This is a very interesting topic with gamers on both sides of the fence, but the question must be asked. The Dual Developer Model (DDM) makes sense from a lot of aspects. With two developers working on a title, you can have one team working on a title about to go to market while the other team is working on the next installment. This has the added benefit of now making it possible to deliver games that have a two year development cycle every year since a different team is producing every other title. It also has the benefit of creating a little bit of healthy competition. The biggest benefit I believe is the fact that developers wouldn’t have to be so bound by timelines and it would give them more time to put components in the game that they felt were needed. No more we wanted to put that in but we didn’t have time.
Two is always better than one, isn’t it?
The biggest and most well know example of this strategy is the Call of Duty franchise. For those of you that don’t know, Call of Duty is made by two different development houses, Infinity Ward and Treyarch, respectively. Even with an excellent game engine and a solid game structure, Call of Duty is a complex game that has a pretty intense development cycle. Therefore, in order to deliver new installments more quickly they alternate. This is exemplified in the fact that as we look forward to the arrival of Infinity Ward’s Modern Warfare 2, there are rumors that Treyarch is already hard at work on the next one. For developers the benefit is that they don’t have to cut as many corners and can generally go where the game takes them vice always racing to meet a deadline.
For us gamers this is good, we get twice as many titles than we would get with one developer and the companies get to sell twice as many games, so it’s a win-win. Not quite. For all the benefits of a structure like this there are risk. A major risk is creative differences between the two development houses and trust me with developers there are always creative differences, I can say this because I have done a little bit in my day. The next risk is of course the obvious concern about the level of talent between the two groups and consequently the final product out of each.
In the end, I think that while not all types of games could benefit from a dual developer model, I think that there are a lot that can. In particular, I think that yearly sports titles could benefit from the DDM. In yearly games such as Madden, NBA Live, and NCAA just to name a few, the development cycle is so short that a lot of great innovations don’t ever make it in because they just didn’t have the time. If you had to development teams working on those kind of titles I think that we would see much more measurable improvement from year to year because you just doubled the development cycle. Now the complaints of the gamers that there is a lack of major improvement in those titles could be addressed. Yes, we acknowledge that it would be more costly for the publishers but if it ultimately resulted in a much better product we could assume that it would increase sales and thus give them a solid return on their investment. As always you have heard our thoughts, now we want to hear yours? Should more game franchises adopt the dual developer model?