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'Infinity Blade' is Epic's Most Profitable Game Ever + Platform convergence, freemium

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by I am da bawss, Jun 28, 2012.

  1. I am da bawss

    I am da bawss

    Jun 2, 2011
    Tim Sweeney, CEO of Epic Games, began GDC Taipei's second keynote with the note that "Being with Epic games, we're a technology company, and very dedicated to console." At the same time, Sweeney also acknowledged that there was a lot of truth to Ben Cousins' view of the future of game technology. "The fact that we're starting to converge on a common view on technology is very interesting to me," he added.

    According to Tim Sweeny, Infinity Blade is making silly amounts of money for the company:

    "The most profitable game we've ever made, in terms of man years invested versus revenue, is actually Infinity Blade. It's more profitable than Gears of War."

    Just let that sink in for a minute. Infinity Blade, an iOS exclusive title that has been priced anywhere between $5.99 and 99¢ over the years, is more profitable than a $60 AAA title that enjoyed all the glitz and glamor that comes along side a multi-million dollar game launch marketing blitz. We're talking major network TV commercials, prime shelf space in nationwide retailers like Wal-Mart, and everything else …and Infinity Blade wins.

    It seems there are a lot industry veterans saying the same thing. Mobile is the future. The current gen is already approaching PS3/X360 level, and the economics factor (investment vs profitability) of developing for mobile will push the studios to think twice before they invest for the console. With the declining investment in support for console, its demise is already inevitable.

    "Tim Sweeney, CEO of Epic Games, began GDC Taipei's second keynote with the note that "Being with Epic games, we're a technology company, and very dedicated to console." At the same time, Sweeney also acknowledged that there was a lot of truth to Ben Cousins' view of the future of game technology. "The fact that we're starting to converge on a common view on technology is very interesting to me," he added.

    Still, Epic isn't looking to only make smaller game experiences. "We're gamers, and we develop the kinds of games we want to play ourselves," he says, which means "big games with guns and chainsaws."

    "We try to push technology to show what is possible in games," he says, rather than trying to design games to meet the technology. "We try to take a longer-term view of the game industry. ... To be successful with a game engine today, we have to have started that engine 3 or 4 years ago."

    For Unreal Engine 3, the company spent 4 years building Gears of War and the technology at same time, and put major effort into early adoption of new platform features. "Now we're in the same cycle, leading up to a new generation of engines," he said. "Whereas Unreal Engine 3 was developed primarily for consoles, Unreal Engine 4 has a very different set of goals."
    What's possible, what's practical?
    The company's first effort toward the next generation was the Samaritan demo, build in UE3. That demo had to run on three graphics cards, in a huge computer -- now it's more practical, a year later, on a single high-end graphics card.

    "We came to the conclusion that there's the possibility for dramatic leaps in technology," he said. "Some people say, 'oh, graphics are good enough, and we can focus exclusively on gameplay now.' We don't feel that way at all," he added, saying that there's a lot further to go.

    "We came to the conclusion that in the old days we built engines that would extract the most performance possible out of the PC, and we had to have a large art component to achieve that," he said. Gears of War had 100 artists working on it, including contractors, for example. "Maximizing the productivity of these artists is now the most important cost factor."

    Thus, with UE4, the company hopes to "Increase the level of visual quality, but also increase the performance and efficiency. ... The tools investment is paying off. Artists are able to build content more productively than before. And with the Unreal Engine as a whole, we found it's much easier to scale down from high end to low end devices than in this generation," he said. "We expect to be able to build games that can scale from a smartphone to a high end PC. ... We expect an unprecedented amount of content portability for the future."

    "We've been very happy with the game industry's growth," Sweeny said. "For a while we were worried that the divide between the console growth in the west, and the growth of PCs, would increase." Still, and this is where his opinion begins to converge with Cousins' keynote yesterday, Sweeney revealed that "The most profitable game we've ever made, in terms of man years invested versus revenue, is actually Infinity Blade. It's more profitable than Gears of War."

    This is why Sweeney believes that future growth will be fueled by free-to-play. "Nowadays the high end of the game business is in these console game," he says. "Activision invests almost $100 million per year in Call of Duty." And who can realistically afford to do that? At the same time, he notes that Epic has been "very very surprised to see how fast smartphone and tablet devices are improving."

    Sweeney says, for instance, that the iPad 3 is approaching the performance of the Xbox 360 and PS3 -- and the pace of improvement is faster than Moore's Law. "We expect DirectX technology to be widely available on these mobile devices in the next few years," he added. "We're also seeing an interesting thing happen in terms of the overall development pattern globally."

    PC online dominated Asia, but in the U.S. it was mainly just World of Warcraft that was successful for some time, while console was a separate market. "These platforms are rapidly converging, with a set of common capabilities," he said. "The lowest end device [the iPad 2] is still a DirectX 9 device!"

    Sweeney sees online game distribution coming rapidly to console. "I think the console business we see in the United States and Europe will be just another platform," he says. You should soon be able to ship a freemium game on PC, and on console, simultaneously. "That is a very realistic possibility."

    Convergence is going to change the market interestingly, says Sweeney, as he points out the two biggest FPS in the world are Call of Duty in the west, and Crossfire, made in Korea, but little-known outside Asia. "I think in the future, these two games will be competing head to head," he says. "It's possible to build one game that has global appeal and ship it in all markets."

    "North American and European developers are far, far behind the state of the art Asian business models," he cautions. "We've been building these games like Gears of War where you go into the store and you buy a piece of plastic! You just buy this DVD. That is going to change rapidly."

    He says that Western developers need to learn to change with the times, and put a lot of effort into learning about the free to play market. But also the learning will happen the other way, as well. "Asian online games are far ahead of Western games in terms of business model, but the Western games do have a real advantage in terms of production values," he says.
    Unreal everywhere
    Epic's new engine strategy is "Unreal Everywhere." "Put this one engine on all platforms worldwide," he says, including PC online, web browsers with Flash, iOS, Android, and console. The most important thing is to build scalable games -- the goal is not have to rebuild for platforms.

    This interest in free to play and Asia is part of what inspired the company's recent partnership with Tencent, in which the latter company bought a minority stake in Epic. In the past, Epic had worked very closely with Microsoft, but the world is changing. "You might in the future see the Epic relationship span different publishers and different platforms across the world," says Sweeney.

    "I think like a typical American, in that I just want to buy the game once," he says. But freemium has grown to eclipse the global retail market. "I agree that this is going to be the way that almost all games will be distributed worldwide," he says. "Where is this going in the long-term future? We're at a point in the world's history where we're starting to run into resource limitations. ... The virtual environment is completely unlimited. It makes me wonder if some day the virtual economy could be greater than the economy for physical goods."

    "All these Western developers spending 30 million to develop these games for dedicated consoles - all of these companies are going to be invading the asian markets within the next five years or so," he says, "and they'll be free to play, worldwide, global products. ... The only way to survive is to go global."

    "The game industry is the most exciting one on earth," he concluded. "We've seen unprecedented change, just in our lifetimes. It's an unprecedented amount of change, and also opportunity."
  2. janpec


    Jul 16, 2010
    Wow that is amazing i would have never thought that Infinity blade would go near franchises like GoW or Unreal. . It would be very interesting to hear some opinion of players why are they being draged to this game so much. What exactly is making this game sell so well? Could it be only the marketing hype and word spread across about one of the most graphically detailed IOS game? Gameplay wise i couldnt find anything in this game to match the rest 30 top sold IOS games.
    Or could it be simply the fact that it is being made by Epic games, sell the game?
  3. TylerPerry


    May 29, 2011
    I think infinity blade stinks, no wonder it has made the most, it has nice graphics but other then that... well it is a turd probobly took like one person (skilled) a few days to make, then everyone is like "Wow graphics" lets buy this and bam make millions.
  4. TehWut


    Jun 18, 2011
    I will not disagree that it was little more than a showcase...oh well, I guess whatever brings in the cash :|
  5. Unicron


    Sep 28, 2011
    I'm not surprised, mobile tech is up there with the PSP Vita in terms of graphics. The newer generation iPads actually have the same graphics chip as the Vita. You got smartphones with quad core CPUs and mobile GPUs such as Tegra 3 so yeah mobile is the future.

    I think that something like the Wii U is stepping in the right direction and pretty soon mobile tech will blur the line between playing on a console then seemlesly take the game out to the streets.

    Then you have Googles glass in development and all you need is to sync a wireless controller and you're set :)
  6. Noisecrime


    Apr 7, 2010
    It hasn't, read the quotes carefully. Tim says that
    That does not mean its more profitable than GOW (i.e made more profit), just the proportion of money made vs the amount of investment is greater. Though its not actually clear as to exactly what they are comparing and if its like for like.

    After all in terms of net profit for GOW you have to account for a considerable marketing spend, which based on other titles could easily have been $10-30 million, perhaps even more ( e.g. Battlefield 3 marketing spend was speculated to be $50 million). Up against that Infinity Blade would be more profitable before it was even released if it had a zero marketing spend ;)

    So in terms of absolute numbers and profit you have to be very careful with this article. I actually consider it rather poorly written as it implies greater profit. However the essence of the article is generally right, in that its possible to make very good profits from mobile games, possibly greater than many AAA titles. Trouble is that wont last and is no more guaranteed than your AAA blockbusters.

    Thing is, in terms of profit vs investment its been the publishers who have been pushing themselves into a dead end, not the markets or technology. When you end up spending 2-4 times the amount of development on marketing, something is wrong. When you continuously release sequels, with lack of innovation something is wrong. If they simply end up doing the same on mobile, they'll end up right back where they started.
  7. andorov


    Feb 10, 2011
    Yep. It won't be long before another publisher goes "well, Infinity Blade made so much money, lets make our own clone, but with bigger team/graphics/marketing!!" and the vicious cycle will continue until mobile games are just about as profitable and hit-driven as AAA games.

    Look at Zynga, they've already done this to themselves.
  8. BrUnO-XaVIeR


    Dec 6, 2010
    Im not really proficient in english and even I understood that this is what Sweeney was saying there...

    However, when the gaps between console and mobile hardwares are closed... That means that Apple will start slowly to close the door for what ppl call "shovelware" and the indies (most of them) who earn some coins doing that will suffer.
    Mainly because the big guys will bring their lobbyist tricks to the table and make Apple care much less about the 99 bucks they get every year.

    I think what keeps indies alive is the explorer's spirit and we more than need a new platform where the big guys think it's not worthy to go, like iOS and Android was few years ago. Else, no indie is going to make real money anymore. Sure there are always exceptions, and the exceptions of exceptions...
    PS Vita would be amazing for indies if it weren't a trap by Sony.