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Epic's Capps: F2P Won't Take Over 'As Quickly As Everyone Thinks'

Epic Games president Mike Capps tells Gamasutra about the rise of downloadable, free-to-play games, noting that "it'll be a while" before these games become standard on consoles.

Tom Curtis, Blogger

August 1, 2011

4 Min Read

Epic Games president Mike Capps has been telling Gamasutra about the rise of downloadable, free-to-play games, noting that this model will not become an industry standard "as quickly as everyone thinks," though developers should be wary of its effect on traditional retail games. The executive explained that retail channels and traditional pricing structures will help ensure the viability of the traditional console business, but the increasing popularity of inexpensive apps and services could prove a huge influence on consumer expectations and the industry at large. In a recent interview with Gamasutra, Capps explained why the traditional console business will remain viable despite these recent trends, and pointed out the ways in which Epic Games is preparing for the industry's unpredictable future. Why Retail Is Safe…For Now Pointing to the retail console space in particular, Capps noted that the standard $60 price tag for games will prevent major microtransaction-based titles from gaining a foothold on home platforms. "It'll be a while before the trend [toward microtransaction-based games] hits the console space," Capps said. "As long as we're stuck with the initial $60 retail purchase, it'll be tough. I don't know about most gamers, but as soon as I spend $60, I don't want to spend five times that on additional sales for the game -- I feel like I should get a good solid experience for that money." He also pointed out that retail stores help reinforce the console business, and serve as a crucial channel for bringing in business, especially for big-budget studios like Epic. "We love GameStop and Best Buy, that's how we get people excited about our games. I love to see people lined up the night before," he said. "I like having those games stores and I don't want to lose them." Despite his confidence in the traditional retail model, Capps admitted that free-to-play titles will eventually become a major force throughout the industry. "I certainly think the industry is moving in a direction toward downloadable and free-to-play games, but I don't think it's going to be moving quite as quickly as everyone thinks," he said. Threatening The Traditional Model Capps pointed out that the biggest threats to major console titles aren't just free-to-play games, but inexpensive and widely available entertainment that spans a range of media. "We're seeing downward pricing pressure from free content on the internet, and subscription-based video content like Netflix. You have a huge amount of entertainment sitting there anytime you want it, and then there are really fun 99 cent apps or even $6.99 apps like [Epic's own] Infinity Blade." To help counteract the pressure from inexpensive apps and subscription services, Capps explained that big-budget console titles should focus on offering high-quality experiences that aren't possible via other channels. "We're still betting on quality," he said. "We'd rather make one giant Gears of War 3 with more content than we've ever made, hoping that will attract people, as opposed to having made Gears of War 3 alongside another game at the same time… and I'm hoping people respond to that." He explained that over the last several months, Epic's Raleigh, North Carolina-based studio has focused exclusively on Gears of War 3 instead of diverting its attention to other projects. Preparing For the Future Capps noted that while Epic remains committed to the traditional console space, its recent mobile action title Infinity Blade allowed the company to explore other business models in anticipation of industry trends and the studio's future projects. "Infinity Blade was our first step in the direction of microtransactions, excluding downloadable map packs for our shooters, and we learned a lot from it," he said. "We've talked about bringing in more [players] for free, and those who are interested in spending more to get more out of the title can do so. That's a compelling model; we get more players playing, and those who want to play for orange hair or whatever can do that." Capps maintained that Epic will remain committed to the traditional retail model for its flagship titles, but noted the importance of keeping a close eye on consumer expectations given the existence of other business models. "What gamers are interested in consuming and the ways that they are willing to pay are changing really quickly right now. It's hard to predict how they're going to want content and in what way. We can look at what's going on in Asia over the past few years and how that's quickly moving to the U.S., you can look at what's going on the console space, but predicting what's going to happen correctly is going to be key."

About the Author(s)

Tom Curtis

Blogger

Tom Curtis is Associate Content Manager for Gamasutra and the UBM TechWeb Game Network. Prior to joining Gamasutra full-time, he served as the site's editorial intern while earning a degree in Media Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.

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