Epic: Movies and cheap apps are killing traditional games

Bite-sized content is the thief of $60 games' time, says studio head

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.

%26ldquo;I think the biggest competition for Shadow Complex was Netflix,%26rdquo; 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: %26ldquo;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.%26rdquo; By the same token, he says, %26ldquo;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 %26ldquo;a really good 99 cent game that occupies you for hours and hours on end%26rdquo; 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: %26ldquo;I think there will always be room for a premium SKU on a mobile platform.%26rdquo; However, this too points to a changing market. %26ldquo;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.%26rdquo;

Jul 26, 2011