Epic Games is one of the leading independent game developers in the world today. After conquering the PC market with franchises like Unreal and the console market with Gears of War, the company managed to wow Apple with its Infinity Blade iOS franchise. With Unreal Engine 4, Epic has a game engine that’s been built for mobile, Web, PC and next gen game development. Mark Rein, co-founder and vice president of Epic Games, talks about the growing opportunities in mobile games and how they’ll impact current and next gen consoles in this exclusive interview.
[a]list daily: When it comes to the rapid exponential growth that we’ve seen in the mobile side, what excites you about the direction we’re seeing on how quickly tablets and smartphones are upgrading and pushing technology capabilities for games?
Mark Rein: Everything.
[a]list daily: At what point do mobile devices become competition for consoles?
Mark Rein: It’s a different form factor and a different usage model. They’re never going to be a one-to-one console to tablet because one you plug into a wall, one you carry around with you. That doesn’t mean that they won’t have the same amount of power and you won’t be able to plug your tablet into the wall and add a controller and play it like a console. I think that’s inevitable. I think Apple’s now embraced having a controller.
But you know, it doesn’t really matter to me. There are these great experiences no matter how you want to play. If you want to sit down and play NHL 14 or Need for Speed Rivals on PlayStation 3, that’s great. I’m not going to do that on my tablet. That’s a console experience. And then there are games like Infinity Blade that I love playing on my tablet.
I don’t think the whole “one defeats the other” really is a thing. They’re both great gaming experiences, and consumers will ultimately decide where they’re going to spend their money. If consumers decide to spend their money more on one than the other, it will get more attention, but I think consumers are happy. I know as a gamer I’m happy that I get to experience all these things and have all these different experiences. I have a tablet for playing XCOM Enemy Unknown when I’m on the plane and I have a console for playing it when I want to sit in front of the screen with the controller. I’m perfectly happy to have it all.
[a]list daily: Is second screen forcing the issue by connecting these two worlds?
Mark Rein: I don’t think so. I think we’ve yet to see the real value of the second screen idea, if you’re talking about SmartGlass and companion apps and things like that. But that doesn’t mean that it won’t be big one day. I don’t really know what it is yet.
Where I really use SmartGlass is for choosing things from the menu and navigating the store instead of using the controller. It’s great for watching a movie and then continuing it on my tablet when I walk away. There are lots of great uses and applications.
Where it fits into gaming, I don’t know. I’m not sold on picking up my tablet to choose my play and then putting it back down and picking up my controller. It’s kind of a wonky way to choose a play, so I don’t know if that’s how it’s going to go or not.
Developers should try everything and have lots of fun with it, and sooner or later there will be a killer app for that sort of thing, too.
[a]list daily: What opportunities do you see when it comes to the PC moving forward, especially with free-to-play being so dominant out there today?
Mark Rein: There’s an opportunity to reach a very large audience and give them games that have a depth level that is very difficult to achieve on a tablet and not as difficult, but still more complicated, to achieve with a controller.
There’s definitely the opportunity to make new strategy games that are totally designed for moving your pointer from place to place, for example. There’s also the ability to play beautiful 3D games in a Web browser. We showed this at GDC earlier this year as proof of concept with Unreal Engine 3 running in HTML5. It looks really good. And moving forward, Unreal Engine 4 will make it a real feature. Gradually, it will open up markets to us that we currently don’t have today.
[a]list daily: What challenges do you see for the video game industry if you look ahead over the next couple of years?
Mark Rein: The biggest challenge in the video game industry is the same as it’s always been — getting noticed, getting people to know about your game and try your game.
Obviously, that assumes you made a great game that people want to play, which is a bigger job, but really the main thing is how do you stand out, how do you get people to pick up your game and how do you get people to engage with it. And then it’s about how you get people to give you money for it.