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I tried to find a precise definition. I found clues on Wikipedia and on Gaming SE, but I cannot find more than an approximation like:

Equivalent of blockbuster movie in cinema, an AAA game is a game with highest development budgets and levels of promotion.

The definition seems imprecise. How can I be sure a game is AAA?

Let's imagine a small indie studio making games and growing up. They hire more and more people through the years and invest more and more money in their game. At which milestone would their game be considered as AAA?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ You're right, it's not a precise definition. Technically there's a lot of middle-ground between indies and AAA, but in practice there aren't really companies occupying that middle ground. That's because usually once a developer gets bigger than "obviously indie" some giant publisher buys them up. \$\endgroup\$ – jhocking Oct 1 '15 at 18:18
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There really isn't a precise metric for being "AAA" or even a solid definition of the term. Generally it means the game in question had a large budget, which usually translates to having a large team and lots of promotional spending. But how large is large? Nobody can really agree (or has really bothered to try), just like nobody agrees on how many concurrent players you need to be a "massively" multiplayer game.

Most people would probably agree that games with budgets in the millions are "AAA," and games with budgets in the thousands aren't. But the middle? Is a hundred thousand dollars an AAA game? What about half-a-million?

If you want to call your game a AAA game, go for it. If you "pull it off" in the sense that your game manages to wow people enough that they don't disagree with that assessment, then I guess you're a AAA game (or similarly, just wait until people start calling your games AAA or calling your studio a AAA studio).

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While there is no hard definition as to what makes a game 'AAA', it's safe to say you can call a game 'AAA' if it has top-class production values for the technology available in its time.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Then another question arises: what is "top-class production values for the technology available in its time" ? \$\endgroup\$ – Kromster says support Monica Oct 2 '15 at 8:31

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