Sean, the real problem is that developers have always assumed that if the hardware is more powerful, you’d better make the most of it in order to sell your game. That was a pretty decent assumption when not making the most of what you had meant a game that ran at 18 fps, or eye-killing sprite flicker, or something along those lines. Today, it doesn’t mean that, and the budget (and thus graphics) must fit the game. Developers that don’t get it spend $50m making a game that no one in their right mind would project to bring in more than $2m in revenue, and they go bankrupt.
We’ve already seen PC developers account for that. Half-Life 2 made pretty good use of the best hardware available. Farmville? Angry Birds? Well…not so much. In fact, some of those ridiculously popular “social games” really have a lot more in common with 2D PC strategy/sim games of the 90s.
So personally, I think more (cheap) power is a good thing. It’s forcing developers to reassess all those genres they abandoned when they proclaimed 3D is the future back in 1997. The less power is a constraint, the more freedom developers have. They just need to learn that just because a machine is powerful enough for you to spend $100m making a game doesn’t mean you HAVE to.
No. That idea died with the release of Tetris. Tetris could only have come from Russia and not from Europe, Japan, or North America. Everyone at the time thought the current hardware had to be used. Tetris could have been made on the Atari 2600.
The problem occurred with the introduction of 3d game consoles. Sony of America discouraged 2d games for the PlayStation because they wanted to showcase games that utilized the hardware. When Nintendo made the Nintendo 64, they stopped making 2d games except for what came out of HAL (Kirby platformers and Smash Brothers). Smash Brothers showed that having four controller ports was more important than the OMG 3d capability of the console.
Ever since the making of Wing Commander, video games have focused more on production than design which is the true cause of rise of development costs. If anyone is serious about lowering development costs, you have to figure out how to sell a game to people without the production elements. A game like Minecraft was able to do this.
Ultimately, everyone revolves around the consumers. The reason why development costs keep going up is because consumers keep demanding greater production elements. But are they really? In gaming, we know that the production effects (aside from the aural effects) are the fastest to age. Games that sold due to graphics are games that look like shit today.
I think there is a much safer way to sell a game than just pouring buckets of make-up (production effects) on the product.