Infinity Blade was more profitable for Epic Games than Gears of War

In a recent interview Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney talked a lot about the freemium model, convergence, and in particular how successful they've been in mobile.

We've been very happy with the game industry's growth. For a while we were worried that the divide between the console growth in the west and the growth of PCs would increase. The most profitable game we've ever made, in terms of man years invested versus revenue, is actually Infinity Blade. It's more profitable than Gears of War. ... We expect DirectX technology to be widely available on these mobile devices in the next few years. ... These platforms are rapidly converging, with a set of common capabilities. The lowest end device [the iPad 2] is still a DirectX 9 device!

If you're not familiar, Gears of War is a massively popular shooting game franchise on console which originally launched in 2006 and spawned multiple sequels. The latest title sold 3 million copies in its opening week, beating out the previous two games. As of September 2011, the whole series has grossed over $1 billion.

iOS has been eating the lunch of traditional portable gaming consoles for some time now, but the new iPad has started steering towards competing with consoles, primarily by way of comparison of the Retina display's resolution with standard HD TVs. Even though the processing power and storage space of the iPad and iPhone currently limits what can be done in iOS games, those are limits that even AAA developers like Epic are willing to work around if they can enjoy higher profits than their console titles. Of course Infinity Blade is the exception rather than the rule, but it proves mobile can be at least as profitable for game developers as other platforms.

Sweeney's interview revolved a lot around the Unreal Engine which they created and has a prominent position in the mobile sphere, and provides a clear transition path for developers moving from PC and consoles. Sweeney was largely supportive of the freemium model,  and expects that all games will at some point in the future be distributed globally and digitally.

If Epic can make more money on Infinity Blade than Gears of War, is this a signal that other big-name developers should switch gears to mobile? If so, does iPhone and iPad stand any chance  of becoming a more popular gaming platform than PCs or consoles, regardless of technical limitations?

Source: Gamasutra

Simon Sage

Editor-at-very-large at Mobile Nations, gamer, giant.

  • I can see that statement being accurate. It really doesn't look like they spent much on making that game...
  • Wow! That's freaking ridiculous :-)
  • Its way easier to sell a game that costs like $5 over a game that costs $60, I'm really not surprised that this game is ultra profitable. Also keep in mind with used game sales making an even bigger dent in their profits this isn't shocking at all.
    I don't think mobile gaming and console gaming have to be a one or the other sort of decision for game companies though. In the end they want to make games available to all users.
  • I really believe that tablet games are the future. Right now the only downside is that the graphics aren't as good. In time, however, I think they will catch up. In the meantime cloud gaming apps (like OnLive for Android) can fill in the gap. :)
  • Ummm...the only downside? What about control? sucks balls on mobile devices. When a bluetooth controller is released, then we can start doing comparisons.
  • agreed. i tried to play infinity blade and gta but controls suck. i mean the difference between gta on a console and on a phone is just not even close control wise let alone visually.
  • Graphics aren't that good? Are you alright. The new iPad has a really high definition retina display. That's higher than most hdtv's. So that part your wrong. Apple already got it covered.
  • yes but the iPad can not handle the graphics as well as a dedicated console, it is not just the screen but the rendering also to consider....
  • Earless. You are nitpicking there. Infinity Blade looks nearly as good as or better than any 360 or PS3 game.
  • Microsoft must have taken a huge cut on the Gears revenue for Epic to make more on Infinity Blade.
    But I can see how that would be right. Crazy to think about though.
  • Infinity Blade's good and the growth of mobile gaming encouraging but Tim Sweeney said "The most profitable game we've ever made, in terms of man years invested versus revenue, is actually Infinity Blade."
    It is in terms of man years invested. He is only saying that if you see the total time devoted to the development of each game then Infinity Blade was more profitable for each day spent on development, not in absolute terms.
    If game A took a year to make and brought in profits of $1 Billion it is far more profitable (in these terms) than game B that brought in $3 Billion but took four years to make.
  • Yes, especially considering if he is talking about the series as a whole which I assume. Gears of War was 3 (soon to be 4) games over 6+ years. There have been two Infinity Blade games in the last 2 years. I think it was only two at least.
  • Yeah I don't think people are getting the distinction that he way Gears of War actual profit is less than actual profit from Infinity Blade
  • Questions of content and game size aside, Sweeny's comparison falls flat because Gears of War and Unreal Engine 3 were built as part of the same effort with intermingled costs, whereas the iOS port built on top of those 4 years, and would by itself track against only those porting costs, which, while I am sure were non-trivial, could not have compared in effort or cost to the building of the engine from the ground up. As the article says:
    For Unreal Engine 3, the company spent 4 years building Gears of War and the technology at same time, and put major effort into early adoption of new platform features
    Epic should be applauded for their efforts in making a portable game engine, but the question you ask those other developers cannot really be answered as long as the mobile development gets a free ride on the shoulders of the console work.
  • i don't remotely think tablet or phone gaming is remotely a subsititute for console gaming. One, the need not be mutually exclusive. I have games in both places. But also a console like an xbox also provides many things now through apps that people like to do on a tv like Netflix, espn, etc. Sure you can do that on a tablet as well but there's a drastic difference between watching the Superbowl on a tablet or a movie on plane on a tablet and watching the superbowl in 1080 HD on a 60 in flatscreen. Good luck with movie night watching a small screen surrounded by a bunch of people. Superbowl party would suck crowded around an ipad. But another thing is the motion games you get with new attachments. And a massive thing is xbox live and the social network gaming aspect. I'm talking live gaming in shooters and madden and stuff not just playing words with friends. And there there is the strength of exclusive titles. Stuff like COD that is massive or Halo or even Mario sorts of games. And for the most part people prefer to play those on consoles right now. Now i wouldn't put it past Apple to release a console. But it won't be either or anytime soon. I think that argument is one made by people largely outside of the gaming industry or people with a rooting bias.
  • He didn't say Infinity Blade brought in more profit than Gears of War, he said 'in terms of man years versus revenue'...that doesn't mean that the REAL profit from IB was greater than the real profit from GoW.