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Gearing Up

Epic boss Mark Rein on working with Microsoft and Midway.

Part one of our exclusive interview with Epic Games vice president Mark Rein was published last week. Here, in part two, he discusses the success of Gears of War and the importance of finding the right publisher.

GamesIndustry.biz: How significant is the success of Gear of War?

Mark Rein: Pretty freaking significant [laughs].

Is it more significant than Unreal?

From a financial standpoint, it is our most significant release ever. To do over three million units in the first ten weeks, on one platform, is unbelievable.The original Unreal Tournament did around three million over a much, much longer period of time and on five platforms. But to have a game, out of the gate, sell over three million, that's a totally different animal and very, very significant.

So this is going mainstream?

I think Gears is about as mainstream as you can be today on Xbox 360. We're really excited that the public has taken such a liking to Gears. We're continuing to support the title and have some cool stuff on the way soon to thank Gears fans for the massive support they've shown us.

And the game is more mainstream that Unreal was, isn't it?

Having a publisher like Microsoft pour so much marketing into the game and getting an awesome commercial on high-profile national television shows, like Sunday Night Football, is definitely going to help you become more mainstream if you can also deliver a good game.

On the game development side we've definitely matured as a company and, thanks to Halo and other great console shooters that came before us, console platforms have become very friendly to the kind of games we love to play and make.

From a design and development standpoint we're able to give games a more cinematic feel which makes them more approachable. We've spent a lot of time and money developing tools specifically to achieve that so this is no accident.

In addition, I think we have a far better understanding of how to approach the console controller now - so we're able to build a game on console now that is as much fun with a console controller as the games we build on PC are with a keyboard and mouse. Our guys really worked hard to make the game easy to learn without being dumbed-down.

Would the sales figures have differed if Gears of War was multiplatform at release?

It certainly would have been much harder to achieve the sales results we did had this not have been a first party game that was billed and marketing as a 'system seller' for Xbox 360. Having that cache definitely helped draw a lot of interest in the title which helped it get noticed.

We're really thrilled with the great job Microsoft did marketing Gears. They set a standard that's going to be tough to match. So as you can imagine, we hope to continue our great relationship with them.

You've also worked with Midway...

Midway is also proving to be great to work with. They treat Unreal Tournament 3 like it is their Gears of War and hopefully it will be. They've being very patient with us. We're very much about taking our time with our games and they understand that; they've understood that from day one.

They're also great customers for our technology. They have some awesome-looking Unreal Engine 3 games in development and we're very excited to see them do break-the-mold projects like Mortal Kombat which will help us show people that UE3 can be used for all sorts of games.

So we feel that we're in two very good situations when it comes to publishers. Publishers who care about your product and to who see it as being important to their success - that's the situation you want to be in. I think we have that with both of them and you can't ask for more than that.

As a major developer that's still independent, do you have a finite number of publishers that you can actually work with?

There are lots of great publishers out there. If we had five development teams, maybe we'd have five different publishers. I don't think that's a bad thing. It's just a matter of finding the right publisher for the right product.

I don't think that was ever as obvious to me in the past as it is today having the hindsight to see what Microsoft has done for Gears of War. Midway has a long history of cross-platform success so I'm equally excited about what they can do for Unreal Tournament. Having the right product at the right publisher means everything.

It doesn't mean you can't find one good publisher and partner with them forever. It just means that there are horses for courses, as they say in Britain.

Mark Rein is VP at Epic Games. Interview by N. Evan Van Zelfden.

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N. Evan Van Zelfden