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BioWare on next-gen: "There will be a big leap, but it won't be as obvious"

Because of the Cost Effect.

Temper your expectations about the generational leap in graphics between this generation of console gaming and the next, urged BioWare art director Neil Thompson.

There will be "a big leap", he told OXM, "but it won't be as obvious" as the generational transition before it.

It comes down to economics, he explained. "The last technology iteration caught folks by surprise - especially the number of people you needed and the skillset jump that was required to do the work that people expected," Thompson said.

"In the last generation the perception was that it was going to be a ten times improvement over the previous generation."

And so, budgets ballooned.

Thompson thinks developers will be "cleverer" about making next-gen games this time around - "they'll be better prepared".

"We can't see a 10-fold team increase again as the budgets would just be ridiculous," he stated. "You'd have to sell 20-30 million copies before you broke even."

The last thing the industry should move towards, in his opinion, is a place where making top-tier games is "economically unviable".

But he countered those comments by assuring that BioWare will push the new machines as hard as it can.

Sony's new PlayStation 4 is built on PC architecture that will make it easier to understand and work with than PlayStation consoles before it, which should help keep costs down.

But while Neil Thompson suggests BioWare will take an affordable approach to next-generation development, who's to say Activision Blizzard and Ubisoft will follow suit? Both put multiple studios and hundreds and hundreds of developers to work on their flagship Call of Duty and Assassin's Creed franchises. How much bigger will the big get? And if they do, how do they recoup the costs of it?

BioWare's first foray onto next-generation machines is expected to be Dragon Age 3 this autumn. Platforms haven't been announced but it's expected to be a cross-gen release - i.e. on PS4 and the next Xbox as well as PS3 and Xbox 360 (and PC).