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Epic expects next-gen game development to cost at least double the current rate

Tuesday, 13th November 2012 17:41 GMT By Nick Akerman

Epic Games’ Chief Technology adviser Tim Sweeney has said he believes the company will be able to produce next-gen titles for double the cost accumulated at the start of this current generation.

Speaking at the Montreal International Game Summit, Sweeney suggests the doubled fee is a decent result. Epic showcased its first next-gen tech demo in 2011.

The three minute clip, which was codenamed Samaritan, had the company “greatly worried” about final costs. It took a team of 30 people four months to create; an output that isn’t sustainable in the long run.

“If we extrapolate that into creating an entire game, we were worried that the cost would go up by a factor of three or four or even five in the next generation. And of course, we felt that was not acceptable.”

Epic managed to use its content and production tools more efficiently, cutting costs in the process. Sweeney also warned against the pitfalls of free-to-play games.

“If a user has world-class, AAA free-to-play games to choose from side-by-side with $60 games that are available only on a disc in a retail store, free-to-play games are very likely to win. So we need to really be mindful of this trend and start building games that have monetization and are designed to be piracy-proof.”

Thanks, GI.

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23 Comments

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  1. SplatteredHouse

    Epic Games: Loaded comments.
    That last quote is especially transparent. It can be translated to: Free to play games are bad, because they largely do not rely on our engine. Because they do not typically incur such costs, they can be offered cheaper to consumers, a situation that is liable to result in a decline in the perceived value of our partner’s games made on a far greater budget, and thus, requiring far greater return. Support our engine, please.

    Epic advertising should not be misconstrued as news. No complaint with rest of article.

    #1 2 years ago
  2. OlderGamer

    One of the glass ceilings regaurding why I don’t feel graphics next gen will be revolutionaryly advanced over what we have today is indeed cost. In his speach Sweeny also said costs could be as much as five times todays cost. But he believes that through extra efforts and tool refinement it will be inline with 2X as much.

    Now, who pays the 2Xs as much? Cause I know I am not looking forward to 120usd game prices. Plus, the more gams go up in investment cost, the risk taking will decrease, I would assume. So less new IP, more franchises. Less inovation and more of the same tried and tested formulas.

    I do also think that f2p could becomes a nice alternative model next gen.

    #2 2 years ago
  3. SplatteredHouse

    The costs are already askew for what is actually being achieved. If the intent is to whack the prices up again, then my expectation soars with it.

    #3 2 years ago
  4. DrDamn

    Man who sells tools says costs are 5x but only 2x if you use tools … Ok …

    #4 2 years ago
  5. ManuOtaku

    So this will mean in the future games will need to sold 5 times more, like 10 million or more, otherwise they are a failure, well like OG said less new IP´s, more of the same franchises with the same engines, in other words more of the same.

    At some point we would end up reaching a ceiling, if not a technological one, an economical one, and it seems we are reaching that ceiling, or already have.

    #5 2 years ago
  6. DrDamn

    Yes because PC games which run on hardware more powerful than the projected PS4 and 720 already have to sell 5 times as much … Oh wait, no they don’t. This is a sales pitch ffs.

    #6 2 years ago
  7. laughing-gravy

    This just sounds like a commercial for UE4. “Use our tools or die!”. Perhaps Epic haven’t had as great a take up with UE4 considering the lukewarm response to the elemental demo. I actually preferred the samaritan demo.

    #7 2 years ago
  8. ManuOtaku

    #6 Yes i agree, but in PC they are not using their new tech, i mean UE4, therefore if that engine becames the norm and other future engines that are as much as powerfull, might incide in the number of selling numbers the games have to reach, so they might have to seel 5 times more too, using that/those engine/s of course.

    #8 2 years ago
  9. DrDamn

    No you missed the sales pitch. If you use their tools then only 2x, without their tools 5x.

    #9 2 years ago
  10. TheWulf

    That’s an interesting thing for him to say. Advertisements aside, it’s worth keeping in mind that many publishers are already saying that game development is far, far too expensive. They’re finding that indies are being not only more popular, but more profitable than their large-scale endeavours.

    This is where Ubisoft’s ‘lower-case aaa’ comment comes from, and there’s a good reason for that. What publishers are finally beginning to realise is precisely what I’ve been saying since… when? I’m not sure, but it’s been a good number of years. It’s because to me it’s quite painfully obvious. See, with a triple-A game, you go for the lowest common denominator, you go for a wide appeal.

    This usually means that it’ll be an incredibly dumb game with lots of violence. Name a triple-A game in the last two years that doesn’t fit that description – you’ll find you can’t. Indie games have, yes. Small dev house games have, yes. So To the Moon and Trine 2 are both examples of games which are far, far away from the triple-A design standard.

    The thing is is that violent, dumb games filled with explosions aren’t as popular as they used to be, and they’re on the decline. Considering the amount of money going into them, they have less and less worth. In fact, their worth has dwindled so much that even casual Cow-Clicker titles have become more profitable. That’s how bad things are right now, and this is why a re-evaluation will happen, soon.

    I think that the next generation will ultimately kill off the stupid publishers. The smart publishers will take a step back and basically break their big studios down into smaller parts. Instead of going for the lowest common denominator, they’ll go for the highest. What we’ll start seeing is instead of one big game from one publisher, we’ll see 20 smaller games with less funding poured into them.

    Each of those smaller games will be focused at a particular niche. A niche that’s been under-served and is dying for more games. They’ll just need to find out which niches are the most under-served, and would be the most profitable to plumb. Then they just need to create and advertise a game to that niche, a much smaller game. Then they need to do that with other niches, and so on. It’s the only way for them to survive.

    The next generation of consoles is going to kill off the stupid publishers who can’t adapt, and like I said, once that process of culling has ended, we won’t see bigger games with bigger budgets, we’ll see smaller and/or shorter games with much smaller budgets. The fact of the matter is that right now I’m much, much more inclined to play Fly’N, Pid, or MacGuffin’s Curse than I am to play any triple-A title.

    According to the screams I’ve heard from big publishers about cost versus profit, I guess that a lot of people out there feel the same way. The triple-A game died a while ago, it’s just that it’s taken some publishers longer to realise it than others. Things are going to get worse before they get better as the ecology changes, but given a year or two, things will be much better than they’ve ever been for gamers.

    #10 2 years ago
  11. ManuOtaku

    Oh ok got you Doc, but selling two times more is not more reasuring either way, thats a lot of copies.

    #11 2 years ago
  12. xxJPRACERxx

    Imagine a game like GTA V with none of the constraint of current-gen consoles. You would have better draw distance, higher resolution, anti-aliasing, better frame rate, more objects on screen, more dynamic lights. All of this would look much better and would not take more time for the devs to do.

    Currently that’s what the PC is doing. So 720(?) and PS4 exclusives could really push the system while normal games would use current development pipelines but still look much better.

    #12 2 years ago
  13. OlderGamer

    I would agree with you Doc, fully infact, if only the tool makers where saying this. But the same message has been coming out from a lot of different scources. So do I think Epic is looking to sell their engines? Sure I do. Do I think costs go up next gen? Yes.

    PC is a slightly different animal then console. I can take a PS2 erea PC and run it today in 1080p over 60fps, all of the settings on high and it looks better then most current gen console games. While there will always be one or two(or a small handful) of PC games looking to push the upper crust with bleeding edge tech engines, most don’t. Most use older, exsisting, and cheaper kits, while still achieving great results. For example, Torchlight II used the same engine as Torchlight, albeit modified. Torchlight could be done for Xbox360. Ruinic said that Torchlight II couldn’t be done on current gen systems. Nothing ever really has to die on PC, it can be modified, reworked, and used again. Again unless you are building a MMO, or are the ones building/selling your own cutting edge engine, it would seem to me that PC dev costs are easier to keep in line. That being said, what i know about dev could barely fill a thimble.

    I just know I have read several articles stating that devs costs are going to jump up next gen alot.

    #13 2 years ago
  14. roadkill

    Well said SplatteredHouse! :)

    #14 2 years ago
  15. SlayerGT

    @13 2K is the only place I’ve heard that this doesn’t concern. During their last shareholders meeting it was said they didn’t think cost would increase too much. I thought that odd.

    #15 2 years ago
  16. DrDamn

    @OG
    I’m not saying costs won’t be going up somewhat, I’m just being realistic. Epic have motivations behind making these sorts of claims. Who else is saying it? Publishers? They certainly won’t stand to gain from a reason to push prices up will they?

    Lets be a little realistic here. You said …

    “I can take a PS2 erea PC and run it today in 1080p over 60fps, all of the settings on high and it looks better then most current gen console games.”

    That’s a lot of what will be done. Upped resolution, upped frame rate, upped effects. The new hardware will allow for this with less optimisation. The result is actually a pretty big improvement on what we have now for home consoles. You’ve even noted yourself the impact of simply using a more modern chipset has – WiiU – the picture quality is noticeably better – the cost of this over and beyond the 360/PS3 versions? Nothing.

    The AAA games will push things further obviously, but they will have projected sales to back that up too. Re-useable engines across a publishers stable.

    A lot of costs from this generation to the next will remain stable though. So while some areas will expand others will remain constant.

    #16 2 years ago
  17. fearmonkey

    costs will go up, but as they go up initially, they will go back down once the tech is in place and they build on the tech rather than re-invent the wheel everytime….

    Sweeney wants people to say “Geez, we cannot afford 2x to 5x the costs, what can we do? well there is the epic engine 4, boy that would bring our costs down, lets do that!”

    Its funny that until the HD consoles were announced, we never really heard the costs going up mantra from the people that made the high end games. Some developers mentioned it from time time, but it wasnt heard all the time like it is now. As soon as the HD consoles came up, it was omg it has 720p and 1080p, its going to cost so much more, lets raise prices $10. yet, on the PC i was playing games at high res and high end graphics and never had to pay that extra $10 until Activision and EA made it so common that everyone did it.

    Saints row the third on the PC running at 1440p with all the options turned on is gorgeous, as is Crysis 2, and Batman: Arkham city. Id be happy if the next gen could play those games with high res textures, filtering, and framerates at 1080p or higher like PC, and it wouldn’t cost anymore.

    #17 2 years ago
  18. OlderGamer

    You might be right Doc. I guess it could come down to what level of actual raw power and what types of graphical benchmarks the new (Sony/MS) systems will have. After tinkering around with WiiU, I am confident that a small amount of improvment(in hardware level) can make a big impact in game visuals.

    It will be interesting to watch. The biggest cost related issue I have my eyes ready to spot is inital hardware costs. Considering WiiU costs what it does(and is being sold at a loss), I wondering about the costs MS/Sony offerings. But just like anyone else, I don’t want to see more expensive games either. Another 10-20usd per new release would be really hard to sell(both software and new hardware).

    #18 2 years ago
  19. DrDamn

    @18
    MS & Sony will likely offset hardware costs with subs models and get round it that way. Wii-U has a costly controller and that isn’t helping – though we don’t know what MS & Sony have planned. Cost is a big factor though. WiiU Premium + a Mario + a couple of wiimotes and nun-chuks. I’m looking closer to £400. Seriously considering waiting a while despite wanting one – it’s hard to justify.

    #19 2 years ago
  20. AmiralPatate

    For a console game, less than a third of the paid price goes to devs and publisher. For a PC game, it’s about 40-to-45%. With digital distribution it goes to 50%. The rest is fabrication, retailers, middlemen and taxes.

    So I guess there is room for more expensive development without an increased price tag.

    I’d still buy a 60 bucks game if it’s worth it, no matter how many F2P games there are out there.

    #20 2 years ago
  21. Gadzooks!

    A lot of the ramp-up cost at the start of this gen was due to developers moving from a single-thread model to parralelisation (sp?), more modern rendering techniques and more effecient AA routines.

    These practices are common now so that learning curve won’t be there next gen.

    Higher quality artwork and models are already in use for PC versions of games, so no need to spend time downscaling assets.

    It’s looking like PC, PS4 and XboxNext will be more similar in architecture than ever before, so less time needs to be spent tailoring code to each platform.

    So I don’t see this massive increase in dev costs.

    Of course games will need higher quality, and more, assets so costs will rise. Nobody should be thinking that games will somehow magically increase in fidelity and not increase in cost. A 5x increase though? I very much doubt it.

    For those thinking that PC games are not part of the problem: Ultimately it’s the PC that forces this constant rise in asset production cost because it’s where people demand higher and higher quality assets to match the capabilities of the $600 graphics card they just bought.

    #21 2 years ago
  22. Old MacDonald

    21: “Ultimately it’s the PC that forces this constant rise in asset production cost” – it may be a small part of it, but you are aware that this has been a part of the console market since before the PC was anything but a business tool? It’s because of competition between the console makers. And it’s not exclusive to this part of the tech industry.

    #22 2 years ago
  23. Gadzooks!

    #22

    Indeed, but times change. Before this gen console games and PC games rarely overlapped.

    Multiformat (PC+consoles) has become the norm, and a necessity due to rising development costs. This is only going to become more prevailent as dev costs rise further.

    #23 2 years ago