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Pepsidog

How to become an AAA studio?

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While this question has been answered before, I want to acknowledge that I know you can't just make one in a couple of months with a couple thousand dollars.  I can accept very long term goals.  Unfortunately, you can't just get project funding from an existing company, and I haven't found a single way to even get close to becoming a successful studio.

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Posted (edited)

If you want to become an AAA studio you should probably just make games and hope one of them will be a huge success. You can find an investor/publisher or do crowdfunding if you are an experienced lead developer and have a great idea (e.g. Kingdom Come: Deliverance, No Man's Sky, Star Citizen, respectively). But that's about it, I can't see another way of becoming an AAA studio except for literally winning the lottery.

Edited by Magogan

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3 hours ago, Pepsidog said:

While this question has been answered before, I want to acknowledge that I know you can't just make one in a couple of months with a couple thousand dollars.  I can accept very long term goals.  Unfortunately, you can't just get project funding from an existing company, and I haven't found a single way to even get close to becoming a successful studio.

Becoming a AAA studio means you're putting out AAA games. If you look at any studio doing so they're backed by hundreds of millions of dollars.

I would suggest if you're doing this commercially is to just put out the best games you can. If you generate so much money or interest to be bought out and turn into a "AAA" Studio, then so be it. Setting that as a goal is like hoping to win the lottery, but setting a goal to release the best possible games you can and always improve on the prior release with a certain measure of quality is more attainable. Being a AAA Studio doesn't mean your games are good. Lots of AAA games flop, or maintain low player ship.

Once you become a AAA Studio just be ready with those "Surprise Mechanics" and you'll fit right in with the crowd! ;)

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3 hours ago, Magogan said:

If you want to become an AAA studio you should probably just make games and hope one of them will be a huge success.

If you mean by AAA studio, you mean be a studio that is able to secure big $$$ to make big budget games, aside from this being incredibly unlikely, and in most cases probably absolutely nothing like what you envisage it to be...

Another path (probably more likely) is to work for AAA companies, rise through the ranks to the top jobs, make connections, be in a position to splinter off to form your own group of proven AAA professionals with proven track records of churning out hit games. Then you may be in a position to attract funding. This is probably more likely than making a hugely successful indie game that gives you clout.

This path happens quite a lot, but of course it is a sink or swim world, and without a string of hits or reliable income, most of these new companies will not last.

From the perspective of investors, one of the things they are looking for is that you have a solid group of experienced industry pros, preferably with some big cheeses that have worked on hugely successful games. Even having made a wildly successful indy game doesn't mean you will have the skills required for big budget AAA stuff, as far as investors are concerned. And if you have a wildly successful indy game and want to self fund AAA stuff, you are probably crazy.

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There are many way and it depends on how risky you want it.

1. you can make tons of games and become big, e.g. Rovio with Angry Birds, which was their 30th game. But then, it's very much luck and nowadays not even they can repeat it, hence

2. socialize, there are many who earn a living and becoming bigger, not due to skills or games, but due to socializing. Eventually you'll come along the right persons to create or fund your AAA game.

3. go the hard way, if you are very skilled. work hard for studios, create some AAA games, after 10years, quit the job, and try some funding path (kickstarter, angels, publishers etc.)

...

But, all these paths mean hard work. Being just an idea-guy, although it might look like it worked for other people, never works.

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AAA basically just means that you're spending $100M 😅

So the question is "how do I get $100M?"... There's lots of ways, but none that are both quick and guaranteed.

Let's say you had magic ability to always guarantee a 10x return on investment for every game you make. You'd make a $10k game, then a $100k game, then a $1M game, then a $10M game, then a $100M game. Indie to AAA in 5 projects! If you're lucky that could happen.

Unfortunately sustained 1000% growth is fairly rare in the business world... Also, even indie games can cost $1M to $10M these days (I'd call the <$10k game hobby projects, not independent studios). Running a business is expensive. Most games probably make a loss.

As for starting a studio at all, ignoring AAA for a moment... I'd advise working in the AAA field for a number of years to build up the skills that are required at those kinds of companies, and get real experience in shipping games. More importantly though - these companies will give you hundreds of colleagues - acquaintances and friends that form your network that you'll be searching for business partners in. After you're confident enough in your AAA skills to tackle a professional game with a small team, you need to find a small group of people in your network who are as crazy as you are. Then, because finding funding is hard, you'll each want to save up around one year's worth of living expenses to bootstrap your project. A small team of talented professionals with that much spare time and no management overhead can get a lot of work done. Either aim to ship something small  (mobile-casual?) in a few months and get cash coming in, if that's your area of expertise, or aim for a vertical-slice/tech-demo that you can show off to publishers/investors to get the actual funding required for a larger game. You'll need someone on the team who's outgoing and confident at building these relationships/handling these deals. If you can't secure the funding at that point, then you've just wasted your life savings and you'll have to go back to working at someone else's company. Or you can try to pivot to find something hat is profitable - e.g. the slack team failed at making an MMO but got rich selling their customised IRC client 😅

Also, look for alternative forms of funding besides investment / publishers. If you're a talented team, maybe you can pick up some work-for-hire contracts or do some outsourcing. Maybe there's other industries that you can sell parts your work to, besides the game itself. Check with government at all levels (federal/state/city) to see what kinds of grants, loans or rebates are available to small businesses, tech business or games studios. Network with other game devs, but also business leaders in other industries too - most deals come about by seizing opportunities that pop up in chance meetings.

 

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