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Epic: Games business is "shockingly immature"

Wed 07 Dec 2011 10:30am GMT / 5:30am EST / 2:30am PST
BusinessDevelopment

Developers need to collaborate for the greater good of the industry, says Capps

Although a great industry for entrepreneurs to thrive, the business of making games is still "shockingly immature" according to Epic Games president Mike Capps.

Speaking in an exclusive interview published today, Capps said that there needs to be more shared learning, content and experiences for the industry to grow bigger and better, and his company is dedicated to furthering the greater good of the games business.

"Our games industry is shockingly immature from a business perspective, because so few folks have business experience before coming in, or an education for business," he said.

"It's awesome because it's entrepreneurship gone right, that's what our industry comes from, and that's really exciting, but there's not a lot of sharing, there's not a lot of great game business 'how to' books, so we try to share and people listen to us, for some reason, and we try to learn as much as we can from everybody else and their mistakes. It just seemed like the right thing to do."

It's awesome because it's entrepreneurship gone right, but there's not a lot of sharing, there's not a lot of great game business 'how to' books

Mike Capps, Epic Games

Epic famously lobbied Microsoft to up the memory of the Xbox 360 from 256MB to 512MB to help make better games on the system, and it has also been vocal with Nvidia's hardware and for future home consoles. "It's one of our values," adds Capps.

Licensees of Epic's Unreal Engine also contribute to the community, said Capps, rather than acting selfishly to get the upper hand on competing companies.

"There's no reason, if you find a bug, you don't go 'ha ha ha, that'll give us an edge on Splinter Cell!' Because it doesn't at all and so you share it, because it's one less thing that Epic has to find and fix and they can focus on something you care more about. And you share with the Mass Effect guys and they share with you.

Elsewhere in the interview Capps revealed that although the company is supporting the PlayStation Vita, the company doesn't have a game for the handheld in development and he's unsure at this point how the audience for Epic experiences will adopt the new hardware.

"We're not currently making a Vita game, I'm not sure how well it's going to be accepted in our Western market which is primarily where our games sell," he said. "It's a really cool platform, but I have a phone, and it's really hard to compete with that.

"So I'm not sure if it will be successful or not, I hope they are, it's good for the games industry, but we got our tech on it really early.

"We were, I think, one of the very first people to get one and work with it and we were on stage at the launch, because we have a lot of licensees who are curious about it and so we did the first part. But we can't really fully support that platform unless we're shipping our own games, that's how we know we know that platform, and it's really important for us to do that."

The full interview, where Capps also discusses why he's "scared" of revealing new IP to fans, can be read here.

11 Comments

James Ingrams Writer

215 85 0.4
Isn't this what I have been saying on this site for almost a year? We have no game museums, no policy for saving data from gaming sites that go down, so we have a depositary of all the interviews, reviews and features etc of the last 20 years of the web? Where is the "What Game" magazines and the organised user consumer groups like we have with TV, the movies - an yes, the book industry?

Not only are developers immature, but so, more and more, are the games that come out from them, aiming for just one demographic, the A.D.D. afflicted teenage boy. Same goes for the media, that will never give a U.S. AAA title less than 8.5 however bad, and will never give a European title more than 8.5 however good! How much bug-free would STALKER have to have been to get a 9.0? How bad would Skyrim have had to be to get 8.1?

When it is easy to predict future scores and know you are right, you know something is wrong in Kansas. So let me make some early 2012 predictions: Mass Effect 3 and Bioshock 3 will get 9.0+ STALKER 2 and Risen 2 won't.

Posted:2 years ago

#1

Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing

1,135 1,171 1.0
@James
As long as working for a publisher is the natural extension of a video game writing "career" and publishers consider magazines to be marketing instruments which you control by being the only industry to advertise in them, the described effect will not change.

Posted:2 years ago

#2

Jeffrey Kesselman CTO, Nphos

112 0 0.0
When the industry was new... there was a LOT of information sharing, actually.

That was the original purpose of the GDC. It was a small gathering that only engineers went to and, away from management's paranoia, we shared freely.

Then it became a big deal/big business, management started coming, and it lost its ability to facillitate this.

Posted:2 years ago

#3

Tim Carter Designer - Writer - Producer

576 320 0.6
There's not a lot of sharing?

Ever been to Gamasutra lately? It's a firehose of sharing.

Posted:2 years ago

#4

Jason Poss Music

3 2 0.7
GDC needs to change their speaker agreement terms as well. Essentially a blanket license to commercially exploit your talk for free, but you can never deliver the same talk again? Come on. The message seems to be, "Come share with us, but don't expect us to share with you."

Posted:2 years ago

#5

Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic

1,584 1,438 0.9
Whilst this site isn't usually the place for such things, I do just have to say...

+1 James and Klaus's comments. I honestly can't agree more.

Posted:2 years ago

#6

Nick London Programmer, EA Mobile

5 0 0.0
Tim: Agreed. I'd say games development is one of the most open industries out there. You can download a full engine with source code for free, and build an entire game through freely available tools, tutorials and knowledge bases.

Posted:2 years ago

#7
@Nick,
I do not believe that to be the essence of the "problem". Typing code to make a game requires no more then a PC. Providing a free platform to build a product is not sharing. I too can take a notebook and pen and write a book like anyone else can. What is meant here is sharing knowledge; how to type code, how to write a book, etc.

This however is a very treacherous path to walk as a company, like in any business. Car brand X doesn't tell car brand Y how to improve a gearbox. I don't really see this as a problem.

What the industry needs is time. Let's not forget that commercial video games have only been around for 30-ish years. Though technology might improve fast, business does not so much. We are only laying foundations, exploring possibilities for generations to come. Only in the last, what, 5 years have we got dedicated schools for the games industry, and judging by the place I go to, they too have a lot to learn still.

I personally don't worry too much about the state of the industry. In the end it's, like most other industries, up to the consumers to buy our products, and it's up to us to provide them with that.

P.S.: That said, it's not a bad that things like GDC exist. Though they don't provide much in the way of sharing technical information like they once might have, they do show what everyone's up to, inspiring a healthy sense of competition.

Posted:2 years ago

#8

Valery Carpentier Senior Software Engineer

7 0 0.0
I think Mike Capps was specifically referring to the business side of the industry, which, it is true, it's still very immature. A lot of people improvise themselves entrepreneurs, and not all of them are capable of being entrepreneurs.
How many purely business blog (or management for that matter) as applied to the games industry do you know? Compare that to the large amount of general business blogs.

Posted:2 years ago

#9

Adam Parker Academic Coordinator, Qantm College

15 0 0.0
One major issue that I think this article points to is a seeming disconnect between the digital game design practice and its academic research arm.

Looking at the DiGRA Library, the The ETC Press or the various ACMs will show that there is much being shared already.

As a field, digital game design is remarkably related to interaction design, industrial design, architecture and computer science. We could be as rigourous as them, if we had more exchange as a profession between our commercial and research cultures.

Posted:2 years ago

#10

Louis Serianni Jr. Studying Stephen M. Ross School of Business, University of Michigan

2 0 0.0
A lot of business people don't take the gaming industry very seriously either. I always get dirty looks when I tell people I intend to work in the gaming industry. The general attitude at my school seems to be one should work in a "respectable" industry such as banking.

I have also ran into engineers who have told me they don't need a business guy for their startup, yet they are having trouble getting funded. When I ask them if they need my help with their business plan and financial modeling they act like I bring no value to the table. Go figure.

Posted:2 years ago

#11

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