OK, so I feel bad now b/c I kind of ripped Mark on the Epic Boards (I felt he jerked everyone around with the whole GoW "Big!" announcement thing.) But after reading this article, I really respect the guy. He hit the nail on the head and what's more....Why does it seem like he's the only one who sees it?! Maybe he's the only one with the ba!!s to verbalize it. I don't know. What I do know is I was a hard-core PC gamer from '94-'02. But once my GeForce2 wasn't enough, I switched to consoles. It was tough at first, but not anymore. With these next-gen consoles, I will be getting an unreal gaming experience in HD. While holding onto my current computer since it still does everything else I need it to. But it's nice to know my new $400 console is going to last me at least 5 years. The gap between PC & Console has been closed. If Intel or Microsoft aren't worried now, they should be.
[UPDATE] Epic Games boss pillories episodic content, queries the future of the PC games market in UK-conference keynote address--and then tells GameSpot why.
BRIGHTON, UK--This year's Develop Conference in Brighton, on the south coast of the UK, brought together an interesting selection of gaming-industry professionals from all around the world. With a varied programme spread across several days that looks at many different aspects of the gaming world, ranging from business to design, as well as an awards ceremony, there was plenty on display.
The main talking points arose as early as the opening keynote speech, however. Mark Rein, vice president of Epic Games--creator of the popular Unreal engine and developer of the much-anticipated Gears of War--certainly didn't hold back.
After touching on the economic difficulties of developing games on next-generation platforms, he went on to claim that the notion of episodic content is doomed to failure because the economic model isn't sustainable. "There's a lot of talk, but very little actual success," he said of the idea. "[The customer is] paying $20 for a third of a game and waiting at least six months between episodes."
He compared it to watching a TV series, where people find it acceptable to wait a week between installments. However, Rein pointed out that this model is funded by advertisers, and viewers accept the delay as inevitable. For games, he said, it's different, "Franchise fatigue will set in if you don't shorten the time between episodes. But if you try and shorten the time, you're going to get a lot of recycled content."
The main thrust of his argument was aimed not at companies such as Valve Software, whose episodic Half-Life 2 expansion can command attention by itself. Instead, he addressed his argument at developers who might be thinking of digitally distributing episodic content as a means to sidestep the traditional publisher relationship to take a game to market.
But Rein saved the most controversial comments for the end, with his warning that the PC-games market could be about to implode. He laid the blame firmly at the door of Intel and its integrated graphics processors, which often come built into motherboards. A longtime critic of integrated graphics, Rein said Intel's inflated claims that IGPs can run games would lead PC purchasers not tech-savvy enough to install graphics cards to turn to consoles for guaranteed, high-level game performance.
[UPDATE] After Rein's keynote address, he sat down with GameSpot to explain the reasons behind his fiery rhetoric.
GameSpot: Let's begin with episodic content. There were a couple of titles you alluded to, with Half-Life 2 being the most high-profile one. Aren't you convinced the episodes like Half-Life 2: Episode One will work?
Mark Rein: Half-Life 2 I'm sure will work for them. It's Half-Life 2. I think any great property can break rules, right? They've always been a rule-breaker. I just think it's a kind of a flawed business model for everybody else because everybody knows Half-Life. You sneeze Half-Life and everybody runs to you with a tissue. Whereas an unknown IP, or a lesser-known IP--who's going to pay for the marketing? How do you justify a marketing spend to sell little pieces at a time? There will be episodic content that will do business, but I think it's few and far between. [But] I just think that developers are jumping into this business model thinking, "This is my savior because I couldn't find a publisher." You need a publisher, you need marketing, you need to have a partnership there.
GS: So what you're saying is that there are dangers for people thinking that episodic content could be right for them?
MR: Yeah, absolutely. This is a developer conference, so I'm talking solely from a developer standpoint. I think that developers who head into this thinking I can go do this by myself are going to find that this is no less treacherous than the normal ways of doing business, and the risks are higher and the rewards are lower. That's all. I don't want to completely pooh-pooh it. I just want to make sure developers realize that it is fraught with risk--more risk than finding a good publishing partner and working through the normal ways the industry works.
People have proven that they will buy full-price games. And I think there's an opportunity now, now that we have three solid platforms you could do the 400,000-unit [business] model. I think any well-crafted, well-executed game can sell 200,000 units in North America and 200,000 in Europe. That seems well within the grasp of what people can do. There's $8 million worth of income for a developer there, assuming they don't even have participation in the back end. So, I think there's a good solid business model that if you can make a $5 million game, you can make a $3 million dollar profit, and potentially more. To me that's a good reason to stay out of [the episodic model] for now.
GS: You mentioned the PC market is in trouble.
GS: I think it's probably fair to say that you were kind of laying the blame fairly squarely in one particular direction.
MR: Intel! Intel Integrated Graphics.
GS: You kind of have a gleam in your eye when you say that.
MR: Intel Integrated! Yes! Yes!
GS: It's a crusade then for you?
MR: It's true. Nobody's talking about it, but it's clear what's going on. One of the guys came up to me after the event and he goes, "You know, you're totally right about this." He says, "There are lots of people that played Half-Life [One], because integrated graphics would run it fine." Same with the original Unreal. Even Unreal Tournament--you didn't even need 3D graphics then. But when games graduated to 3D graphics to keep up with the constant requirements of consoles, all of a sudden now we have a whole class of PCs that can't play games anymore--the PCs that the majority of the people happen to be in the market for.
This would be different if we could say that, "Well, the majority of PCs are the high-end ones and these low-end ones are a problem because gamers gravitate to them." That's not the case. The vast majority of PCs sold are under 800 pounds (about $1,400). The numbers there are so much larger than everything above it that it's just insane.
Intel could have fixed this problem years ago. It could have made integrated graphics glued to a decent Nvidia chip. I'm not talking about the high end. I'm not saying you need a GeForce 7950 GX. But the point is Nvidia makes a perfectly good 7400 chip that's probably within a couple of bucks' price difference from the Intel one. Yet because Intel's not the one doing the testing and all the other things that Intel does to certify their platforms, the hardware manufacturers are staying away from it.
Another reason is because they don't see PC gaming as a big viable thing. The thinking is, "Well if somebody's interested in PC gaming we'll sell them this gaming system." But they don't realize that if you sell that low-end guy a gaming system that's at least capable of giving him a taste, you have a chance to up-sell. You have a reason why he would want two cores this year and four cores next year, and eight cores the year after. Otherwise--what's the reason now? Oh, Vista? An operating system that consumes more resources? Is that how we're going to sell computers from now on? Just keep piling more and more crap on top of Windows to be the justification for better PCs? I don't think so. I think we're beyond that point. I think Windows XP runs great on dual-core, and Vista will run just as well on a nice dual-core system. Windows is no longer the excuse for upgrading your machine. So they better find some excuses or they're going to find that they're going to have a tough time selling upgraded machines.
And that's why Intel has so much competition from AMD these days. And that's why they're rowing the boat so much harder right now. Here's a way to fix this. My position is that they're just blind to this problem. They don't realize that, "Oh, yeah, we're doing a great job selling hundreds of millions of CPUs, and people are buying integrated graphics." It's what is available in the price ranges they're willing to buy. Nobody's choosing Intel Integrated Graphics. It's the lowest end, right?
Nobody's choosing that. They're getting it because that's all that's being manufactured in their price range. I think that's a very dangerous situation. If I were Intel, I would probably be out subsidizing Nvidia chips and ATI chips so that they could be in these machines so the people could get a taste. And I'd be preloading a game. Maybe not a violent game like ours, but preloading at least some sort of cool 3D experience so people go, "Oooh, there's more to this. I can go further. I can buy a faster processor next time. I can buy a discreet graphics card. I can move up."
Laptops are a huge, huge problem. Laptops are a complete dead end. The problem really manifests itself when people switch from desktops as their primary computer to laptops. They have to exit gaming because the majority of laptops can't do it. [Intel's] answer is, "Oh, sure but there's lots of laptops with these good chips." Yeah, yeah, $2,000, $3,000 laptops--and they're huge.
GS: So what's happening is that people are buying consoles, playing games on them, and seeing that they perform better than their low-end PCs, and hence they exit the PC games market.
MR: If I'm playing all my games on consoles, and I'm just using my PC for business, I won't need that upgrade all that soon. I'll probably get an extra two years out of my next PC. Guess what? Intel just lost a CPU sale from me. If that becomes epidemic, you're going to see a big change in Intel's profit soon. If that snowballs that could really hurt them.
GS: Is this a trend we're looking at for the future?
MR: It doesn't seem like the path they're on now is a smart way to build volume for the future. If I were running Intel, I would certainly not be thinking that way. And I'm sure there are smart people running Intel, but maybe they're not aware of this problem.
Let ATI and Nvidia fight it out for doing benchmarks. I don't know the right solution, but Intel could fix the problem, that's the thing. They could fix the problem if they made integrated graphics more competitive with midrange Nvidia and ATI, then--and ATI and Nvidia would also push up their midrange chips in performance, and push the high end further. It would be a win-win situation for everybody.
GS: Bill Gates at E3 talked about the Xbox 360, Vista PC, and mobile phone coming together via Live Anywhere. Is that credible?
MR: That's going to be for consumers to decide. I think that's kind of cool that you could manage your content from your phone. You could choose to order something, check what's going on with your Xbox Live account, or your friends' games, or see somebody's achievements. I thought that was kind of cool.
But at the same time, I find it kind of scary because they're putting a lot of control in Microsoft's hands, a closed system that in the past we haven't had on the PC. The beauty of the PC has been the openness of it. And maybe for the PC to survive and improve as a gaming device, maybe we have to accept a little bit more of a closed platform. Maybe Xbox Live is the answer. Maybe that will actually help the platform. Maybe there will be Xbox-Live-certified PCs, and they'll treat it like a platform and have a package, and they'll talk about their packaging campaign for Windows.
I applaud those efforts to move it in that direction and kind of turn the PC into a future console. But the consumer has to cotton to it, and it remains to be seen if that's what's going to happen or not. I think [Microsoft is] making great strides in doing cool stuff. I'd love to see Sony mount a viable challenge to that.
I have no problem with the integrated Intel crap becouse I know what Im doing when I go to the store and Im not really that educated when it comes to PCs. And while Valves Ep.1,2 and beyound is pretty much **** worth...20 bucks for ep.1 ha! I rather go get some beer and have a few hours of fun. But I do support one project that is involved in the episodic content thing and that is Sam & Max. I just find the form of a game Sit-com too different not to like.
okay I got Unreal and um Unreal tourney. it say Unreal in the article. is that it? its hardly a track record is it? one pc franchise? I dont pc game so thats why Unreal is not at the top of my Nuff Respec list, mmmkay? but what else?.. Gears of war? an unproven game, we've all heard great hype for sucky games ( Matrix, FF XI, Wipeout Fusion... )
He's right about integrated graphics. I had Radeon Express 200, which I thought would tide me over until I had more money. It didn't last long. I couldn't really play any decent game made in the last 2 years without turning all the graphics features off. Basically making all the games on my new pc look worse than a console game. I specifically wanted a gaming computer. It didn't need to be the best, but I at least wanted to play some good new games. So I was forced to read page after page of specs on graphics cards and shop for hours online trying to make sure I got what I needed, and of course it's easy as hell to basically get ripped off. I like computers, to a point. I don't mind learning something new or messing around with my computer's insides. But I hate it when companies try to make money off of people's ignorance.
Mark is right. I am a PC Tech for a local computer store. I have tried several beta copies of Vista and right now it barely runs on a computer with these specs: 2.6 Ghz P4 w/ 1MB L2 cache Intel 945GNT Mobo 512MB Ram GeForce 6800 GT Not the most top of the line, but a decent machine nonetheless. So what... people are going to upgrade AGAIN just to use Vista and DX10? Not me, I am out of PC Gaming forever. For the price of the items above, I could buy a Wii. For the price of newer stuff (GeForce 7800 GTX, P4 830, 955 Mobo) I could buy a freakin' PS3! It's become a zero sum game because console have surpassed the PC's at the same price point. So essentially, I think PC Gaming is going to die because more and more people are going to recognize that it is more cost-effective to buy a console and not upgrade their PC's every 6 - 12 months
@ Maquis_UK Whos Epic Games huh? Uhm... Ever head of Unreal? Unreal 2? the Unreal Tournament series? Been in a cave or summin mate? At any rate I think Marks got a decent point. Intel does seem to be on shaky ground despite their seemingly kickass core 2's and episodic content didnt even get me interested in the first place (40 bucks for a few hours of gaming isnt wat i'd call good value for money) - No matter if it WAS HL or not...
This is the same guy who said that Wii is a gimmick and was booed in an IGN conference. Why did he put down the Wii back then? Well because you don't need unreal engine 3 for Wii games. The only reason he is bs'ing about episodic content, is that he has a benefit with companies finding publishers. If you want to invest in a huge project, you need a publisher, and probably a 3d engine. Which one are you going to use? Well Unreal 3 of course. That's why you see all the companies doing episodic content not using unreal 3, whereas everyone else making a 10+ million something game, investing in that 3d Engine. And everytime someone invests in unreal 3, he gets fatter.
Mark Rein and Cliffy B need to look at what made Call of Duty 2 the Best Selling Xbox 360 Game of the Year if they want Gears of War to achieve a similar level of success. I believe that one of the most important factors is that Gears of War needs to run at a steady 60 Frames Per Second Frame rate like Call of Duty 2 did. The important thing is that the game runs smoothly like Call of Duty 2.
this guy is a MORON. he has retracted such bold statements in the past. so full of hot air. and who the hell are Epic games anyway? Its hardly Capcom is it? fat boggle-eyed loser, go back to Jellystone Park
Like I said before if you wont bother taking the time to learn about something before you buy it then don't complain about getting ripped off. I'm pretty sure the people who bought the 360 and decided to get a nice HDTV go along with it did some research before forking over $500-$3500. Same can go for cars, houses, insurance plans, credit cards and tons of other things. You feel too lazy to do your own research on something before you purchase it, quite frankly you deserve to get ripped off because you set yourself up for failure.
I for one, am exiting PC gaming. There are a few reasons for this in addition to what Mark mentioned: 1. To get a video card capable of running Prey and Battle for Middle Earth II - the two games I'm playing right now, would cost roughly $400, and developers seem to think that I'm willing to spend that annually based on how new games perform on year-old hardware. At the most I can expect 2 years life out of a hardware upgrade before I can no longer play new games with acceptable framerates. On a console, the games get better as games progress through generations, because developers get better on the same hardware, not because they require me to go out and buy more. 2. Installation issues, ranging from copy protection methods to hard drive space to firewall configurations, are becoming a big pain in the rear. On a console, I just put in the disk and it works. Seriously, the PC experience should be JUST LIKE THAT. I'm fine with PC games caching data onto the hard drive, but going through an hour long install from 6 CDs is just crazy. At least things are finally moving to DVD but even copying everything from a DVD uses up 3-6GB of my hard drive, then still requires me to have the disk in the drive? Where's the sense in that? PC games should pre-cache data in the background intelligently and clear out data that's not being used from the hard drive. 3. Online play - Hackers have ruined PC online play for me. I know there's probably no way to stop it, and to a tiny extent it's still a problem for consoles, but it's so much easier to programatically check for hackers in a closed environment that I just don't ever see PC online gaming overcoming this problem. On X360, I go to my friends list, invite some buddies to play, we can confidently play with strangers and reasonably be assured they aren't cheating, at least to the point that at the end of the game I feel like I've had fun. 4. Compatibility/Drivers - I look at my hardware setup now and wonder what games it will play on Vista. I really have no idea. DirectX 10? I'm sure it'll be great and will do all sorts of wiz-bang effects, but what will my nVidia 6600 perform like on DX10 games? Wait and see... Just like always. I'm 100% sure that my X360 will run every game for the X360 for the next 5 years. That goes a LONG way with me. Especially when you look a tthe last generation of original XBox games. Once developers really understand the 360 hardware, especially the GPU, some amazing games will come out. The PC game market will probably go the way of the quarter arcade - something better is here now. I'd like to see a convergence between console and PC - designing levels on a PC for Prey, etc. and being able to sell them or at least give them away on XBox Live. An opportunity to make some money? THAT would make my want to upgrade my PC...
This guy is genius, he is right about both Episodic content and Intel IG. Look at Sin Episodes, where are they going? Or AMD who has won hearts of many gamers across the world. I am an Intel user and their ignorence makes me sad.
Angry Duck is right. People who think the industry will grow are wrong if they think the mass consumer market is a group of "do it yourself" people who must learn everything there is to know about PCs before they should be allowed to use them. "It's peoples own fault for not learning anything about something they use daily." Excuse me, but most people don't have the money or time to fully understand their computers and upgrade them to their desire.
this guy is ginious, i agree with every sentence he says, now epic is my favourite devolpers, but i won't buy an XBOX 360 just for one hame (gears of wars). go nintendo and i hope epic makes game for the wii.
"Otherwise--what's the reason now? Oh, Vista? An operating system that consumes more resources?" So true... so true..
"Consoles are becoming more like PCs only in the sense that they are gaining all the benefits of PCs like HDDS, online services, and improved interface functionality, but have none of the weaknesses." I predicted a long time ago that hard drives + Internet access for consoles would lead to patching and so far it has happened. Developers who are rushed for time will just release their game as is and offer updates over Xbox Live. If the multiplayer maps aren't done, they could just let people download them later and they'll get thanks for it. Maybe some players will discover certain glitches in multiplayer and they'll exploit them which will lead to more updates. It might not be to the scale as what is sometimes seen on PC but you're kidding yourself if you think none of the disadvantages will cross over. In short, you can't have your cake and eat it too.
I am not sure about the thing that you get another 2 years for your pc if you just use it for internet/mail/work instead of playing. I think it could be far more. Don't see anything you need a 3Ghz with 1GB Ram (avg pc nowadays?) for if you don't play.
Mark is right in many points... i wonder if he know unreal tournament is becoming a mindless fps. Has he ever played "Starsiege Tribes" Best online coop game ever cause of the gameplay. oh, I am getting a ps3 instead of buying a new gaming pc. My current one is only 2.5 years old and I don't see a point in buy a new one that would cost me more than $1000 and last another 3 yr before I have to upgrade again. So getting a ps3 with high-end cpu and gpu is a value at $600 and it should last me 6-8 years... Sony is planning 10 yr... but we'll have to see.
You're wrong Angryduck67, consoles are becoming more like PC's if you haven't noticed. Say all you want but in the end you obviously didn't post your message from a console. It's a persons fault for not being knowledgeable in something. You think someone sat down with me and taught me how to build my PC, or how to use various programs. For everything I wasn't familiar with I've used the internet to do some research on it. Rather than whine and moan on these forums about how difficult PC's are to use or upgrade, you should go learn something about them. I'm not killing the PC gaming industry nor is any other PC gamer. It's peoples own fault for not learning anything about something they use daily. Ignorance is bliss, so stick to consoles if you feel that way.
Chubbums stop trashing 360 just because you don't like it, 360 rocks and has many great games set to release this year and next (GoW).
What he says about episodic games is true, companies make a good game and they think they can get an extra 20 bucks from people by just adding a few new features and storyline, they always get bad reviews compared to the first. But this guy is sorta of a whiny little b!tch he obviously is a microsft whore.
I was waiting for someone like this who has a much greater knowledge of the industry than we do to articulate the problems with the modern PC gaming industry. And whats the solution? PCs need to be more like consoles? Im glad I got out of PC gaming a few years ago and went all consoles for reasons similar to the many he brought up. The user-friendly, super easy to use and understand plug and play nature of consoles will need to be matched by PCs in order for the PC gaming industry to grow, I think. Or....we can continue to spend 1,4000 for average PCs and call anyone who questions our logic (or lack there of) a tool and a moron. And anyone who does not fully understand PCs and all of the details before getting into PC games is clearly a mindless drone, right CHubbums? You and everyone else like you are killing the industry.
Hmmm, is Mark Rein the only one who thinks like a gamer? I hate "episodic" gaming. That idea is lame and Valve sucks for trying to make it popular. Oh and Half-life 2 wasn't THAT great. I also think integrated anything on a PC is a dumb idea. It's like these companies want PC gaming to fail. Also having to pay for "add-ons" for games is the worst idea ever! Greed .. it sucks
kinncolts how old are you? Every bank I've opened an account with so far has either given me a visa debit card or a mastercard debit card. So getting one of these is not difficult. Credit cards aren't that hard to get either. Either way like it or not your going have to build up credit, later in life alot of things will require you having good credit.
GAMESPOT!!!! I ASKED REPEATABLY FOR SOMEONE TO ASK THIS MORONS OPPINION ON THE PS3 CONTROLLER, YOU DIDN'T DO IT!
I agree with just about everything this guy says... If only everybody (Intel, Valve) would listen to him. He seems to know what is good for the industry & for the consumers.
Thank God this guy was born. Episodic games are not cool. They are for people who don't have the time for games and by that i mean rich people.
finally!!!!!!! someone whu feels the exact same way about Eposidec Content...i hate it...its a terrible model.....people arent taking in consideration the fact that everyone doesnt hav access to a credit or debit card.... @ chubbums...how exactly is he a tool? @ killswitch.....GoW will most probably do better becuz not only did it win Best Game of E3 from OXM and Game Informer...but it also won numerous awards from other websites and publications ...incluing gamespot...and Game Critics
dude rl_41, noone liked prey. He's basically saying that this game is going to suck, when i'm saying eveyone has already played it... so end of argument. What about the ps3? People think that the games are good as they speak in present tense for some reason when noone has played them. They didn't let anyone play the ps3.
then he instantly got rebuked by a bunch of HL2 fanboys :D Im serious, a bunch of guys from the audiance yelled back insults at him because of his whole bit on episodic content.
K1LLSWITCH, dude except EVERY GAMING ORGANISATION has all ready played GOW, including gamespot. Why don't you look into stuff before you say random fanboy stuff? Everyone loved it and they are looking for it.
He does have a point. episodic content really is one of the duller ideas to come out of the gamig industry. I really do not see much more of it in teh future.
Right as Rein. And why would GoW not "pwn"? What Epic game doesn't completely kick ass? stop being a dick
Finally someone said it. Episodic content just leads to games of lesser quality by having a , "We'll just finish it later" work ethic that does nothing but make games worse. I want a game to be FINISHED when i pay for it and i dont want to pay for "pieces" of a game.
I dont know, I think The marketplace is going to get out of control forceing you to pay for content that should have been there in the first place. I mean, GeOW only has two types of MP modes, You KNOW they will release a "Chapter 2"-esque form with more MP modes.
Of course you don't have to buy three different Gears of wars. Where did you get that idea?? This guy works on that game, and he is AGAINST episodic content, not FOR it. Geesh.
I hate to break it to some of you in saying that Gears of War won't pwn anything. The game looks good, thats it. Look at Prey and how disappointed everyone was when the game was reviewed by Jeff. Don't hype up a game because it has pretty graphix. Wait for a review, or when it does come out, rent it and see for yourself if GOW still pwns. Mark Rein made some good points on episodic content. Not only does the player have to wait awhile for the next installment, it gets expensive for a third of the game. Episodic content sounded good on paper, but in reality it's a flop.
What a tool. Of course devs want you to buy the games on next gen consoles, they freaking cost ten dollars more.
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