What Are AAA Titles? (Updated Definition)

This thread at indiegamer got me pondering what are AAA titles. I wrote a somewhat detailed blog post 3 years ago and thought that it’s time to update the definition.

In that article, I pondered that AAA titles are:

High-quality games with big budget.

Nowaday, I have a shorter definition:

Games with big budget.

And, I actually don’t try to be funny here. I just feel that the “budget” doesn’t equal “quality”. AAA titles are high budget games, but I’m not so sure about the quality. Sure, there’s great AAA games, but a gut feeling of mine says 80% of them aren’t.

So, let’s talk about indie games
I feel that there’s tons of great indie games around that provide excellent quality (compared to so called AAA titles that have huge budgets, but low quality). Indie games can provide excellent quality with smaller budgets.

I recently played a game called Windowsill (thanks Ofer for this fun Steam gift!). That game is one beatiful, quality product. Everybody should play and buy it. Then I saw also Machinarium – another great looking indie game, seemed fun too. Friend of mine is working on his Lylian game. I hate platformers… but this one is a “horror” themed adventure side-scroller, with stunning graphics. Something that I like.

Many people might already know Gratuitous Space Battles (I do have an opinion about that name… but one reviewer said he bought the game just for the name, so can’t argue with that) – game by Cliff Harris. Expect quality from there. A few minutes ago I tested AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!! — A Reckless Disregard for Gravity (or Aaaaa! for short) which has a simple fun idea, and really cool visuals. Another quality looking indie game.

So… we don’t really need more AAA games.

I think we need more something else. Something like this:
(here’s the actual comment by somebody who referred me to play Battle Bears)

“Juuso, If you ever want to shoot heads off cute pink teddy bears, check it out.”

Not sure if that’s indie, but at least sounds fun.

Next step: let’s beat those AAA games.

Juuso Hietalahti


  1. AAA can be interpreted many ways. AAA is definitely not limited to just big budgets though. When you define something you limit it, but I find the best definition for a AAA game is: A game that is critically and financially successful.
    Angry Birds, Zelda, Uncharted, and Tetris are all very different types of games with different budgets, but they all are considered AAA games.

    Compare this with say Final Fantasy 14 (the mmo). It had a big budget and was trying to be a AAA game, but it flopped.

  2. I don’t think AAA means big budgets. It means professional quality. It means high quality visuals and audio. A well thought out story, if it has one, and also if it has voice acting they’ve got to sound professional too. Of course to get all that you often have to spend $$$ but that’s beside the point.

  3. I dunno, I sure do love me some Blizzard games. I gues I am agreeing with you when you say that large budget doesn’t mean the game will be good, but I disagree when you say that indie is the way to go. I think we need a range of budgets, but that people/producers/developers should always move towards more appropriate budgets for what they want to do.

  4. Farcry’s graphics were not impressive at all, in my opinion. It just shows that throwing shaders at stuff does not replace good artists and design.

  5. I’d say Crysis is the only AAA game on the market. It’s the only game which uses SM4 cards fully, and no other game has so realistic and good looking graphics.

  6. I don’t think AAA titles are not good, just don’t expect all of them to be good just because they have a big budget.
    Also, there is a matter of personal taste. Indie games got some really good games, but I don’t think indie games are superior to AAA games.

  7. When I read the title the only thing that came to mind was the big budgets. That’s really all that defines AAA games. Also, I think you are right about heading towards Indie games. Publishers have there good points, but overblown budgets and the “throw money at the problem” mentality have to go for the video game industry to prosper. I think that’s why Indie games appeal to a lot of us. Lower cost means lower risk and more interesting gameplay to be found.

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