Moving out of retail gives developers more flexibility, says Epic boss

Sweeney looking forward to digital future

The founder of Epic Games says he’s looking forward to an increasingly digital marketplace.

The coming console generation will drive development costs upwards, but by going digital, companies can potentially avoid some of the rigid pricing demanded by retailers.

“We’re more enthusiastic now than ever about the future of high-end platforms,” Sweeney told Edge.

“What we’re doing on high-end PCs is going to be representative of the future consumer gaming experience and it’s going to be awesome. It’s going to be a substantial leap over the current generation.”

The problem with the current model is that it has built-in inefficiencies that make the cost of games artificially high.

"You run ads on television so that people walk into a retail store, buy a piece of plastic and stick it into their digitally connected device," said Sweeney.

"I think we have a lot of latitude – publishers and developers alike – to increase the efficiency of that. Once you have a game, it’s available pervasively online, and your devices are all Internet-connected, do you really need to run television ads to get people to find it at the top of the App Store?”

This will free developer resources so more cash can go into building games, and this has Sweeney excited.

“I’m looking forward to our digital future," he said.

"Development budgets are going to be the dominant cost in the industry, and the efficiency of building games will directly improve profitability. As we move more sales of games out of retail, that creates a lot more flexibility for developers to make games at different scales and price them differently.”

Independent developers have had these freedoms for years through digital platforms.

While games like FTL, Minecraft, and Killing Floor can all effectively set pricing in accordance with costs, demand, and value, almost all triple-A games are sold at about $60 regardless of budget.

“If you look at games that just encompass triple-A production values, there’s a huge range of scales where games have been successful and profitable," said Sweeney.

"You don’t need $100 million to build a triple-A game. But if you want to spend that much, you can build one that looks absolutely insane."

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