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The other problem is a lot of these studios even with smaller scale games see exploding budgets. Control was 30 million, Alan Wake 2 is 75 million, their next game is probably north of 100 million.

If you have success as a studio, it costs money to retain the talent you have, you have to pay those people otherwise they can just walk to another studio, they already have the work they did for you on their resume and will easily get a job somewhere else if the studio is doing impressive work.

You can push people to work for less when you are a small studio and everyone is trying to make a name for themselves or just happy to have a job, once you break through and have more success in the industry, those people will then say "hey, we want to be paid more fairly for all the overtime and extra work we've done on the next game". And they're right to do that.

So even if you find a way with a smaller, lower cost studio to pump out some smaller scale nice looking games, the budgets will catch up to you in the long run if you have success, because with success comes an obligation to pay people more in line with what everyone else does or you can lose those people. 

And then there's also continuing pressure if you have some success with one game to raise the bar with the next one, which inevitably leads to having to hire more people and become even bigger, then the cycle repeats, those people have to be paid more as time goes on, then you're under pressure to top your last game and now have to go a little bigger in scope, oh now there's a hardware cycle refresh, now budgets double/triple, etc. etc. etc. It never ends. 

If you're an established big ticket studio like Insomniac your baseline is getting to $150+ million for new game no matter what because of your past success. To retain your staff and keep hiring new staff to keep up with graphics/scope demand, you're basically stuck not being able to go below that. Someone asked why Spider-Man Remastered cost like 40 million just for a remaster, that's probably a big reason why.

Last edited by Soundwave - on 16 March 2024