During a talk at the Montreal International Game Summit today, Epic Games chief technology officer and founder Tim Sweeney predicted that the cost of developing next-gen games is going to double.
As a part of his keynote, Sweeney talked a bit about Epic’s recent “Samaritan” tech demo. He explained that while the clip came in under three minutes, the demo took 30 staff members around four months to create. Examples such as that caused Epic to worry that fully developed next-gen games could end up costing 3x ~ 5x what current-gen games cost. “And of course,” Sweeney said, “we felt that was not acceptable.”
Through focusing more on production tools, development efficiency, and other means, Sweeney noted that he now expects that Epic will be able to craft those future games for “only” double the cost of what it currently takes.
Of course—to interject my own comment here—even hearing the idea of development costs being double causes me some concern for the industry. This generation, we saw plenty of developers who already couldn’t keep up with the rise in required funds needed to fully craft and ship a top-tier game. Current-gen development has been especially tough for smaller developers, and that challenge is only going to get worse once we move on to the next set of platforms.
Sweeney did touch on another topic that could potentially provide a solution for some developers—or a thorn in the side of those who are releasing high-development-cost, $60 games: the rise of free-to-play games, and the power of being more pro-active about putting projects on multiple platforms.
“Free to play gaming is becoming more and more inevitable,” Sweeney explained. “If a user has world-class, AAA free-to-play games to choose from side-by-side with $60 games that are available only on a disc in a retail store, free-to-play games are very likely to win. So we need to really be mindful of this trend and start building games that have monetization and are designed to be piracy-proof.”