Epic: Movies and cheap apps are killing traditional games

Mike Capps, President of Epic Games, has again added his voice to those prophesying doom for traditional games in the face of app-style gaming. In an interview with IndustryGamers, Capps puts aside financial issues to concentrate on the impact of new-media phenomena from a perspective less of market share and more of mindshare. He says releases like Gears of War 3 and the well-reviewed but unprofitable Bulletstorm could be threatened by the ability of cheap apps and on-demand movies to command players' attention.

“I think the biggest competition for Shadow Complex was Netflix,” says Capps, referring to the company's first foray into Xbox Live Arcade. He says the title's problem wasn't the big names of download gaming like Castle Crashers or Limbo: “If you fired up your dashboard, right there if you already bought Netflix, you have tons and tons of awesome content that's bite sized in 1.5 to 2 hour chunks. So that was our competition.” By the same token, he says, “If you think about what many people are doing... If I have 30 minutes to game, what am I going to play? That [time] more and more gets taken up with mobile games."

Where once, the marketers' work was done as soon as kids (or their parents) had been persuaded to buy a title, the goal now is increasing a game's mindshare: tying the gaming experience into a brand that lodges in the player's head and doesn't leave. Capps says “a really good 99 cent game that occupies you for hours and hours on end” is able to take a big chunk out of the mindshare once enjoyed solely by big-budget, big-hype, full-price games.

Titles like Epic's own $6 Infinity Blade take some of the pressure off traditional publishers: “I think there will always be room for a premium SKU on a mobile platform.” However, this too points to a changing market. “I do worry about what it means for the next generation of console games. Are people really going to want to spend $60 on a game? I mean, we're spending tens of millions of dollars making those games... it's not a sustainable business model. I'm not sure how it all ends up.”

Jul 26, 2011

Source: IndustryGamers 




  • Crypto140 - July 27, 2011 7:01 p.m.

    Pussy. I don't know why but this article makes me want to say that.
  • RedOutlive10 - July 27, 2011 5:52 p.m.

    I doubt "traditional" games are going anywhere. But some quality indie games might for sure steal the spotlight and provide a way better benefit cost ratio than the so called triple A titles. Case in point: Minecraft... You can spend countless hours in it, much more than MANY 60 dollars games. That's a problem for devs making games with crappy replayability, for example.
  • avantguardian - July 27, 2011 10:32 a.m.

    BOO you got yer netflix in my vidyagames! here's a thought: what if netflix on your console was actually HELPING sell games? i may be stretching a bit, but ultimately, isn't the goal of microsoft/sony/nintendo getting as many of their consoles into your homes as possible? and to make it THE go-to entertainment center for your ENTIRE UNIVERSE? more consoles + more homes = more games in said homes. also, as a console becomes more and more accepted as the primary source of entertainment in most homes you should see quite an uptick in games' sales just because its there(imagine those last 4 words in italics for best effect). i can see netflix and on-console cable as main selling points for consoles if they want to market them that way. oh, and no one wants to play shadow complex for 30 minutes. comparing apps to games is pointless.
  • Dylanmannen - July 27, 2011 12:06 a.m.

    peopel don't get the point here! 0.99 apps will not take over OUR regular gaming "ways". but what about the next generation? when the new kids grow up, they will have there great iOS devicis and they can pay 0.99 for a great game. why would they pay for a good console, good TV, headsets, and expensive games that is lasting for only a few hours? the new generation will probebly grow up to be casual gamers :O And the video game market will adapt to that :/ in some years ther will be aloot more casual games and not that many Hardcore games.. mayby :P
  • PolarBearsInHeat - July 26, 2011 9:40 p.m.

    Really, I still prefer pokemon over any app for on the go use. And i'll never play zenonia or PvZ instead of Gears or Civ, so I don't really see why they're worried. Like, apps are becoming inconsequential purchases. They're cheaper than coffee, so folks don't pay attention to them. Gamers buy real games, casual 'gamers' buy kinect and wii games, everyone buys apps.
  • rabidpotatochip - July 26, 2011 8:33 p.m.

    I'm not saying having a limitless collection of movies completely eliminates the purchase games, just that it cuts down on the amount you purchase. When enough people do that the gaming industry feels it.
  • DeliciousPie - July 26, 2011 8:28 p.m.

    If you have a limitless collection of good movies that you want to watch repeatedly forever, I will shit myself. My step-dad has quite a few movies he likes, yet he still buys and plays games.
  • rabidpotatochip - July 26, 2011 8:14 p.m.

    @shadowreaper72 - "AND WHAT DOES BEING ABLE TO WATCH MOVIES ON OUR CONSOLE HAVE TO DO WITH BUYING GAMES?!" (My eyes, the goggles do nothing! (I think your caps lock key is on backwards)) The fact that you only have so many hours in a day. If you're watching a movie you're not playing a game. If your movie collection is (basically) limitless and cheap it removes motivation to spend your money on other sources of entertainment, like games.
  • shadowreaper72 - July 26, 2011 7:57 p.m.

  • DeliciousPie - July 26, 2011 7:13 p.m.

    As several have pointed out, game apps are for those time periods when you can't access a console or you have a limited time frame. Even in those situations, I find the entertainment value of game apps severely limited. I regularly visit the app store, but I almost never find a game app worth downloading or purchasing. Out of the few app games that I have purchased/downloaded, there are only 2 that I play consistently in those situations. Often times, I just open an app with with saved written articles and reread those instead, which I find much more entertaining. I just can't see how app games could take down console games. You have great RPG games on the console like Mass Effect, TES, Demon's Souls, and others. When you look through the RPG games on the apps, all you find are games that can barely qualify as RPGs. And in the Shooter genre, you have Halo, Vanquish, Gears of War, CoD, BF, and plenty of others on the console. If you look for shooters on the app store, you'll be lucky to find a game that has non-sticky controls, let alone cash-worthy content.
  • SOLAMON77 - July 26, 2011 7:03 p.m.

    I think the biggest competition for games like Bulletstorm are games like Call of Duty. A lot of kids these days spend most of there game time on online games.
  • SunnyvaleTrash - July 26, 2011 6:40 p.m.

    Just want to chime in that I loved Bulletstorm and I'm sad I'll probably never see more of it in the future.
  • rabidpotatochip - July 26, 2011 6:31 p.m.

    Jeez, I came in here ready to rant just based on the title but he actually makes some pretty interesting points. The only thing I can really ream on is his comment about people wanting to spend $60 on games, unless your game is a magnum opus I can't justify the cost in the face of so many competing options. I still love Mass Effect, the Witcher, and the epic The Longest Journey but with so many games demanding my money I can only spend so much in a month. It's not that cheap games have suddenly made people forget about the high-end segment (graphics, long story arcs, etc.) of the market but rather that they've filled a demand for something with a similar dollar-to-entertainment ratio but a lower price. I'm still playing a Tetris cartridge I bought 20 years ago for example, I defy you to find a game with higher replay value. Most of those repetitive games that can be over in 30 seconds are like sugar, you get it for cheap, enjoy it for a while and start craving something more. That's the niche the big games will always have. If you ask me, what's killing traditional games is traditional greed. So many titles are dragged well past their expiration date just to cash in on past success (Devil May Cry 4, I'm looking at you) and entire franchises are getting flogged for every penny they're worth (Madden 20xx comes to mind). There's a lot of risk in producing something new and different and in those cases developers aren't even guaranteed to have anything to show for their efforts so they play it safe; throw in a couple of silly hats, some power-ups and new characters, change the roster but keep the mechanic exactly the same, whatever lets them stretch what's working until it's thin enough to snap. To some degree, even us gamers are to blame for this. And I'm not even talking about the second-hand market or piracy either, I'm talking about supply and demand: if we all keep buying those flash games for $0.99 instead of truly original titles for a price that encourages developers to take a chance they'll simply stop doing it (Okami, just for you, GR!). Games will go the way movies are going, focusing more on special effects and rehashing the same formula until it has about as much flavor as gum you found under your chair rather than putting themselves out there and producing something that could be loved and hated by equal numbers. tl;dr - Capps raises some interesting points but his view of the problem is too narrow. (And I ranted)
  • Errrrbo - July 26, 2011 6:18 p.m.

    We've been hearing for years that standard games are dying. And yet here we are. Blaming Netflix just seems random to me. We've all had cable for decades, and that didn't stop us from playing games during those eras. I understand Netflix is more convenient, but it's the same principle. People will always have things to do other than games, now let's stop bringing them up as console killers. Angry Birds didn't stop Black Ops from selling 25 million copies.
  • mockraven - July 26, 2011 6:15 p.m.

    Summary of what's below: Each of the things this Capps guy talks about -- 99-cent apps, tv/movies, and big console titles -- are separate genres that fulfill different purposes in the entertainment industry. I don't think this Mike Capps guy is making a fair comparison. His talk of Shadow Complex and Netflix competing aren't a good sample of the market. Unless you're a regular user of XBLA then you'd never know such a game existed. Also, the use of Netflix as "competition" isn't altogether accurate either as it is a statistic that only recently came into play on the XBox system and unless an extensive survey is taken, nobody can accurately estimate how much time the average gamer really spends watching tv or a movie, which also serves a different purpose than a game, anyway. And, although this isn't entirely on topic, most modern movies spend around $100-million in production and marketing, versus this "tens of millions" in the gaming industry, and yet movie tickets, at least in this area, run $8-12 while DVD/Blu-Rays are $17-25 making the *most* a single person spends on a movie of $100-million production cost at around $37 for theater ticket + blu-ray which is still a third less than the $60 price tag for a game. Also, people buy the small $0.99 games for a different purpose, as well. Those little dollar-games are typically played during time periods or at locations where standard sit-down gaming just isn't viable. People can't reasonably take their ps360's to the waiting rooms at the doctor's office and playing your DS while waiting for a staff meeting to start might get you fired where as the 99-cent apps are low-profile and fit on the more "professionally" acceptable smartphone. (I won't mention how many times I've heard a mini-game played from a bathroom stall, either.) Console games have an immersive quality that the little dollar games can't really provide. In the privacy of your own home you can lose yourself in an environment where you can hear a bullet buzz past your ear as you're in the heat of a big shoot-out of a FPS, you can direct the hero's (or anti-hero's) actions and attitude in an action-RPG, and you can explore fantastic places you'd never be able to visit otherwise at your own pace. Movies may provide some of this experience but not that sensation of control or accomplishment.
  • statutoryreparez - July 26, 2011 6:13 p.m.

    Sure 60 dollars can be a lot for a little sometimes, but if i get the entertainment value out of it that i expected, then i really dont mind, but then again id pay for it anyways because ive grown into the habit of buying the 100+ dollar collectors editions now
  • Pruman - July 26, 2011 5:41 p.m.

    Oops...that should have said "that Modern Warfare 2 sent running into 2010"
  • Pruman - July 26, 2011 5:39 p.m.

    Cheap apps are a threat to CASUAL gamers embracing more expensive games, which is where most of the industry's growth has come from in the last decade. They're separate markets, although they do have some overlap. I play app games mainly when I'm stuck somewhere doing something boring, like riding the bus to work or waiting in line. Robot Unicorn Attack, while fun, will never be a replacement for something like Civilization or Halo. I'll add some personal reasons why I haven't been buying full-price games lately (one caveat: I am primarily a single-player gamer): -$60, divided over 5-10 hours, is far and away the HIGHEST price-to-time ratio among entertainment options. $60 can buy 5 movie tickets, 6 months of a Netflix streaming subscription, 2-12 DVDs or Blu-rays, 60 RedBox rentals, 2-60 [e]books, or 6-60 apps. Any of those options will provide more than 5-10 hours of entertainment. -Because of this, I rarely buy games when they come out any more. If I wait a few weeks, the price usually drops to $40, and in six months' time it's down to $20. If I REALLY hold out, I can get it for next to nothing in a Steam sale, like I just did with Transformers: War for Cybertron. Additionally, last Christmas, I picked up half a dozen titles that Modern Warfare 2 sent running into 2009 for a song. -I have a big stack of games, digital and physical, picked up over many years, that I haven't finished yet. It's hard to justify running out to the store and buying a new game in that situation. -I'm an achievement whore and love inflating my gamerscore with the games I do buy. I play them far longer than usual because I want to get all the points. I recently replayed all of the 360-era Halos on Legendary because doing so was worth 125 points apiece, did Vanquish twice, and I plan on playing through Dead Space 2 and Bayonetta at least twice for cheevos. Video games are still my primary form of entertainment, and I'll keep buying them, just less often than the companies are used to.
  • Defguru7777 - July 26, 2011 5:31 p.m.

    Maybe games are just a tad overpriced? I could just be cheap, but anymore, $40 for a game is a lot fairer than a full $60. Like DaveGoose said, some RPGs and other longer games are well worth the $60. But places like Amazon have sales or permanent price drops to $40. That tells me (I could just be stupid) that games can be sold for cheaper than $60. Hell, with the possible exception of Gears 3 later this fall, I'm planning on not spending $60 on games for a while. Off topic, I got Bulletstorm for $40 in March.
  • AlphaAGENT144 - July 26, 2011 5:21 p.m.

    while i can see where hes coming from, hes misinformed. their not killing traditional gaming, theres just less of a hardcore market now than there was a few years ago. maybe is because everyones pulling a kotick and just rereleasing the same game until nobody buys it anymore then moving on to another series. GoW is mediocre at best and is plagued by chest-high wall syndrome.

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