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GameHorizon 2011: The return per man-month from Infinity Blade is the same as Gears of War reveals Epic's Mark Rein

GameHorizon 2011: The return per man-month from Infinity Blade is the same as Gears of War reveals Epic's Mark Rein
Taking a more conversation approach to the GameHorizon's conference, Epic's Mark Rein and Mills, of UK studio ustwo, had a fireside chat about Epic's view on mobile gaming.

"Mobile is an important sector. Everything is going to go mobile at some point," Rein said, when asked why the developer of such profitable titles as Gears of War would be interested in mobile.

Show us the numbers

Revealing some current numbers about its iOS debut Infinity Blade, Rein said that to-date, Epic has generated $11.2 million net from the $5.99 release.

In terms of total budget, it's cost around $2 million, of which $400,000 has been spent post-launch supporting the game.

As a result, on the basis of return per man-month invested, Infinity Blade - developed by the 12-man team at Chair Entertainment, is comparable with Gears of War.

Still, the biggest surprise has been how much money has been generated from the game's in-app purchases.

"Since we launched IAP in Infinity Blade, it accounts for about 45 percent of our revenue," Rein said. "We make more money on the $20 IAP gold pack than from the $1 gold pack."

Yet, despite the growth of the freemium market, Rein doesn't see it as an option for games such as Infinity Blade.

"For us to make as much money from freemium IAP as we do from premium and IAP, we'd have to do 30 times the number of downloads," Rein said.

Epic fail

Another key mobile topic on which Rein has strong views is Android.

"Android has a lot of challenges to be overcome. One is you can only download 50 MB from the Android Market," Rein pointed out.

Infinity Blade is a 585.1 MB download, meaning the remaining 535.1 MB would have to downloaded from Epic's servers; too expensive for the company.

Rein also had an example of fragmentation.

"We use Samsung Galaxy S as a reference Android device but when we released Epic Citadel, on one of the four US carriers, its device contained so much shovelware, it couldn't run the demo," Rein said.

Yet, his conclusion is that the number of devices out there means these challenges will be overcome.

"We will release on Android at some point," he said.

Raising the price

The final point raised was the debate about whether tablet games could eventually be priced at $20-40.

"I don't think there's yet the power on these devices, or enough of an install base, that users would see the advantage in us spending $8 million making a game that would sell for $20," Rein said.

The converse however is the current 99c mindset; something Epic is pushing hard against.

"People are happy to pay $10 for movies or $13 for music on their tablets so I can't see that they wouldn't pay more than 99c for games," Rein said. "I don't like people calling us worthless."

Still, to get to a $20+ price point, he thought a game's quality and length of average game session would have to be closer to console triple-A.

"At the moment, for Infinity Blade you only play for five minutes at a time, but I think we'll be able to sell you an L.A. Noire-type experience you will play for hours on a tablet."

A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon can turn his hand to anything except hand turning. He is editor-at-large at PG.biz which means he can arrive anywhere in the world, acting like a slightly confused uncle looking for the way out. He likes letters, cameras, imaginary numbers and legumes.

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