Naughty Dog founder: Triple-A games 'not working'

Jason Rubin says games industry's current model is not 'healthy'

Jason Rubin, co-founder of Naughty Dog, has questioned the sustainability of the entire video games industry if it continues to churn out multi-million dollar, Triple-A titles.

Rubin suggests that the traditional model of exclusively selling expensive packaged goods through retail is coming to an end - and that those publishers that continue to do so will become extinct.

Speaking as part of the debut episode of Game Theory - which you can watch below - Rubin joined luminaries such as Epic's Cliff Bleszinksi and Sims creator Will Wright in discussing the need to 'reinvent the entire games industry'.


The programme examines the risk and opportunity posed by the rise of online multiplayer, as well as the popularity of video games on social networking sites.

It also explores the proliferation of must-have indie games and the game's industry's mini 'crash' in the last 18 months - which has seen revenues tumble across the business.

"We have lay-offs at Activision that happened a couple of weeks ago, we have very large lay-offs at Electronic Arts - both of them are very large - that's not a sign of a healthy industry," said Rubin, who left Naughty Dog in 2004.

"Having said that, I think the industry will be healthy [in future]. It is not headed for doom. We're entertaining more people in more ways than we've ever done before. But from a profitability standpoint, the console Triple-A stuff is, right now, not quite working."

Rubin went onto discuss the industry's growth since its 'heyday' at the beginning of the PlayStation console - and how that era is now coming to an end.

"We're a cyclical business. I remember making cartridge games and I remember they were wildly profitable. Eventually, the games got more expensive, we made better games, they filled the cartridges, the cartridges got packed with very expensive chips to hold the data, more people started making the games - and the business wasn't great. Trip Hawkins came around and said: 'What if we put it on a CD?'

"The business model of putting it on a CD changed an $18 packaged good - $20, $24 depending what was in it - into a $2 packaged good. Suddenly, games became incredibly profitable again - the Crash Bandicoot era of $2 million games selling nine million units was the heyday, to a certain extent, of this cycle.

"We're now at the tail-end of that cycle. We have... $80 million games being made, being put on a disc that still only costs $2. But we're selling it through stores at, inflation adjusted, the price we sold it through stores ten years ago.

"You can say what you will about fairness, you can say what you will about liking the business as it is right now. But the publishers are not profitable - and if the publishers do not make profit, one of two things has to happen: Either (i) They have to change or (ii) They have to stop making games and go out of business."