Veteran MMO developer Raph Koster is no stranger to talking about money in gaming. Our own readers will recall that all the way back in 2017, Koster, known for his origination of Ultima Online and Star Wars Galaxies, was expressing concern about the rise in the cost of making games, arguing that the costs have gone up while box prices haven’t, owing heavily to the fact that with few exceptions, “the public doesn’t buy B games.” It results in too much investor and corporate risk for anything but guaranteed blockbusters, which stifles the whole industry and robs it of mid-budget titles. In fact, if you read that old blog post, it refers to Koster’s talk on the subject back in 2005, too.
So you won’t be shocked to hear that Koster – who has been quietly building another unnamed MMORPG and platform with his new outfit Playable Worlds – is still preoccupied with this problem in 2023.
That’s according to his new comments in Edge Magazine, in which he says that around the time of that article, he polled developers on their development budgets, which gave him the hard numbers to conclude that the budgets had grown exponentially – by a factor of 10 – over the course of a decade. And unfortunately, the expensive nature of development means stasis for innovation, as MMO players have long since noticed.
“During those expensive periods, innovation tends to go away, because the return on investment for innovation on game mechanics is terrible,” he writes. “I’m hopeful that in the next ten years we’ll see a platform break of some sort that resets things.”
He also discusses games-as-a-service and the impact on narrative-driven titles and the impact of a future energy crisis on gaming – you know, a little light reading for your Friday.