Epic's Mike Capps says 99-cent apps are 'killing' mainstream studios

It's no secret major studios are worried about the effect cheap App Store prices will have on consumer expectations and the viability of traditional development models in the coming years. As some of the mobile 99-cent apps approach a level of quality offered by more expensive downloadable titles or portable releases, AAA game makers are feeling an increasing pressure to compete with a growing taste for cheaper games. And according to Epic Games boss Mike Capps, this is a stress that's outright murdering mainstream developers.

"If there's anything that's killing us [in the traditional games business] it's dollar apps," admitted Capps in an interview with IndustryGamers, continuing, "How do you sell someone a $60 game that's really worth it ... They're used to 99 cents. As I said, it's an uncertain time in the industry. But it's an exciting time for whoever picks the right path and wins."

Capps added there's never been a more unstable time to run a studio like Epic Games considering the rising number of distribution models and gaming technologies, many of which remain unproven and therefore a considerable risk.

“We have not been this uncertain about what's coming next in the games industry since Epic's been around for 20 years,” said Capps, explaining, “We're at such an inflection point. Will there be physical distribution in 10 years or even five? Will anyone care about the next console generation? What's going on in PC? Can you make money on PC if it's not a connected game? What's going on in mobile? … [there are] tons of scary things.”

Wary though he may be, Epic Games was recently brave enough to release Infinity Blade for iPhones and iPads late last year, earning more than $1.64 million in its first five days in the App Store, and becoming the fastest selling iOS app ever. You know, something tells us Epic will be just fine.

[Source: IndustryGamers]

Apr 20, 2011

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  • Japanaman - May 3, 2011 6:48 p.m.

    I'm so use to paying a lot for games, that I can't get use to a world of $.99 games. The only games I spent $1.00 on are a bunch of PS one games at my local HPB and the XBL Indie games.
  • skee360 - April 22, 2011 4:49 p.m.

    I want a new Ferrari to go with my new hummer, but I cant because of these dame 99cents app.
  • ScrEAMaPiLLar - April 22, 2011 9:55 a.m.

    I refer this man and the thread to this video Extra Credits just did.
  • Spybreak8 - April 21, 2011 11:58 p.m.

    Competition is good but let's be real here. No way the 99 cent games will take over the 40-60 dollar game market. I want something, ah epic, I'll play a retail game like Red Dead Redemption, Mass Effect 2 or Battlefield: Bad Company 2. If I want something to just dick around with then I'll play some Mario Kart, Club House Games and NSMB on my DS.
  • angelusdlion - April 21, 2011 11:55 p.m.

    How do you do it? Make the game worth 60 bucks. It's simple people.
  • shadowreaper72 - April 21, 2011 10 p.m.

    I call shenagins!
  • royalewithcheese - April 21, 2011 9:19 p.m.

    First of all, anyone commenting on this article isn't one of the people Mike Capps is concerned about. Everyone here loves all types of games, and will continue to love all types of games. Mike Capps and Epic (as well as other large developers/ publishers) are worried about the "casual" gamers who buy Call of Duty, Gears of War, Halo, and the $1 apps. Secondly, what Mike Capps is trying to explain is that the games the large companies make can cost anywhere between 10 an 80 million dollars. If one of these "expensive" games flop, then the publishers/developers will have a major loss. Now, if a $1 app flops, most times there will only be at most a $100,000 loss(relatively small). However, if one of these apps makes it big, then a developer is looking at a potential return of $70 million. So, the question is, why would a BUSINESS give a "hardcore game" a massive budget, when A. only a few will ever reach the astronomical sales of Call of Duty and Halo, and B. they could make an app for $100 thousand and make back $70 million?
  • Defguru7777 - April 21, 2011 9:01 p.m.

    I highly doubt that apps are going to severely damage console gaming companies. Handheld gaming is more arguable, and even that I have trouble believing. I haven't purchased any apps yet (I do plan on getting Mass Effect: Galaxy and Infinity Blade looks interesting), but no matter how many apps I get, I'm never going to give up on console gaming. Sorry Mike, but your fears are unfounded.
  • Sketchy - April 21, 2011 7:50 p.m.

    I would argue that $60 is too high of a premium regardless. Someone around $40 would snag many, many more purchases: most likely to the point of higher revenue. The mobile game market is proving that multi-million dollar studios aren't required to make a multi-million dollar revenue game. It's purely based on how good the game is.
  • deathcab4booty - April 21, 2011 5:38 p.m.

    Whine one one? I need the whaaaaambulance
  • krackmonkey - April 21, 2011 4:50 p.m.

    I think this notion that there are 2 seperate types of people out there is ridiculous. I play Angry Birds at work when I have a couple minutes between tasks or on the bus to/from work. When I get home, I may play RIFT or RDR or even fire up something on the 3DS, and in the scheme of things, I don't see the difference between ANY of these activities. I'm simply choosing the game that best suits my time and my mood at any given moment. Hiding behind pretense and some idealistic idea that you are a "true" or "pure" or even "hardcore" gamer because you only play big $60 games with "epic sweeping narrative" is just as foolish as thinking that games can't be art or that your dollar game's success is a sign that consoles and PC's are now obsolete and dead. The one thing which I believe will emerge is that the concept of it being okay to pay $60 for a game will likely have to be revisited. If you're producing a product that relies on a $60 price point to even attempt to recoup your production costs, the burden should be on you to find ways to reduce those production costs to create a quality product at a more successful price point. Does this mean that games need to sell for $1 to be successful? Absolutely not. The whole of this current generation could have benefitted from a more static $39-$45 price point for console titles, and the net gain would have been greater consumer buy-in for titles that ended up being overlooked at higher prices. This will also help combat the perceived losses to used game sales. There's a reason people respond to lower prices, and if the industry hasn't figured that out, then the ones who insist on continuing with $60 titles deserve whichever fate they meet. Infinity Blade and Angry Birds are great titles, period. They could and would have been huge successes at higher price points, and the level of post release content that both Rovio and Epic have provided for those games has been impressive as well. The mobile gaming platform is in its' infancy still, and as the platform matures, you will see prices hit a more accepted threshold where publishers can provide great experiences and reap the proper rewards for doing so. People who have yet to try these experiences because of the perception they are "lesser" experiences are selling themselves short as gamers. There's a lesson in this for all of us, from the littlest of garage companies to the gamer in BFE to the suits in the mega-publisher offices worldwide. Adapt or perish.
  • MancisFrorkYorgan - April 21, 2011 4:33 p.m.

    I can't understand how games priced at 99p (or 99 cents) are 'killing mainstream studios'. I have yet to meet someone who has coughed up for one of these cheap thrills; I would rather die than fork out money for Angry Birds and contribute just under a measly quid to the smug folks at Rovio. I've downloaded Mortal Kombat II and the ever-entertaining Copter on my Android phone -- both for free -- and I cannot foresee a time when I would pick a bundle of 99p games over a single £40 console game.
  • Heyexclamationpoint - April 21, 2011 4:27 p.m.

    Hey, here's a crazy idea: how about you stop selling games at $60? I don't mean sell the next Gears Of War for 99 cents, but imagine how many more people would be willing to buy a new game if it cost like $30? I for one rarely ever buy $60 games, I tend to wait for them to drop at least to $30. Maybe then more people would have been willing to give friggin' Enslaved a chance instead of dooming it to bargain bin hell.
  • Redeater - April 21, 2011 2:11 p.m.

    I smell bullshit. There is a huge difference between someone waiting for the bus or on the toilet killing time playing bullshit like Angry Birds and those who play games with passion. Thow away games will never equal games with suberb narrative like Red Dead. The minute hardcore gamers give up L.A. Noire for Angry Birds is when I stop playing games.
  • db1331 - April 21, 2011 2:07 p.m.

    If you don't know the difference between a $50 or $60 game and a $.99 app, you are not a gamer. You ARE an idiot, however. I would rather sit and stare at the wall than play some shitty app like angry birds or infinity blade. If I'm going somewhere and I think I might like to do some mobile gaming while I'm there, I'll bring my DS. It has actual games. Hell, I love my DS, but I don't even play that at home outside of the bathroom. Why would I, when I could be playing better, deeper games on the PC/Wii/PS3? "Can you make money on PC if it's not a connected game?" You can make money on PC if you release a game that is not a console port, where the only added feature is an intrusive DRM that punishes the people who actually paid for your game. BF3 looks like it might show you this.
  • HereComesTheHypeTrainCHOOCHOO - April 21, 2011 1:27 p.m.

    Those people who buy 99 cent games are not necessarily the same customers who buy $60 games and the sooner developers and publishers realize that the better for them. How many loyal, paying gamers are developers willing to lose by constantly chasing these casual players and "streamlining" (dumbing down) their games in the hopes of attracting a fickle crowd? At some point you are going to lose your old consumer base who buys 3 or 4 full priced games a month for a casual consumer who buys maybe 2 games a year. Just look at the Wii for a prime example of that.
  • KnightDehumidifier - April 21, 2011 12:36 p.m.

    I believe it was Jeremy Slaczka of 5th Cell that was open about his negativity towards the iPhone and many smartphone games, claiming they were the Tiger Electronics of a new generation. They only mean to provide immediate gratification, that is all. But killing studios, not likely. Blame that on skyrocketing budgets and overwhelming hype yielding shoddy sales and terrible results.
  • rockstarsean - April 21, 2011 12:01 p.m.

    I'm not buying it. I've had my iPhone for over a year and I'm sick to death of the crap games on it. There have been, at most, half a dozen really good games (GTA: Chinatown Wars, Dead Space, Phoenix Wright, SFIV, etc) and even those suffer due to low processing power and file size. The rest are just 5 minutes of boring gameplay and a waste of money. I for one will be getting rid asap and buying an NGP for some real games.
  • potpan0 - April 21, 2011 11:22 a.m.

    I suppose you could say most gamers are children or casual gamers. These people don't want to spend £50 on a new game, if they can spend 99p on one on their iPhone. Also, I hope physical distribution doesn't end, I prefer having a disk when I have a game.
  • spongejerk89 - April 21, 2011 9 a.m.

    That's total bull, and I won't believe it for a second.

Showing 1-20 of 24 comments

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