No one talking about Epic Games publishing deal?

I’m surprised no one at Waypoints has anything to say about the recent deal Epic just announced. This past week, Epic Games announced they’ll be the publisher behind some of the games industry’s most prolific developers, genDESIGN (Ueda and many former Team ICO, The Last Guardian), Playdead (Inside), and Remedy (Control). Below is the announcement video in case anyone missed it.

It just struck me as odd that this doesn’t seem to be getting much press at all, and none at all here. Firstly there’s the matter of Epic Games not only trying to secure there space as a PC games publisher, but it seems they’re looking to be a publisher of games in general akin to EA, Activision, Ubi, etc. Are we witnessing the beginning of a new powerhouse publisher of AAA games? Epic’s terms seem really appealing, and IP ownership for devs seems to be increasingly important. Then there’s the matter of Epic’s reputation, just look at the Like/Dislike ratio of the video above. Finally and personally, it’s exciting to know that some incredible game designers are getting funding and freedom! GenDESIGN in particular is my favorite, their games have a distinct artistic vision that would surely be a tough sell for most traditional AAA publishers. In fact, I don’t think any of these devs are known for raking in the doe, so this move on Epic’s part really strikes me as a good faith power play. While that’s just speculation I’m really curious how these deals took place and what they could mean for these devs, Epic as a publisher, and potentially AAA publishing in general as we move forward.

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We’ll see, right?

Fortnite has an extraordinary amount of staying power, but will Epic be able to maintain their current arrangements if they aren’t making buckets of money? If Tim Sweeney retires, does he take his majority stake in Epic with him, or does Tencent offer to buy him out? Will Epic ever stop driving their Fortnite team to ruin in pursuit of the aforementioned money? Will that make any sort of dent financially? It all looks pretty good right now, but I think the real test will be what happens when their first game drops.

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Good point, Epic may be on top of the world atm, but will they continue to be this generous in the future? Probably not. I always think back to Sony and their waves of good will. After the PS3 tanked hard, they really put forth an effort to turn around their image, to appear gamer-freindly and support more interesting titles. This mentality was there at the beginning to the PS4, but once they regained leadership they returned to being a distant king. Again, I mostly read this as a good faith power play on Epic’s part to bolster their reputation. While I’m against some of their business tactics and disgusted by their willingness to crush devs for Fortnite profits, I do hope these more developer-friendly deal terms start becoming more commonplace. We’ll see indeed.

I don’t have anything more against Epic than I do EA, etc. which is to say Fuck Capitalism.

Fuck Capitalism

Fuck crunch, but every major publisher does it. Fuck big corporations and the hoarding of wealth, but Microsoft lining the pockets of its board that - until this month - included the richest man in the world. And yeah, fuck government ties with these companies, but it’s blatant Sinophobia (and we really don’t need any more of that right now) to fearmonger about Tencent and China while Zenimax has the literal brother of the US President on the board of directors.

Fuck the fact that health care, rent, and food are so expensive that successful games aren’t enough to keep studios indie; fuck the fact that people’s lives depend on an enormous amount of upfront capital instead of a community built to support each other; fuck the fact that these talented people’s survival depends on the ill-gotten gains of Fortnite and the introduction of addictive spending habits to literal children.

But I’ll be happy to see Ueda’s next game regardless of which launcher I need to run it. Hope none of these studios get fucked if Epic starts to lose revenue.

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That’s always been the deeply weird thing about Epic. Tim Sweeney talks a good game about open platforms and giving developers a better deal as a means of competing better in the marketplace and stuff like a “good” billionaire, but he’s building that edifice on top of the chewed-up developers in perpetual crunch feeding the soul-eating content monolith that is Fortnite.

To your broader question about the potential apotheosis of Epic into one of the “Big Publishers,” it’s…possible? Maybe? But Epic would have to start buying (or de facto buying with better publishing deals) studios in order to make that happen (and maybe spin up a team or two of their own). They divested from People Can Fly, but they did buy Psyonix. So, again: maybe.

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I completely agree. Capitalism can 1. find the nearest black hole 2. do us all a favor and never return

100% to everything you said above!

And I’m extremely excited to learn more about Ueda and team’s next game!!! It’s probably too obvious from my profile picture…

I am curious though if these projects work out with Epic publishing though, I can’t remember if they have that much publishing experience?

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Epic doesn’t have any previous publishing experience (as far as their Wikipedia page has listed - I don’t know how mobile games get published and Shadow Complex was approximately 80,000 years ago at this point), but they have money to throw at experienced people.

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Yeah, I don’t have any genuine faith in Epic being a wholesome company. I don’t think one exists to my knowledge, or at least not on that scale.

That said, I keep second-guessing myself when it comes to Epic. I know in many online gaming communities it’s popular to hate Epic, so I try to check myself and make sure I’m not simply scoffing at them because that’s what I’m “supposed” to do as a gamer.

And yeah, it will be interesting to see if they start making moves on devs beyond publishing their games. It really is too soon to tell, but this might be a stepping stone on their way to fully acquiring studios. I know AA and AAA game dev costs continue to skyrocket, it increasingly seems to be that for many devs of that size, acquisition is the only way to keep your head above water.

Yeah. I think a lot about Insomniac Games in that regard. For a long, long time Insomniac had always prided themselves as being the largest independent AAA game developer in the world, but Sony finally found the price tag ($229 million).

Long-winded tangent about Insomniac's acquisition

So, Respawn’s publishing deal with EA re: Titanfall was “You have control of the Titanfall IP, but if someone offers to buy you, we have the right of first refusal.” Respawn made a (I think successful?) Titanfall mobile game in partnership with Nexon, after which Nexon offered to buy them. They were contractually obligated to talk to EA about it first, at which point EA bought them and Vince Zampella became fabulously wealthy. Again.

The thing I’ve always wanted to talk to some Insomniacs about is whether or not that’s true of Insomniac and Sony. IG and Sony have had a very good working relationship since like, 1994, but Sony never actually bought Insomniac like they did with Naughty Dog. I’m thinking that they had the same “right of first refusal” clause in their ongoing work with Sony and that IG’s work on Oculus (seriously, there are at least a half-dozen Oculus games that are Oculus-published IG titles) drew an offer from Facebook, which triggered the Sony purchase.

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Yeah, I wish we knew about Insomniac. I’m inclined to think there wasn’t a right of refusal deal with them, as they seem to be more open than most devs. Why would we know about Respawn’s deal, but not Insomniac’s? But who knows with all these NDAs in the gaming industry.

I’ve just been observing the pattern though, and it seems the few AA and AAA studios that are still alive and somehow independent are probably going to be acquired in the near future. That said, I can’t think of that many besides Remedy and a few others. I just know the cost to make cutting-edge AAA games, especially grand single player narratives, is exponentially rising year over year. Dev times are increasing on top of that, so it just seems inevitable that these types of games are financially unsustainable without publisher ownership.

Sad times… thanks a lot capitalism and short-sighted executives.

Jason Schreier (I think) reported on the Respawn deal. Patrick is certainly in position to know how that acquisition happened, but if Patrick starts spilling the beans, it’s going to be immediately obvious that Bryan Intihar (creative director of Marvel’s Spider-Man, fellow 1UP Yours alum, and the Fragile Eagle) blabbed.

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Ah, I see! Thanks for the clarification, I thought Respawn was just open about it! I guess I shouldn’t be surprised though.