President Capps says studioâ??s future â??must be a mix of our start-up past and blockbuster presentâ?

Epic Games looks to comic books for building new IP

Not content with best-selling middleware, Unreal Engine 3, and the successful Gears of War and Unreal Tournament franchises, Epic Games has revealed it is already looking to grow its slate of IP – and will experiment with comic books as a low-cost way to build new properties.

Studio president Mike Capps was an unlikely keynote speaker at the Casual Connect conference in Seattle today, but he offered up the hardcore games developers’ perspective on casual games – and revealing his studio is keenly watching the fast-growing sector and its methods of getting cheaper IPs to market.

Comic books were one way of doing this, he explained, saying they were “a new way to try new ideas” and that, via comic books, “it’s very cheap to build up an IP franchise in comics than it is compared to games”.

He pointed out that the story-driven medium, with a lower cost of production and episodic, sustained content was perfect for introducing and building a new IP – which could presumably then form the basis of a new game.

Capps compared and contrasted casual games and core games development to explain why the idea made sense, saying that although Epic has a new IP development path in place, it’s actually “hard to give the time the freedom to [make new IP quickly]”. He added that the hardcore games industry is locked in an ‘arms race’ of games development obsessed with better graphical features – while the casual games industry is meanwhile continuing to create smaller, smarter, quicker to produce title and still make money.

He lamented that Epic may have lost “some of our nimbleness” but is implementing new internal strategy “so we can quickly hop on an IP idea, try it and put our engine behind it.”

That includes the possibility of Epic comic books, but also explains why Epic recently acquired XBLA developer Chair.

“One of the reasons we bought Chair Entertainment was so we can learn from each other,” said Capps, having much praise for the team’s making 48MB casual game Undertow with Epic’s Unreal Engine 3.

“But we liked most was that they had multiple IPs on the go while making that game as well. We’re trying to not fuck them up while getting ideas from them and giving them stability and funding,” he joked. “We want to learn from casual games. You guys are awesome, we’re really jealous of the things you do and we’re going to steal all your ideas.”

Ultimately, Capps said that – although the firm is major industry player doing great business through middleware and game sales – “Epic’s future must be a mix of our start-up past and our blockbuster-studio present”.

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