I read a tweet recently from someone talking about their experience playing the latest Deus Ex release. It basically said, “Social and mobile and free-to-play games are all the rage, but there’s still a spot that can only be filled by big games.” Even though the AAA sector is dwindling in its market share due to the explosive growth of mobile, F2P, and Facebook, the author was talking about how big-budget, top-quality products still have a place.
I think that’s important to keep in mind for a few different reasons. First of which is that the skills necessary to be a key contributor in AAA (I’m talking on the personal level) represent a specialization that developers should work to maintain. It’s easy for folks to shun the big-budget, big-team life in favor of the appeal of indie status, but not unlike bell-bottoms there will be a cyclical return to AAA at some point (when’s the next console generation going to show up?) and studios will once more clamor for high-poly modelers and graphics gurus. It would serve people well to keep those skills honed.
Mobile development knowledge and Unity familiarity and Flash experience are all great things to have for those looking to break into the industry today or in the upcoming year. But not too long after that, there will be a resurgence of publishers willing to throw lots of money at beyond-next-gen projects. Maybe it will be due to a new console arrival, or maybe it will be the result of natural selection as more indies realize that the glut of 99 cent games isn’t a viable market in which to feed their family. Whatever the cause, it’s possible that people whose resume solely extends to iOS and Facebook may well have the same issues getting or keeping a job at that point that many AAA personnel have had in the recent gold rush toward smaller teams on newer platforms. I know a lot of folks who were caught unprepared and are having trouble finding work as the AAA sector is thinned out. I’d hate to see it happen again when the pendulum swings the other way.