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GCDC: Epic's Four Strategies For Winning The Industry 'Arms Race'
GCDC: Epic's Four Strategies For Winning The Industry 'Arms Race' Exclusive
August 18, 2008 | By Mathew Kumar, Leigh Alexander

August 18, 2008 | By Mathew Kumar, Leigh Alexander
More: Console/PC, Exclusive

Epic Games president Mike Capps says he knows the bar's been set high for Gears of War 2, in a climate that's more competitive than ever.

Games' price point has remained fairly static in the $50-$60 range, Capps says, while costs increase much more quickly. And market growth hasn't balanced these steep costs, resulting in what he says is more people creating games for a smaller share.

"As a result, we decided to compete in quality, not size," he says, discussing the issue as part of his talk at the GC Developers Conference in Leipzig. "If you play Team Fortress 2, that's a great example -- they have a small number of maps and some of them are remakes, but the quality is so high."

Still, Capps says he's a bit worried that Gears of War 2 might suffer in reviews and reception from the high expectations set by its predecessor.

"Players expect more than before - 'the game is already half done, right?' but most sequels have less development time, and indeed we didn't get much pre-production time. It's really hard to eke out pre-production time for a sequel. The lesson is to compete in novelty, not size."

"It's an arms race," Capps says of the game industry, and according to him there are four strategies for surviving an arms race:

"One, have the best guns. Two, have the most guns. Three, sell guns." In many ways, adds Capps, item three is Epic's plan -- standing back from the war by selling its "guns," the Unreal Engine, to everyone else who can use it to fight for supremacy.

Fourth, "Move to Switzerland," says Capps -- "Sorry if there is anyone from Switzerland in the audience, but what I mean is, just stay out of the war and do your own thing and expect it will work out."

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Nick Halme
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Comparing the videogame space to an arms race seems apt.

I think what you'll always find is that the more variety (more guns) a game provides, the more the quality of each of those elements decreases (moving away from having the best guns).

So, from an end user perspective, it's really more beneficial to have a smaller game with better content rather than a larger game with worse content. Having more content only makes up for the lower quality by making sure the player can move on when they get bored; variety is a solution for lack of quality, but once the player sees that it's a solution it stops working.

If anything in this age of DLC, a smaller, higher quality game acts as the carrot on a stick for further content. Team Fortress 2 is still expanding because it didn't begin with much. What it began with was great, and so it is still exciting for players to be getting new content.

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True, but there's still something to be said for games that offer the "complete world experience" like, say, Oblivion. It's not the best combat ever seen, and the role-playing is my no means the deepest seen, but what it does is strike the balance between breadth of content and quality gameplay with such precision that it creates a truly remarkable game. Likewise, I wouldn't trade the unique dialogue and story of Deus Ex for Halo quality shooting.