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Forums - Gaming Discussion - About Blockbusters vs Middle Sized vs Indie Games

The Blockbuster

The concept of blockbusters games is widely know and agreed. Those are the games with highest budgets and most costly to produce and market. They are reserved by big publishers and have very big teams working behind it. They are usually the ones that ends selling the most as well. Nowadays even among AAA games publishers are starting to create a new concept of AAAA to make even more daring games in therms of boths scope and specs. 

The Indie

An indie game in other hand is an alias for independent game i.e. games made without any big publisher behind it. They are made by small teams (sometimes only one developer), and rely mostly in the skills and creativity of their developers. Most of them are released half-assed and buggy and end into obscurity, but sometimes an indie can make a big impact and become a cultural icon.

The Middle Sized Game

Now, let's move to a more... complicated nature. What to do with middle sized games? After all, between Blockbusters and Indies there is an infinity of games released. Let's take a look into them.

First, let's start with a very popular ""indie"" game: Ori. Ori was created by a very small core team of only 10 people, it has a smaller budget and for a game that only last for about 10 hours its development cycle of 4 years is quite large. Is Ori a indie? Well, not exactly. While Ori might be closer of indie it doesn't change the fact Moon studios was working for Microsoft, they had a big publisher to back them up both financially and technically that's rules out them the title of "independent game". Ori is what I would call a C-tier game, a game with a indie-feeling and may even an indie budget, but that was published by a major gaming software company. Other examples that comes in mind would be Journey, Child of Light and Little Nightmares. 

Following, we have the B-tier games. Those are game that are closer to blockbuster in therms of production value, but are clearly less ambitious and have smaller scope. They are developed by bigger teams compared to C-tier games and Indies, but still looking quite outdated or even ugly compared to high production Blockbusters. Game that may fall into B tier are Life is Stranger (started with 10 core developers, but scaled fast once SE started backing them up), Rayman Legends, Octopath Traveler and Knack.

Finally we have the A-tier games, which is just an euphemism to "everything else a big studio puts out and isn't as costly as AAA game". Nintendo has a plethora of A tier games some of them are just spin offs of their AAA games. Many Japanese games now lies on this category, as they can't compete with the budgets of western games unless they starting breaking international audiences. Examples would be Valkyrie Chronicles, Pikmin, Catherine Fullbody, No More Heroes, Braverly Default. One generation ago I would just put them along with AAA in the Blockbuster category, but in the current state of the market I'm not really sure if we can put them together. The budget and production value disparity become so big than even AAA games sometimes doesn't like AAA compared to others, as such I'm delimiting them as mid sized.

This is a fairly subjective matter, so I created this thread to listen your opinions. What's your definition of middle sized games, and what games you would choose to define each category? Do you see my C-tier list as nothing but indies? 



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I typically use the following terms:

AAAA or Quadruple A- A relatively recent term that I use for games with the highest budgets and dev team sizes. Only a handful of games fall into this category so far like GTA V, Red Dead Redemption 2, The Last of Us 2, Halo Infinite, and Cyberpunk 2077. Generally speaking you see dev team sizes over 400 devs and budgets over $150m on these games. The most expensive game to date is believed to be RDR2, which has an estimated budget between $370 and 540m based on sales figures at launch, how long it took to turn a profit according to Take-Two, and estimates for the amount of profit a publisher earns per full priced $60 sale at launch. The game with the highest dev team size so far seems to be The Last of Us 2, which apparently was worked on by over 2,100 devs across 14 studios at one point in time or another during development, with a core team of over 400 devs at Naughty Dog, while Rockstar's RDR2 was worked on by about 2,000 devs at one point in time or another during development. 

AAA or Triple A- Games that used to be the biggest budget games in the industry until Rockstar decided to trounce the typical AAA budget with the $265m GTA V back in 2013. AAA dev team sizes typically range from 100 to 400 devs. AAA budgets typically range from $50-150m in recent years, though a few have been made for less. Some examples would be games like Gears 5, Forza Horizon 4, Ghost of Tsushima, Horizon: Zero Dawn, Breath of the Wild, Mario Odyssey, Hitman 3, Resident Evil 8, Skyrim, and Witcher 3. 

AA or Double A- Dev team sizes typically in the range of 40 to 100 devs, budgets typically in the range of $10-50m. Some examples would be games like We Happy Few, State of Decay 1 and 2, Returnal, Kena: Bridge of Spirits, Bravely Default 2, Shadow Warrior 1 and 2, A Way Out, and most Telltale games.

A or Single A- I use this term mainly to refer to indie tier games that aren't made by indie developers, but rather by larger studios or publishers. Examples would be games like Rayman, Child of Light, and Valiant Hearts from Ubisoft, Grounded from Obsidian, and Sonic Mania from Sega. I will also use the term to apply to actual indie games with higher budgets sometimes, games like Yooka Laylee and Bloodstained. Team sizes for these projects typically range from 10-40 devs, budgets from $2-10m.

Indie- Typically low budget games made by small independent studios. Budgets for indies typically range from as low as a few thousand, on small solo projects made in free time, to several million dollars, some go even higher than that, but I will typically refer to those as single A, as noted above. Team sizes on indies have been known to range from single person solo projects all the way up to 30 or 40 devs, a few even higher, but those I also typically refer to as Single A.

Last edited by shikamaru317 - on 09 May 2021

IcaroRibeiro said:

The Indie

Most of them are released half-assed and buggy and end into obscurity,

I love how you say this about indies like it's not also (if not moreso) true for AAA games.



I like to have fresh experiences instead of having the same but with different coatings. More often than not I find AAA games from big western third parties to be dull and uninspired. These games follow a tried and true formula, which I find very boring. On the other hand, japanese developers like to take more risks and innovate their franchises to a much wider extend. Of course exceptions exist, but still.

The amount of money, time and effort that is put into a game is not correlated to its quality. More often than not I enjoy games with lesser scopes much much much more than AAA experiences, but again, exceptions exist.

What should never be started is a labeling games AAAA. Where does this end? So now some are even more expensive and want to stick out of the rest again so another A is added. Wait a few years and then yet another A should be added? That's not sensible in my eyes. If your games' budget is criminally bloated you're in the AAA league, fullstop.

However, I would add another low level tier, and that is the shovelware. Hundreds of Sudokus, Candy Crushs, Word Finders, card games, etc. Low investment, low value, barely any content or effort. Sadly, the Switch eshop is littered with these. 



Gameplay > Graphics

Substance > Style

Art Direction > Realism

It's nice having all the above. I've massively enjoyed playing Nier Replicant, Horizon Frozen Wilds and Hotline Miami 2 this year.

In all fairness, not all Indie games do something new. If you look at Hollow Knight, Binding of Isaac, Cuphead, Stardew Valley etc, they are just doing what many games did before them. The same arguement about the same thing but with a different coating can be used fort most games.



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These terms are loose and context-sensitive.

In the current climate, I classify games with 50 million~ or above development budget (not marketing budget) as AAA games, regardless of their popularity. But they're not necessarily related to production values. A AAA game being worked on by an inefficient team may wind up with worse production values, smaller scope, and all around inferiority to a AA game made by an efficient team working on an existing engine they're comfortable with.

Generally, I think AA budget is the sweet spot. I don't really know the budget data to say anything with certainty, but I'm guessing most notable Japanese games that aren't mainline RE, FF, DQ, MH, GT, MGS (rip) and a few Nintendo titles, belong here. Some examples are NieR Automata, Persona 5, FromSoftware titles, SotC, FF spinoffs, Returnal?, maybe Tekken and Street Fighter, probably a lot of Nintendo titles, several Microsoft games that aren't Halo, Forza, Gears.

This leaves the lower budget "A" games which can still easily classify as "proper console experience", this probably includes several Japan Studio games, Grounded?, Pokemon Snap, etc, and a crap ton of gen 5-7 games. I think a segment of Indies largely replaced this class.

Indies have some varied budgets so I wouldn't at all associate them with a certain level of production values. 2nd party Indies tend to have a decent marketing push and higher budgets which enable talented and efficient teams to realize ideas they may struggle to accomplish without the necessary funding.

In the end efficiency is king, and we don't need to know a high quality game's budget to admire the efforts that went into it.



shikamaru317 said:

I typically use the following terms:

AAAA or Quadruple A- A relatively recent term that I use for games with the highest budgets and dev team sizes. Only a handful of games fall into this category so far like GTA V, Red Dead Redemption 2, The Last of Us 2, Halo Infinite, and Cyberpunk 2077. Generally speaking you see dev team sizes over 400 devs and budgets over $150m on these games. The most expensive game to date is believed to be RDR2, which has an estimated budget between $370 and 540m based on sales figures at launch, how long it took to turn a profit according to Take-Two, and estimates for the amount of profit a publisher earns per full priced $60 sale at launch. The game with the highest dev team size so far seems to be The Last of Us 2, which apparently was worked on by over 2,100 devs across 14 studios at one point in time or another during development, with a core team of over 400 devs at Naughty Dog, while Rockstar's RDR2 was worked on by about 2,000 devs at one point in time or another during development. 

AAA or Triple A- Games that used to be the biggest budget games in the industry until Rockstar decided to trounce the typical AAA budget with the $265m GTA V back in 2013. AAA dev team sizes typically range from 100 to 400 devs. AAA budgets typically range from $50-150m in recent years, though a few have been made for less. Some examples would be games like Gears 5, Forza Horizon 4, Ghost of Tsushima, Horizon: Zero Dawn, Breath of the Wild, Mario Odyssey, Hitman 3, Resident Evil 8, Skyrim, and Witcher 3. 

AA or Double A- Dev team sizes typically in the range of 40 to 100 devs, budgets typically in the range of $10-50m. Some examples would be games like We Happy Few, State of Decay 1 and 2, Returnal, Kena: Bridge of Spirits, Bravely Default 2, Shadow Warrior 1 and 2, A Way Out, and most Telltale games.

A or Single A- I use this term mainly to refer to indie tier games that aren't made by indie developers, but rather by larger studios or publishers. Examples would be games like Rayman, Child of Light, and Valiant Hearts from Ubisoft, Grounded from Obsidian, and Sonic Mania from Sega. I will also use the term to apply to actual indie games with higher budgets sometimes, games like Yooka Laylee and Bloodstained. Team sizes for these projects typically range from 10-40 devs, budgets from $2-10m.

Indie- Typically low budget games made by small independent studios. Budgets for indies typically range from as low as a few thousand, on small solo projects made in free time, to several million dollars, some go even higher than that, but I will typically refer to those as single A, as noted above. Team sizes on indies have been known to range from single person solo projects all the way up to 30 or 40 devs, a few even higher, but those I also typically refer to as Single A.

Never heard about the single-A-one, thanks for sharing!