The move to digital distribution may have retailers spooked, but Epic Games is eager to usher in a new era. Speaking with Edge recently, Epic's chief technology officer Tim Sweeney said he would welcome a day when developers didn't need to worry about selling boxed copies of their games.
"I'm looking forward to our digital future," Sweeney said. "Development budgets are going to be the dominant cost in the industry, and [increasing] the efficiency of building games will directly improve profitability. As we move more sales of games out of retail, that creates a lot more flexibility for developers to make games at different scales and price them differently."
Sweeney labeled the current market standard business model as inefficient, with companies running ads on TV to convince customers to go buy a boxed game from a retail location, only to put it into a device which is Internet-enabled and capable of downloading the game directly.
Eliminating inefficiencies will be key for developers in the next generation, as Sweeney expects the cost of development to jump again, much as it does with each console generation. Speaking at the Montreal International Game Summit last year, Sweeney said he expects Epic to be able to build next-gen titles for "only about double the cost" of games from the start of the current generation.