In an exclusive interview with videogaming247, Epic VP Mark Rein has hinted that today’s Unreal Engine 3 deal with EA – in which the publisher extended its license to use the development suite beyond the five UE3 games it already has in production – was a sizeable one, and possibly the largest tech deal in the developer’s history.
“It’s significantly more than five more games,” said Rein. “It’s pretty important, yeah. I think it’s one of the biggest engine license deals we’ve done.”
He added: “I don’t want to overstate this deal. It’s not like they’re going to use it for every single game. But I think we’ve done pretty well. There’s still going to be horses for courses. There’s still going to be some situations where there’s going to be some technology that suits, and there are people still developing their own technology, but I think it’s just showing the value of licensing technology in general, and how important it is to maintain productivity and profitability and ship really good quality titles.”
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Rein said that while the EA deal was a significant one for Epic, the company had long since moved beyond a one-signature operation.
“I think our future is pretty much secure, and not by any one licensee,” he said. “I think we’re in pretty good shape regardless of that, but it’s nice to be able to do these license deals and it’s certainly good for the engine business. We’ve invested a lot of money in the engine business and this type of deal is a good pay-off. It’s a good return on our investment.
“That I’m aware of, there’s no other independent game developer that can really afford to make the kind of investment in technology that Epic has made. Part of the reason we’ve made it is because it’s just what we do, and another part of the reason is that we felt there would be a strong return on investment both on licensing deals as well as, obviously, the games we produce. To us, both represent significant importance, and one feeds off the other. If we didn’t make great games, we probably wouldn’t sell so many engines.”
Rein greatest pleasure, though, is that the Engine is now genuinely being used for more than shooters, and the perception of the technology among developers has now changed.
“I think what excites me most about the engine licensing business today isn’t just that we’re doing a large number of licenses with companies like EA, but also that we’re finding the smaller companies. Like APB, the MMO game from Real Time Worlds: it looks nothing like any other Unreal Engine 3 game. And we’re seeing companies like Chair Entertainment with games like Undertow. So, what’s exciting to me is that the technology is being used by so many people to do so many different things.
“Even the two games that EA’s done with it so far, Army of Two and Medal of Honor… It’s easy to look as those and say, ‘Well, it’s just a shooter engine.’ But the exciting thing to us that we’re turning the corner with is people using it for all kinds of different games.”
No financial terms of the EA deal have been disclosed.