Epic Games’ chief technology officer Tim Sweeney has gone on record as saying that his company, which produces the popular Unreal Engine, is anticipating that game development costs for the next generation of consoles will double from its current level.
Sweeney made the comments during a keynote address at the Montreal International Game Summit today, where he revealed that Epic originally thought that next-gen development could cost as much as “three or four or even five” times the current level. That insanely high estimate was arrived at by taking the cost Epic incurred producing the 2011 Samaritan tech demo and extrapolating it out to a full game.
Epic felt that the cost estimated was “not acceptable”, so they went to work finding ways to offset it with “improved production efficiency”. Sweeney now feels that game development for the next generation of consoles will run “only about double” the amount that games cost at the start of the current generation.
While I applaud the effort that Epic undertook to bring estimated next-gen costs down, this whole situation raises a very serious question. Has Tim Sweeney, and the whole of Epic Games, gone completely mad?
If there is one thing that the current generation of consoles will go down in the history books for — Aside from releasing broken games that require a day one patch to run properly — it will be the number of studios that went out of business when their game sales did not keep pace with rising development costs.
Sweeney and company can slap each other on the back all they want for bringing the estimated development costs for the next generation of consoles down to “only about double”, but it does not change the fact that this trend is unsustainable for the market. If this estimate holds true there will be even more studio closures and higher price tags for consumers when the Xbox 720 and PlayStation 4 roll out.
With the direction that the world economy seems to be headed I suspect that Epic Games will one day regret pushing video game development costs this hard, this fast.