"There's this stranglehold that the AAA retail model has which I think is just crushing innovation and access to creative content," says Ninja Theory's Tameem Antoniades, speaking with Gamesindustry.biz. "If you're paying that much for a game, you don't want to take chances. You want everything to be there, all the feature sets. You want it to be a known experience, guaranteed fun. That's not healthy."
Ninja Theory is certainly no stranger to the pressures of triple-A titles with its current development of the Devil May Cry reboot. Antoniades notes that despite working with an established franchise, his team has been given a considerable degree of freedom to explore it from other angles.
"We wouldn't have taken it on if it was a straight sequel," he says. "In fact, Capcom wouldn't have given it to us if they wanted a straight sequel. They wanted something new. It's not 'knock it out because it's safe.' We're taking some of our biggest risks on this project. We're doing some of our most creative work on it. It feels, surprisingly, very liberating."
Antoniades knows firsthand that creativity doesn't necessarily equal commercial success, however. Nowhere was this more evident than in the disparity between critical reception and sales figures for last year's excellent Enslaved -- treated with suspicion and caution by consumers due to it being a new IP. He sees Ninja Theory potentially getting out of the triple-A market in the future and exploring smaller titles such as iPhone games and digital-only games -- a field where creativity can be explored more fully.
"A lot of our team members are hobbyists," says Antoniades. "They create their own iPhone games and things like that, so I can see us kind of taking a punt with that. It can't come soon enough. The whole digital revolution is happening now and it can't come soon enough. The model we're under, the big retail model, is creaking."
For Antoniades and his team at Ninja Theory, then, this "digital revolution" will enable them to make the games they really want to make rather than having to focus on the bottom line. While there's a ton of money to be made in the triple-A sector, there's little denying that there's a lot of "me too" action going on -- the two most hotly anticipated games of the year are both multiplayer-focused military shooters, after all. Perhaps a shakeup in the way titles are developed and distributed will bring us some truly creative titles which also enjoy commercial success.
This article originally appeared on GamePro.com as Ninja Theory: AAA Retail Model is 'Crushing Innovation'