During an interview with Polygon for a cover story, Epic Games’ CEO Tim Sweeney said that his studio is transitioning away from single player focused experiences.
“The economics of those games forces developers to work with major publishers to succeed, and that seems to be irreversible,” he told Polygon. He highlighted the indie spirit that Epic draws its creative focus from, particularly the trend toward living multiplayer games. “We were seeing some of the best games in the industry being built and operated as live games over time rather than big retail releases.”
The change from the big, stand alone releases of Epic’s past — to games like Paragon, Fortnite and the new Unreal Tournament — began at the release of Gears of War: Judgment. Although Judgment had been set up as an experimental spin-off title, its budget was higher than its already expensive predecessors.
When fan response to Judgment wasn’t as glowing as the previous three games, Microsoft declined to let Epic fix the game for free through updates. The true fourth-numbered Gears of War game would have been so costly to develop (and risky, attempting to regain favor with the community) that it could have killed the company.
“We began the transition [to] being a multi-platform developer and self-publisher, and indie on a larger scale,” Sweeney said of their split from Xbox only games.
With download-only games gaining popularity and home consoles being built like PCs, it makes sense that Epic Games would turn to a new kind of publishing. However, the type of “live games” that Sweeney mentions are all multiplayer experiences, even though indie titles like Shovel Knight, Undertale, and Stardew Valley prove that single player games can still succeed.