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Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 July 2006, 15:29 GMT 16:29 UK
Game industry faces serial killer
By Darren Waters
Technology editor, BBC News website

Gears of War
Gears of War for the Xbox 360 is a highly-anticipated game
Video games should not try to copy the TV industry by releasing episodic content, a senior game industry figure has said.

Mark Rein, vice president of Epic, makers of Unreal Tournament, said the cost and time needed to produce blockbuster experiences ruled out successful episodic content.

He was speaking to a conference of game developers in Brighton, in the UK.

"It's not feasible to bring a level out every other week," he said.

Franchise fatigue

The games industry is looking at new ways to deliver content to gamers and episodic content is seen by some as a way of meeting demand and distributing to consumers in new ways.

"One of the problems is that you are getting a piece of a game," Mr Rein told the conference.

"You are typically paying $20 for a third of a game and waiting at least six months between episodes. That's a long time.

"When you are watching a TV show it's not that big a deal to wait a week between episodes because you are not paying for it - it's advertising supported."

But he said gamers were more fickle and that competition from new, full cost, heavily marketed titles would result in diminishing returns for episodic content.

He said: "I always feel that when I put a game down for a certain time I want to try a new game.

"Franchise fatigue will set in to these episodic games if they don't shorten the time between episodes."

Another potential problem, he said, was that getting episodes to gamers more quickly would result in recycling.

"You are going to see a lot of recycled content, walking through the same environment you saw in a previous episode, shooting the same enemies with the same weapons."

Xbox 360
Microsoft is investing heavily in the Xbox 360
The developer of PC title Half-Life 2 has just released a spin-off episode for the game and a second is due soon.

Mr Rein warned that Half-Life 2 was unique because the game had a large following.

Mr Rein said the current "blockbuster" model used by the video game industry was less risky and potentially more lucrative.

"Gamers want rich experiences. We are cool already so why must the game business continually feel the need to emulate other mediums."

Epic's latest project Gears of Wars on Xbox 360 is being pushed strongly by Microsoft and is a key title for the console this year.

Mr Rein said each level of the game "probably involved a couple of man years of work".

He said: "A new, boxed game has entirely new characters, content, storylines and an experience you have not had before. Developers have spent years making it."

The games developer said the current model of releasing episodic content in the form of fully-fledged sequels was the least risky model for the industry.

Chip chop

Gears of War
The game is a violent third-person shooter
He also attacked giant chip firm Intel for damaging the PC games industry.

He said Intel's decision to produce integrated graphics chips for use inside millions of PCs meant many gamers were being sold machines incapable of playing the latest games.

"If Intel exited the gaming market we would all be better off."

He said that PC gaming was in danger of being killed off altogether, leaving the industry "at the whim of Sony and Microsoft".

Many PC manufacturers use Intel integrated graphics chips instead of providing dedicated graphics hardware.

The low-cost chips are incapable of dealing with the graphics and computational power required for modern games.




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