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All-digital future may save AAA game industry, says Patrice Desilets

Samit Sarkar (he/him) is Polygon’s deputy managing editor. He has more than 15 years of experience covering video games, movies, television, and technology.

The AAA game industry is "at a crossroads," and the transition to an all-digital future may help make AAA games profitable again, said ex-Ubisoft game designer Patrice Désilets today at the Gamelab conference in Barcelona, reports GamesIndustry International.

Désilets noted that recent changes in the game industry like the arrival of mobile platforms, cheap games and digital distribution have caused much upheaval for traditional AAA development, making it increasingly risky.

"Right now we are at a crossroads in our industry," said Désilets. "But I don't believe the AAA blockbuster will die. Maybe the way it is distributed will change, but it won't die."

He continued, "Eventually, AAA [games] will make money again," and added that their profitability will be made possible by the industry switching from retail disc-based titles to digital distribution. "Yeah, games come on disc, and I get it guys you were really pissed off," he said, making an oblique reference to the controversial Xbox One DRM policies from which Microsoft has since backed down. "But, deep down, nobody cares about not having CDs any more. The future is digital, and there's nothing you can do about it."

"we are at a crossroads in our industry"

Désilets is invested in the AAA game industry not because he's been making AAA games for a long time, but also because of the type of games he likes to make.

"There are video games and there are interactive experiences. I do interactive experiences a lot more than I do video games," he said, characterizing the latter category as bite-size, forgettable experiences akin to celebrity gossip in People magazine. "Interactive experiences are novels. They are something else. You're inside them, they take time. You can change people's minds and lives with them."

Désilets was working on 1666: Amsterdam, which he said was one of those mind-changing experiences, at Ubisoft earlier this year until the company fired him in May. In response, he sued Ubisoft earlier this month, seeking $400,000 in compensation and the rights to the game.

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