Video games run the world. They just do. The release of Call of Duty is an economic and cultural event every year, some of the biggest movies and TV shows are based on beloved games, and everybody’s best vacation this year was the hours they spent in Hyrule. Even news of a possible release date for a trailer for Grand Theft Auto VI was huge news! Gaming continues to become more popular across nearly every demographic and every type of game, even as the rest of the entertainment industry looks a little wobbly. Everybody’s a gamer, and games are winning.
And yet, in some ways, the biggest and most important games in the industry seem somewhat in peril. Even the people running the game industry, like Microsoft’s Phil Spencer, think so. AAA games are now so big, so complicated, and so expensive to produce that it can be hard to get everything right — and it feels like, all too often, they don’t.
Meanwhile, the traditional AAA model in which you release a $60 or $70 game every year or two and players will always upgrade is in peril. Live service games like Roblox and Fortnite are changing what a “game” even is, while bundles like Game Pass and Apple Arcade are changing how people pay for games. Gaming is bigger than ever, but it seems we might be in the midst of an industry-wide shift in how people play them — and what they play.
On this episode of The Vergecast, the third and last in our miniseries on the future of gaming, we’re joined by Polygon’s Chris Plante and Russ Frushtick to talk about what’s next for the biggest titles in gaming. We look into four possible futures for AAA games to see if Assassin’s Creed, Madden, Call of Duty, and the like are destined to go the way of the Avengers, the iPhone, the music industry, peak TV, or something else entirely. Can the big names keep their status, or is a new generation of indie darlings and metaverses going to take their place?
It’s a complicated industry and a complicated story. But here’s a tip: if you want to know where gaming is headed, keep an eye on Grand Theft Auto. Whenever it launches, whatever it looks like, however you play it, that franchise has a long history of changing everything. And it just might do it again.