The industry was still torn because it was so much easier to design the video games, and they did seem to sell to a group of people who weren’t affected by the crash. We really teetered on that fence. Which way are we going to go? Video games, or a broad range of game possibilities? What sealed it was Wing Commander, for two reasons. The main thing that Wing Commander did that doomed the industry was that it bought market share. That is, Wing Commander was a hugely expensive program to write. It’s funny, Chris Roberts has denied that it cost much, but that’s because of some creative internal accounting. Back in those days, around 1990, a typical budget for a game would be $100,000 to $200,000. There were some done cheaper, but $300,000 was a very expensive game. Wing Commander probably cost about $1,000,000. By the standards of the day that was considered absurd. And in fact, I’ve been told by an Origin insider that Wing Commander by itself never paid back its investment, but that the follow-ups and add-ons did. But what they were really doing was spending so much money that it would only work if it became the top hit. It did. The problem then was, they’ve raised the bar for the whole industry, we all have to produce $1,000,000 games, and unfortunately they can only work if each one is the number one game. And you can only have one number one game. So that, in turn, forced the industry to become much more conservative. We’ve got these huge expenses, we simply can’t make money turning out a number twenty game. Anything less than being in the top ten will lose money. So very quickly it became a hit-driven business. That was already starting in the late ’80s, but Wing Commander sealed it. So once it became a hit-driven industry, the whole marketing strategy, economics, and everything changed, in my opinion, much for the worse.
Wywiad z Crawfordem za Game Design: Theory & Practice Richard Rouse III