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5th Cell boss: "The $60 boxed game is a broken model"

But digital rentals or SP-only offers might fix it.

The games industry's insistence on selling big budget video games for $60 a pop is a broken model and needs fixing, so says the boss of 5th Cell - the developer behind DS hit Scribblenauts and forthcoming XBLA shooter Hybrid.

Speaking in an interview with GameInformer, Jeremiah Slaczka argued that increased development and marketing costs mean that now only a small fraction of games have a chance of turning a profit.

"The $60 boxed game is a broken model," he claimed. "It was always broken, it's just more broken now because games cost so much to develop, produce and market.

"Before the model was tolerable, because the cost was reasonable enough to allow mediocre selling games to make money. Now it's just insane. If you aren't going to be a mega hit at $60, you might as well give up before you even try, because it's tens of millions down the hole."

Slaczka offered THQ's Homefront FPS as a prime example, arguing that, compared to the likes of Call of Duty: Black Ops, it wasn't good enough to justify its $60 price tag.

"Homefront was an okay FPS - not great, not terrible, just okay. But as a consumer, why would I want to play an okay FPS when I can play a bunch of great FPS titles for the same price?

"While over 13 million people bought Black Ops last year in the US alone, smashing records, less than just one million people bought Homefront in the US. The consumer voted with their wallet, right?"

However, he argued that if THQ had taken a slightly different approach to how the game was sold, it might have stood a better chance of making its money back.

"What if you could rent Homefront for $4.99 for 24 hours from your console? What if Homefront was only $30 dollars upfront for the single player and if you liked it you could buy the multiplayer for an additional $30?," he suggested.

"All of the sudden it's not a binary purchase option anymore."

"That doesn't mean all games have to go this route," he added. "There's still room for the AAA only, but a lot of titles should try a different method. It's a win-win scenario for everyone involved."

Slaczka's argument echo comments made by Gears of War creator Cliff Bleszinski at GDC earlier this year, where he insisted that "the middle class game is dead".

5th Cell's next game, ambitious XBLA shooter Hybrid, is expected to finally launch sometime in 2012, following a delay earlier this year.

"The shooter genre is really hard because there's such a high bar for quality to compete against. Even harder still is that that bar is defined by nuance and subtlety. It's a genre where something as simple as aiming and shooting take months of work to get right," he told GameInformer.

"We've spent so much time just working on making sure you can easily and smoothly move your crosshair and ensuring close, medium and long range combat all feel good. We know in this genre people are used to the best, and they expect it and you've got to deliver, it doesn't matter if it's XBLA for $15 or full retail price."

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Fred Dutton


Fred Dutton was Eurogamer's US news editor, based in Washington DC.