What Is a AAA Video Game?

History and Future of AAA Video Games

Gaming Companies Highlight Their Latest Products At Annual E3 Game Industry Conference
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A triple-A video game (AAA) is generally a title developed by a large studio, funded by a massive budget. A simple way to think about AAA video games is to compare them to movie blockbusters. It costs a fortune to make an AAA game, just as it costs a fortune to make a new Marvel movie—but the anticipated returns make the outlay worthwhile.

In order to recoup general development costs, publishers will generally produce the title for the major platforms (currently Microsoft's Xbox, Sony's PlayStation, and the PC) to maximize profits. The exception to this rule is a game produced as a console exclusive, in which case the console maker will pay for exclusivity to offset the loss of potential profit to the developer.

History of AAA Video Games

Early 'computer games' were simple, low-cost products that could be played by individuals or by multiple people in the same location. Graphics were simple or non-existent. The development of high-end, technically sophisticated consoles and the World Wide Web changed all that, turning 'computer games' into complex, multi-player productions incorporating high-end graphics, video, and music.

By the late 1990's, companies like EA and Sony were producing 'blockbuster' video games expected to reach a huge audience and rake in serious profits. It was at that point that game makers started using the term AAA at conventions. Their idea was to build buzz and anticipation, and it worked: interest in video games soared, as did profits.

During the 2000's, video game series became popular AAA titles. Examples of AAA series include Halo, Zelda, Call of Duty, and Grand Theft Auto. Many of these games are quite violent, drawing criticism from citizen groups concerned with their impact on youth.

Triple I Video Games

Not all popular video games are created by the makers of Play Station or XBox consoles. In fact, a significant and increasing number of popular games are created by independent companies. Independent (III or 'triple I') games are funded independently and the makers are thus freer to experiment with different types of games, themes, and technology.

Independent video game makers have several other advantages:

  • They are not reliant on franchises and sequels, so they can often reach new audiences;
  • They are often able to build a high-end game with far lower costs than the big game makers;
  • They are more flexible in their response to user feedback and can make changes rapidly.

The Future of AAA Video Games

Some reviewers note that the biggest AAA video game producers are running up against the same issues plaguing movie studios. When a project is built with a huge budget, the company can't afford a flop. As a result, games tend to be designed around what has worked in the past; this keeps the industry from reaching a wider range of users or exploring new themes or technologies. The result: some believe that a growing number of AAA video games will actually be produced by independent companies who have the vision and flexibility to innovate and reach new audiences. Nevertheless, games based on existing series and blockbuster movies will not be disappearing anytime soon.


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Schultz, Warren. "What Is a AAA Video Game?" ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, thoughtco.com/what-is-aaa-game-1393920. Schultz, Warren. (2021, February 16). What Is a AAA Video Game? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-aaa-game-1393920 Schultz, Warren. "What Is a AAA Video Game?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-aaa-game-1393920 (accessed July 26, 2021).