- Over on his blog, Manifesto Games' Greg Costikyan has a very interesting post called 'Why Are There No Prestige Games?', which raises a number of questions - which I will now ramble upon at length.

After referencing games like Clover Studios' Okami and Doublefine's Psychonauts, Costikyan references alleged comparisons in the film and book industries, and concludes: "Wouldn't we all--the industry and gamers alike--be better served by businesses which understand that, sure, the bottom line is the end game--but that there are multiple routes to the goal, and that sales alone are not the sole measure of a game's value?"

A couple of comments on this. Firstly, as I mention in the comments, Psychonauts ended up costing a pretty spectacular $14 million, which makes it the equivalent of a big-budget action flick at current-gen prices. But more to the point - I don't think it was pegged as a 'prestige' project, and nor was Okami. They're simply games that aspired to make money, didn't, and ended up having creative leanings that make them beloved at a later date. And that's true of a lot of cinematic classics, too.

More to the point, I don't think that publishers necessarily derive corporate goodwill from releasing games that may not be entirely commercial, at this point - people differentiate the developer from the publishing entity. So in pure hard profit terms, I just don't think the concept of 'prestige titles' exists. Companies have to plan to make a profit on each game they make.

Having said that, though, I think that services such as Xbox Live Arcade present a great opportunity, on the much lower end of the development budget, to make 'prestige' and riskier projects. Right now it appears pretty easy to sell 50,000 copies of a new $10 game on Xbox Live Arcade, which is about $250,000 going back to the developer. So if you can spend less than that on the game, and perhaps also release it on PC, then there's a definite opportunity - but right now, only for 3 or 4 person developers. But as the big aggregators grow for indie games (and they will!), we've got plenty to look forward to.

Hopefully the PS3 and Wii download services will work the same way, in time, as well as some bigger PC aggregators for non-casual or borderline-casual titles - and I honestly believe that we're entering a golden age of indiedom this way, not by big publishers trying to derive some kind of overall halo from funding loss-leading 'prestige' titles. (Even the arthouse divisions of major movie studios tend to make money by having a very few breakout hits and overall low development costs, as I understand it. Major console titles like Psychonauts and Okami are just too complex and expensive to work under that model.)