but instead with how much a game was projected to earn.
It's kind of funny now to see people calling big budget flops AAA. I remember specifically some 3DS titles being rated AAA. I remember Pokemon being AAA and, I'm pretty sure, Kirby. It wasn't rare to see games like Cooking Mama rate an AAA, as well.
So, yeah, this is really a case where people who didn't know what a term really meant creating their own definition and then everyone else repeating it as gospel until it effectively replaced the original definition.