Opinion: Epic Games Backs Away From The Vita

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Epic Games are known for their Unreal Engine and the Gears of War series. Recently, they had released Infinity Blade II, which is looking like the most well-received title on iOS, even more well-received than Angry Birds. It impresses with its visuals, its depth and quality for an iOS game. Now, I wonder if they were to put it on a handheld console? Well, if they did, it wouldn’t be the Playstation Vita.

It has been revealed by Mike Capps, President of Epic Games, in an interview with GamesIndustry.biz that the Playstation Vita won’t be added to their portfolio sometime soon, despite having development kits sent to them. Why? Well, this is their reasoning:

We’re not currently making a Vita game, I’m not sure how well it’s going to be accepted in our Western market which is primarily where our games sell.

It’s a really cool platform, but I have a phone, and it’s really hard to compete with that.

There are two arguments that he makes and they come off quite distasteful to anyone who appreciates dedicated handheld gaming and who is excited for the Playstation Vita. I think I shall address them with something I like to call common sense.

Now, let’s look at the first argument, which is, “I’m not sure how well it’s going to be accepted in our Western market which is primarily where our games sell.” Now, let’s actually look at Playstation Portable sales in North America. I am using PSP sales because this theory may have stemmed from the popular belief that the Playstation Portable wasn’t a success in the West. Actually, if I am not mistaken, the PSP has sold over 10 million units in North America alone and has a worldwide total of over 70 million. What about the Nintendo 3DS? Western developers cried doomsday on that, yet it has surpassed first year DS sales and it has set its sights for three million units sold within its first year. Hmmm, according to Epic’s though tank, that may not be success to them.

Let’s further add some more common sense. Continuing on his first point, in order to move hardware, it needs to have a strong lineup of software. So, if Epic wanted to debunk their own dedicated handheld fears, they would have gazed upon the dedicated handhelds and try to make a game that is fun, engaging and takes advantage of their portability. Maybe then they would have not only gained a considerable amount of money in sales but also have some experience and confidence in developing with dedicated handhelds.

What about that second point? Apparently, they believe that “It’s a really cool platform, but I have a phone, and it’s really hard to compete with that.” Alright, I’m going back to that state where I need to indulge him, and anyone else for that matter, in a lesson of Basic Portable Gaming 101. Firstly, why he is comparing a phone to the Playstation Vita? I know I am going to slightly corrupt my opinion with a cliche, but it is like comparing apples to oranges. They are in two different markets. Yet, Western developers like Epic Games can not seem to get their head around that.

This leads me to my second point in terms of that second statement. Do Epic Games know the audience of both markets? I would argue that the gamers that might look at purchasing the Playstation Vita are the ones that made Gears of War a success, pending on how much they do side with the other major hardware manufacturers. They may be the type of gamers that enjoy Call of Duty (sorry!), Elder Scrolls, Assassin’s Creed and much more. Then there is the niche crowd, equally important in my view. Their dedication to a series overseas has no bounds, which is recognised (sometimes) by the developer and enters in a partnership to localise the title. The smartphone market? Yes, there may be some “hardcore” gamers there, but most of them only want the “next best thing.” It is a bubble jungle, the smartphone scene. I believe their audience is more fiendish than the core crowd of gamers. They are also the mothers who Facebook all day and blame video games for violence on the streets. Maybe you are just a bad parent? (gasp, he is using logic!)

If Epic Games, or indeed any Western developers, do not heed my words, then they might want to heed the words of American journalist Herb Caen, “A man begins cutting his wisdom teeth the first time he bites off more than he can chew.” This is where the Western gaming industry is going with portable gaming. Smartphones may the yellow brick road right now, but soon enough, the road may lead you to the centre of the darkest forest with no escape. Epic Games, just remember who you are and what you develop. I shall leave it at that.

Josh is the name, writing is my game... well my degree will say that. But, when uni gets me down (and it does), there is no better way that to grab a chair, sit back and slicing up some DarkspawnI started my gaming interest back in the good old 16 bit era with the Sega Mega Drive and Sonic The Hedgehog 2. I was roughly five years old. To this day I still try to fire up the dusty companion and speed through the wacky and bright levels, jumping on some Badniks, collecting those damn Chaos Emeralds. Then I moved onto Sony's disk based console the Playstation (thanks to my uncle). Since then I have picked up each of Sony's consoles from the 5th to current generation that has been released in Australia (with more to come).In terms of writing about games, I am quite new to the field. I started out late last year with my own blog before deciding to move to greener pastures. I have written a few reviews for the Playstation 3 and Playstation Portable. Features as well. I hope I can flex my muscles while writing with Capsule Computers.If I'm not gaming, however, I'm writing narratives. I am currently trying to kickstart a high fantasy novel (which, hopefully, turns into a complex RPG) that I want done in five years or so. My passion of writing has been there for a long time and has flourished as I grew. I'm into the fantasy genre, both games and novels, and thoroughly enjoy a deep and complex RPG, whether it comes from the East or West.Oh and anime is awesome!


  1. To be honest, the whole portable gaming console market is pretty much dead aside from phones/tablets. Epic Games pretty much has the right idea.

  2. Oh boy do I disagree. Epic is completely right. The time of the dedicated gaming console is dead, whether it is portable or in the home.
    With the iPhone you get not only an mp3 player, web browser, and phone; you also get an excellent gaming console that offers increasingly good quality games for both the casual and hardcore gamers. Sure there’s a bunch of shovelware there, but that shovelware isn’t Epic Games.

    I’m interested in the Vita because of it’s quality lineup of games, but I will probably never purchase one, much like I will never purchase a DS. If the Vita were to offer phone capabilities as well as its gaming functionality then I’d be sold. But there’s no place in the modern western market for a piece of technology that is made just for games.

    Not that I’m going to convince anyone.
    Trolltrolltrolltrolltroll 😉

  3. The phone element is key not because you can make calls, but because
    you’ll always have it on you. I have a 3DS and I never lug that thing
    around with me, device it not be overly big, just because it doesn’t
    offer much. Things like ‘streetpass’ try and change that, but it isn’t enough. And while, sure the sale’s are high, but aren’t smartphones
    (smartphones as a whole) even higher?

    I wouldn’t consider dedicated portable gaming “dead” per say, but with
    developers taking opinions like this perhaps it will be. It may not be a
    “gaming device” but it’s a device with gaming capabilities, and that
    may be good enough for some. I mean, I PC isn’t exactly a gaming device,
    and yet look how many people play games on that. It’s not so much about
    gaming as giving player/users/people the completely multi-media
    experience, conquering their pockets and bags and cementing yourself as a
    pervasive technology. Unfortunately for portable gaming, phones can now
    do that. It’s all just a matter of opinion though, smartphone gaming isn’t really there yet, it’s still young and it lacks tactile controls. Even though games Infinity Blade are up there, it might not be enough for some. That’s where your dedicated portables come in, but sadly people may not opt for that.

  4. From the comments I am reading, the doom and gloom theory seems to be alive and well. Sorry to burst your bubbles, but dedicated handheld gaming is not dead and won’t be at all, period.

    For something to be dead, it wouldn’t be, well… selling at all. If you had read my article, this is not the case. The PSP has sold 70 million worldwide, the best non-Nintendo handheld figures. The DS has sold over 140 million worldwide.

    Now the 3DS and this is for Julien and 3DS or Android/Apple? If you think that’s dead, here is some news for you, although I hate repeating myself. The 3DS has surpassed first year DS sales within its first eight months and has basically sold 3 million in the same tome period. How does that equate to death, may I ask?

    People who proclaim the death of handhelds seems to miss the fact that the two are completely separate markets (again, repeating myself). People who buy smartphones are either:
    1. Keeping with the crowd or
    2. Wanting to make life easier in terms of work and home.

    I would guarantee that gaming is not one of them, unless it is the Xperia Play. That is what the dedicated handhelds are for… GAMING! The fact that Epic refuses to develop on a gaming console for an area where gaming is secondary nature (plus all of those features you listed, Julien) mindboggles me. They are game developers who develop on gaming platforms.

    By the way, I have a HTC Android phone and I would take my PSP and UMD games on the bus and carry them around anyday than playing on a phone that can’t last for two days on one charge. Yeah, smartphones have battery problems when gaming as well.

  5. The thing you are all not taking into account is that while iOS and Android are popular devices, how many people do you think buy an iPhone or an Android Phone with the intention of using it as a gaming console? None of them. 

    You buy a phone to be a phone, everything else is just something extra on the side. If you want to play games you will buy a gaming console. Simple as that. Besides most iOS and Android games are developed with a short life span in mind. People don’t buy an iOS game and expect the second coming of Mario Bros. because the mobile gaming platform is simply not a gaming platform in the same way that a dedicated handheld console is. They are not for gamers and never will be. They are for casual players who have the attention span of a goldfish. To claim that they will kill the dedicated handheld console is both naive and ridiculous. 

    There is always going to be a necessity for both platforms. But one will never overtake the other as they are simply too different.

  6. Epic have lost whatever made them great when they made Gears of War. Since then, their entire gaming catalogue has been rubbish. This is with the exception of Bulletstorm, which was developed by a subsidiary anyway.

  7. I disagree. People don’t buy smartphones just for it to be a phone, if they did you’d get a phone with less features. They buy it for the whole ecology of applications, some of which are games. There will be handheld consoles purely because Nintendo and Sony won’t release their games for smartphones, because they want a foothold in the market. If they found to make a loss (which I found) then they may jump ship? I don’t think smartphones will “destroy” handheld gaming, as long as the devices make innovative hardware and software developments, they’ll just have to work harder. Which is fine by me, I’ll pay for quality games and consoles. But I don’t think the “causal/hardcore” divide is really the core issue here, because a game like this, may actually bring “hardcore” gamers to use their smartphone for gaming. Gameloft have the best strategy though, in cornering “downloadable” titles rather than purely smartphones. But I don’t think downloadable should be synonymous with casual :S But still, I think you and Spud are right that smartphones won’t kill the market for handhelds, I actually think it’ll improve it through competition.

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