Hellblade Developer: Triple-A Publishing "Doesn't Really Serve Developers Like Us"

Mid-size development teams could potentially do a lot better for themselves, says Team Ninja.

News by Matt Kim, .

It's been nearly three months since Ninja Theory released Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice on the PlayStation 4. The game did an admirable job tackling psychosis and mental health, and was fairly well-received as a result. In a new interview, Ninja Theory CCO Tameem Antoniades says that with Hellblade close to breaking even soon, going "indie" was the right call.

To be clear, Ninja Theory has been calling their approach something akin to double-A Development (as opposed to triple-A). But for a developer that previously worked with some big publishers, self-publishing Hellblade was a big change. And it appears to have worked out for them.

Antoniades recently told GamesBeat, "The triple-A publishing model goes in cycles, sort of, but it doesn't really serve developers like us very well, mid-size developers. A lot of opportunity is out there for developers, but the triple-A model is a difficult one, a dangerous one, where you're not fully in control of your destiny."

Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice

Ninja Theory previously worked with Namco to release Enslaved: Odyssey to the West and Capcom for the controversial DmC: Devil May Cry. However for Hellblade, Ninja Theory self-published the game while retaining the rights to the IP.

"Of course, because we self-published it, it's the first time we're getting the bulk of the money back, which is amazing. We own the IP this time. It's opened up a bunch of doors and possibilities that we just didn't have until this point."

Ninja Theory intends on releasing another dev diary with concrete data and sales figures soon. Antoniades says it's so that other developers can see what Ninja Theory's done and replicate it for themselves. As Antoniades says, "We're doing that because we genuinely want games to be as exciting, ambitious, and creative as they used to be... there's a real danger in losing great studios at an alarming rate when we shouldn't have to, simply because we don't know what works and what doesn't in the digital era."

In a moment where the fate of single-player narrative games are at risk of losing out to games-as-service style multiplayer games, perhaps Ninja Theory's work on Hellblade helps pave the way for future ambitious, single-player games.

If you enjoyed Hellblade, I strongly recommend giving the whole interview a read as it gives fascinating insight into the production of the game.

Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice is available now on PlayStation 4 and PC through Steam.

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Comments 4

  • Avatar for NateDizzy #1 NateDizzy 4 months ago
    I'm glad it's working out for them. Hellblade wasn't my jam, but I did jump on Echo, another double-A production from some former Hitman devs. It's kind of sad how quickly the western game development scene has turned into a mirror of the movie industry. You either have 200 million dollar blockbusters or the 5 million dollar indie film. Thankfully, stories like Hellblade (and titles from Japan like NieR and Persona 5 selling strong) prove to me that a game doesn't need eyeball searing graphics to do well.
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  • Avatar for shurn #2 shurn 4 months ago
    This brings hope for us unsocial single player gamers.
    Glad it's working out so far for them. I haven't played hellblade yet but I liked heavenly blade and hellblade looks good
    From a graphic standpoint.
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  • Avatar for AxiomVerge #3 AxiomVerge 4 months ago
    It's definitely great to be in control of your own game rather than be part of someone's library, especially when their library might be giant cash cows like Assassin's Creed or Madden. I think if AV had gone with a publisher you wouldn't see it ported to all these platforms; they would cut it because evem though it's profitable, it doesn't meet AAA expectations. It would be cut like Dead Space, severed as if to save the rest of the company. But when it's just your game and your baby you are just happy it breaks even and you can go on making more of your own wacky, atypical stuff.
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  • Avatar for enable12 #4 enable12 A month ago
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