The use of AI in fields such as game development and graphics design is often seen as unethical but gaming industry giants suggest that it is just a matter of time before this becomes the new norm and that AI will lean into video game development whether people like it or not.
Video Game Industry Giants On Increasing Costs Of Development And AI
The use of AI in creative fields is controversial, to say the least. No More Robots founder Mike Rose says:
If you even hint at using AI in video games, the industry will be immensely angry at you
Chief content officer at Chorus Worldwide Games, Jez Harris also commented on the matter by saying:
The ethics of it all will continue to be rightly called into question. Just not by everyone.
Video Game Development Cost Has Increased Drastically
In the wake of rising development costs, it would seem that AI offers a means to cut costs and improve game quality while sticking to the budget. Shawn Layden, ex-chairman of Sony Interactive Entertainment Worldwide Studios says that it was reasonable in the PS2 days to approve the production of a dozen games which would cost $6-7 million each, and then take your chances. The hits would make up for the flopped titles.
Fast forward a couple of years and budgets for games have more than doubled compared to the PS4 era. Games like Horizon Forbidden West and The Last of Us Part 2 had a budget of roughly $212 million and $220 million respectively.
Shawn Layden mentions that he would have night sweats before a budget meeting where he was planning on asking for $3 million, which is nothing compared to the cost of developing games now. Layden says:
That has now accelerated to triple-digit millions. At what point do chief financial officers just slam their calculator on the tabletop and say, ‘I can’t greenlight $300 million – there’s no way I can pencil out the math’
The rising cost of video game development means that big names now take fewer risks and we see games that are very similar to one another. This trend is not going to slow down and the cost of development is still going to increase moving forward. Which also translates to fewer games coming to market. Chairman of Curve Games, Stuart Dinsey says:
Elsewhere, I can see attempts to reduce budgets, especially in the mid-space and indie, unless there is a clear reason for confidence. This will probably manifest itself as fewer games getting to market, especially on console.
No More Robots founder Mike Rose mentioned that players have been taught that all games are a service and they expect updates to the game. This is another reason why the cost of development is increasing.
At this point, we’ve unfortunately taught players that all games should be service games, and they’ll complain if any game doesn’t receive constant updates after launch. So when we put out a game, we now have to think about what the next couple of years of the game look like.
AI To Reduce Game Development Costs?
Even hundreds of millions of dollars are not enough to bring a quality game to market since you need to factor in the fact that these games have 4-6 years of development time and a lot of the budget goes into marketing as well. One solution to the problem could be to make games shorter and prioritize quality over quantity. Something that we saw in Assassin’s Creed Mirage. Where Ubisoft took the franchise back to its roots and made a relatively smaller-scale game. This could be the new trend moving forward. Shawn Layden comments on the matter by saying:
There is a lot of ‘I rode that boat to get that diamond that unlocked the game’. But was that really satisfying gameplay? ask yourself that question. Its called grinding for a reason.
Harris mentions that the video game industry has a history of adopting new technology and that AI is going to be the future. He comments:
If it hasn’t happened already, I expect to see commercially viable fully AI-generated games – whatever that means, it will certainly be claimed – in the indie space.
Mike Rose agrees with Harris and mentions that AI is going to be part of video game development whether people like it or not.
I think the truth is that AI is going to leak into video game development, whether people like it or not. We’ll definitely see more studios using AI more openly in their games in the coming year, which will lay the foundation for them using AI more and more in the coming years. Some studios will use it in horrible, garbage ways, and others will try to be more moral about it. But either way, it’s happening.
Layden says that AI is useful for speeding up processes but you still need to check its work.
Someone described it to me [like this], and I think it’s very apt: AI is like a really good intern with lots of Redbull. You can point them at a thing and they’ll just run for the hills and go after it – but you’ve got to check all the work.
While some companies are waiting to see whether or not the use of AI is accepted by the masses, others are more vocal about their use of the technology. Square Enix happens to be one of the latter. President Takashi Kiryu has said:
We also intend to be aggressive in applying AI and other cutting-edge technologies to both our content development and publishing functions.
Will AI Lead To Layoffs?
One of the core issues with implementing AI in the commercial sector is that it will lead to layoffs as processes get automated. In an attempt to cut costs, Microsoft recently cut 1900 jobs in its gaming division. Shawn Layden says that it will create job opportunities as well.
Whenever new tech comes into the space sometimes it obviates certain roles in the studio, but it creates other roles in the studio as well. It will create more jobs as it eliminates – not unlike automation in the factory 50 years ago.
Let us know what you think about AI being adopted in video game development.
Source: Edge Magazine March 2024 (Issue 394)