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.