Indie developers in public clash with Epic

UPDATE: Rein publishes apology for marketing comments

Epic's Mark Rein has been the subject of criticism by independent UK developer Positech, following a panel at Develop.

At a talk entitled "rise of the microstudio", Rein interjected a discussion between members of Introversion, Hello Games, Beatnik and Cliff Harris of one-man studio Positech about how to market independent games.

"Basically I started making the point," said Harris in a blog post, "about how someone can email you as an indie dev, and you can reply personally back to that potential customer, and hopefully, that way you have converted that guy to buying the game.

"At this point, there was this derisive snort from this guy in the front row, who said something to the effect of, 'One guy? Who cares, that's a waste of time'. He then started to lecture us on how that's a silly way to do it."

Harris claimed that Rein insisted self-marketing and one-to-one customer interaction was not sufficient, and that studios would require a team if they were to achieve success. was in attendance, and has a partial transcript of Rein's comments following the initial interruption: "We were a microstudio, we were a couple of guys selling shareware, then the internet came along and the noise just drowned us out. It's happening now on iPhone, it'll happen on Steam. All the distribution channels you think are attractive today... Eventually if you want to grow you're going to have to buy ads."

Certainly, the members of the panel seemed irked by Rein's interruption, with Beatnik boss Robin Lacey initially not recognising the Epic VP and questioning him as to whether he was in marketing himself.

"I resent having some triple-a studio jerk come and tell someone who's run a microstudio for thirteen years that he is doing it all wrong," continued Harris. "If Mark from Introversion suggests Im doing it wrong, that's cool, he does what I do, and has some serious experience, ditto anyone on that panel, or anyone with long indie experience. And I listen carefully, often over lunch.

"But triple-A studio bosses trying to lecture me on how to communicate better with gamers? F*** off."

Beatnik's Lacey, whose first game Plain Sight proved a significant success on Steam earlier this year, wrote on the blog to say "I can't wait for Mark Rein to do our Marketing/PR. I'm going to be rich!"

A number of Epic staffers have responded to the contentious blog. Cliff Blezinski wrote on Twitter, "I haven't spoken with Mark today, but I'd wager he thought the comment was silly that only indy devs reply or interact to customers."

Epic's founder Tim Sweeney also appeared in Harris' comment thread to apologise on behalf of his VP. "Yeah, Mark Rein can jump in with guns blazing sometimes, invited or not. It's all intended to be in good fun, but I guess it didn't work out that way this time. Sorry!

"When you have millions of customers, you can't talk to them all. Many of the Epic folks are in frequent contact with enough gamers that we have a pretty clear idea of what the community is thinking, but with this scope of product you can't respond as quickly or as pervasively. It's a nice but real problem, and one smaller teams like y'all will share when faced with a runaway success."

Harris' last communication on the matter, meanwhile, was to say on his own Twitter feed that he had "got an email from Mark Rein. Angry devs are now not angry. Ceasefire declared."

Following the panel, Rein demonstrated the various mobile versions of the Unreal engine to members of the crowd, including He reiterated earlier comments to the site that triple-A games would soon come to platforms such as the iPhone, this time also claiming that larger companies such as Epic would leave little room for smaller developers on those platforms.

Rein was unconvinced by's observation that history suggests smaller developers might move onto whatever proves to be the next upcoming technology while big studios busied themselves with the current zeitgeist.

Update: the Epic VP has now released his apology to Cliff Harris. In it, he claims his interjection was spurred specifically by a comment from the panel that news items could released to individuals rather than media outbursts. "It was completely rude of me to interrupt your panel with my opinion no matter how well intentioned.

"I'm supremely passionate about the plight of indie developers, and game developers in general, and I heard something I thought was incorrect advice and I just couldn't keep my big mouth shut... I apologize and hopefully I've learned my lesson."

Rein also contributes to the thread below, further elucidating comments made on the day of the panel.

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Latest comments (8)

Mark Rein Vice President, Epic Games7 years ago
Oh come on!

"this time also claiming that larger companies such as Epic would leave little room for smaller developers on those platforms."

That's not what I said! What I said was that, as the hardware inevitably developed, to make the kind of games we play on console today, and the installed bases of gamers on those platforms swelled to be as big as the mainstream gaming platforms today, big companies, and I was talking about PUBLISHERS, would be spending huge amounts of money turning mobile into the next triple-A battleground with major marketing budgets making it harder for little guys to (a) compete against larger dev budgets and (b) to get heard above the noise.

"Rein was unconvinced by's observation that history suggests smaller developers might move onto whatever proves to be the next upcoming technology while big studios busied themselves with the current zeitgeist."

Perhaps but mobile IS the next upcoming technology. It is still very MUCH in the "upcoming" phase and there are thousands upon thousands of smaller developers already trying to address it today.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Mark Rein on 19th July 2010 4:04pm

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Richard Morwood Studying Bach. of Computer Science, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology7 years ago
I agree with Mr. Rein. I take it that he was trying to say "If you want to grow then you have to make it happen yourself, not let them come to you." In the end it's reaching out to one person, vs reaching out to an audience. I always enjoy seeing indie dev's post trailers on, seeing them use the same channels as the big studios. It's out there and available for all us to use.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Richard Morwood on 19th July 2010 4:41pm

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Saehoon Lee Lead technical artist, Kuno Interactive7 years ago
I don't have a full picture of what went on, but we can surely learn from each other. And as long as we respect each other especially during public events like Develop, there won't be any problems is there? I met Rein in Develop few years back and I think he is fun guy but yes he can be little direct and has strong point of view. I guess he wouldn't have been in his place if he wasn't.
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Show all comments (8)
Dana Cowley Senior Public Relations Manager, Epic Games7 years ago
Develop has published their take on what happened along with Mark's apology letter to Cliff.
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Shane Sweeney Academic 7 years ago
Ironically I have a personal email from Mark Rein in my inbox when contacting Epic!

Admitedly I was ragey at him personally and he was nothing but kind back to me.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Shane Sweeney on 20th July 2010 6:12am

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Alec Meer Director, Rock, Paper, Shotgun Ltd7 years ago
The story's been updated with Mark's apology to Cliff.
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Ian Bell Head of Studio, Slightly Mad Studios7 years ago
We all love a good David v Goliath scrap don't we? My take is that Mark represents the very thing that Cliff Harris has chosen to not be and I suspect the tone of his blog comments were at least partially motivated by that.

For what it's worth, I've been to dinner with Mark and a more gracious host you couldn't wish to meet.

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Known Mark for years. I'd say he's passionate about the industry and cares especially about devs, big or small. If you've seen him in action it's obvious he enjoys a good debate - and likes to win. Don't we all? ;-)
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