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February 6, 2011


Graeme Devine describes the past and present game industry

Graeme Devine has recently given a presentation to the Baskin Engineering School in Santa Cruz, where he now resides talking about the past and present state of the gaming industry. Graeme describes the previous generation of the gaming industry as “dead” and that the industry is moving forward into new business models. Stepping away from the “four year dev cycles, massive teams and publisher budgets” and moving towards smaller teams, indie development and “creation games”. Graeme kicked off his presentation with a mention to his time at Ensemble Studios working on Halo Wars. Ensemble had a 120 strong team working on the Halo Wars project (although there were other projects in development along side). Graeme made note that 120 is alot of people to work on a game and questions whether such a team size is sustainable.

The gaming industry is definitely changing with the “rise of the indie developer” we have seen a huge success with “App Stores” such as the Apple App Store with games such as Angry Birds plus social games on social networking websites such as Farmville. These types of games did not start with huge budgets, just simple ideas which turned into mass appeal thanks for new vehicles of shipping games such as app stores and social networking websites as opposed to retail boxed copies. Since the Angry Birds launch in 2009 over 50 million copies have been downloaded across all platforms – thats more than all Age of Empires games combined, and its a sure bet Angry Birds cost less to produce than those Age games!

Graeme’s discussion raises some interesting points which may be linked to the closure of Ensemble and the formation of Robot Entertainment to continue the Age of Empires franchise. Perhaps Microsoft’s thinking was that it no longer needed such a huge team to work on the series in comparison to the success of smaller “indie” development teams. Noting Phil Spencer, an MGS executive comments about the closure:

We do have a plan for Age of Empires, and it is something we’ll continue to push, it just didn’t require that we had Ensemble Studios as an entity inside of MGS in Dallas, as full time internal employees, as a studio that would be the sole source of Age content going forward.

Perhaps it was felt a smaller studio, like Robot Entertainment could be formed to continue the Age series, maintaining the same quality of a 120 person studio in a smaller 40/50 person studio. Perhaps Ensemble was too large for sustainable game development?

Check out Graeme’s presentation video on the link below which is a must see presentation for indie developers and for those in the gaming industry. The presentation gives excellent insight into how the industry has changed and is changing going forward with game development.

Play the video:


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