With the speed AI is being integrated into everything (for better and mostly worse), it feels like we’re seeing the start of the “meme-ification” of games. I don’t mean that all games will be trivially easy make, we’ll still have AAA titles, but that the gradient of games between between small and large budget them will be vast.

“Meme” Games

On one end of the spectrum will be “meme” games. These games will be developed using AI tools in near real-time. I imagine in my lifetime that kids will be able to talk to their devices and riff on a silly game idea and see it come to life. Anyone with a phone or headset will be able to see the same thing and the experience will be shared. Much like when I was a kid we had to use our imagination to “see” the same made up world, kids soon will be able to use speech and multi-modal AI tools and conjure these worlds. These games will prioritize speed and creativity over quality. Topical to the moment, hyper sharable, these viral games will not last much longer than the time it took to build them.

Future of AAA

On the other end, blockbuster titles like Call of Duty and God of War will still exist. These games will require larger budgets than they currently do now to develop and market. With high development cost fewer of these games will be made, and as a result, fewer large studio will survive. AI will be used to streamline some of the production process (code / art) and will also be a part of the games themselves. Imagine an RPG that has a pre-trained model for character dialog. The way you interact with the NPCs will alter the story every play through. The NPCs will start to feel like other players, able to hold conversations with each other and you. Player expectation for content and richness of story at this level is going to be immense. Games will be boom or bust and this risk will lead to a reduction in AAA studio staff with external development partners filling the staffing gap. While this is somewhat true now, see credits for any AAA game, the scope of work these partners will be responsible for will make them indistinguishable from core team. Aside from benefits.

Decline of AA

Caught in the middle are AA games like Call of Cthulu or Sifu. These games are relatively high quality and fill a creative niche. I would argue that their creativity and departure from what tends to be either the safe bets or relying on purely a visual quality bar of a AAA game is what sets them apart, for now. The reason this segment will be in trouble is that the creative niche games will be rapid fire in the, and the games will be trained and tailored to the people playing them. It will be hard to compete on creativity and impossible to compete on budget.

For developers like myself, this future is uncertain and I struggle to see how it will allow me to make a living. Just as people make memes for fun, they will be making games for the same reason. No longer a career, but a hobby, the thing you do in your free time. Speed, creativity, and first to market will be what matters, not quality. As a friend of mine said when we were discussing this topic, “Getting someone to pay for your game will be like getting them to pay for poetry”. AAA studios can still allow for a development career, one that will be demanding, exceedingly high bar, and almost no way for entry level people to be a part of it.

A Possible Exciting Future

All is not lost. The future for games and the creative explosion that will happen over the next decade is going to be exciting. Fueled by AR and AI technologies that will be everywhere. How we play games will be personal, sharable, interactive, and immensely creative. While I’m cautiously optimistic that games will be fine, the industry is going to evolve beyond recognition. So while the gaming landscape will see a dramatic change, the possibility for everyone to have the ability to share their game ideas has me hyped. Going from closed source game engine to Unity and Unreal, the barrier of entry continues to get lower. We’re soon going to see that barrier be non-existent.