It's no secret that making games for mobile devices is becoming a serious business. I was still surprised to see the latest illustration of the phenomenon, though. According to GamaSutra, Epic Games founder and tech guru Tim Sweeney revealed at the Game Developers Conference in Taipei that Epic makes more money per man hour on Infinity Blade, the iOS swordfighting game series, than on the Gears of War franchise.
"The most profitable game we've ever made, in terms of man years invested versus revenue, is actually Infinity Blade," Sweeney said. "It's more profitable than Gears of War." That's pretty impressive when you consider that Infinity Blade II sells for $6.99 in the iOS App Store, and its prequel is available for only $0.99. Gears of War titles, meanwhile, tend to retail for 60 bucks or so.
Sweeney also said Epic has been "very very surprised to see how fast smartphone and tablet devices are improving." For instance, he noted that the iPad 3 is close to the level of performance of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. That raises a lot of new possibilities, including the notion that Epic doesn't have to target one platform at the expense of another:
Thus, with UE4, the company hopes to "Increase the level of visual quality, but also increase the performance and efficiency. ... The tools investment is paying off. Artists are able to build content more productively than before. And with the Unreal Engine as a whole, we found it's much easier to scale down from high end to low end devices than in this generation," he said. "We expect to be able to build games that can scale from a smartphone to a high end PC. ... We expect an unprecedented amount of content portability for the future."
That's an exciting prospect for sure. Making the same game truly compelling across multiple platforms might be a challenge, though. The content and technology might be completely portable, but console and PC controllers can do things phone and tablet touchpads cannot—and vice versa. Also, a smartphone probably isn't the best platform for a dramatic, cinematic type of experience like Gears of War.