Epic’s Tim Sweeney reveals a more connected, ‘Fortnite’ driven world unified by gaming

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May 13, 2020


A glimpse into the era of the pandemic of games for next generation home console has been sporadic and short so far, but “Fortnite” creator Epic Games has offered a glimpse of what a game running on Sony’s PlayStation 5 might look like. Unveiling an update to the public for its Unreal Engine game creation sequel on Wednesday, the North Carolina-based company lifted the curtain on the games’ potential future, presenting a tech demo of a fictional “Tomb Raider” game.

Epic’s main promise is that its Unreal Engine 5, slated for early 2021, will essentially render cinematic-quality, CGI-like effects in real time, with realistic lighting that was previously more geared towards hardware. Even in today’s generation of high-tech games, there is a difference between strictly narrative scenes and gameplay moments. But ultimately, Epic promises, those barriers will be blurred to the point of disappearing.

It’s one of the many media walls that Epic wants to tear down. After all, the goals of the company go far beyond pretty games. Epic also announced on Wednesday that it will be making its toolset online for cross-platform play – the backend technology that allows ‘Fortnite’ players from various gaming platforms to compete against each other – available for free for all developers. It should be noted that Epic’s mission of making it easy to connect online is closely tied to its drive to advance 3D authoring tools.

TV and movie productions increasingly use game engines – “The Mandalorian” on Disney + relies heavily on Epic’s Unreal as competing game engine Unity has been instrumental in last year’s production of “The Lion King” – and game engines are prevalent in the automotive industry, from concept design to showroom experiences for consumers. Epic’s Unreal can also be found at Disneyland and Walt Disney World; its technology powers the Millennium Falcon tower flight simulator: Smugglers Run.

And amidst the coronavirus-era household controls, the power of virtual worlds to connect becomes readily apparent to a non-gaming audience, from the discovery of creatives. new ways to use “Animal Crossing” to musicians like Travis Scott organizing virtual events in “Fortnite”. In fact, “Fortnite” has become something of a testing ground, where limited-time digital events that feature Disney universes such as Marvel and “Star Wars” can coexist in a gaming landscape with those promoting. everything from Batman to the NFL.

Epic’s Unreal Engine 5, slated for 2021, promises more realistic lighting effects.

(Epic Games)

Even the political world has noticed it. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) Became an “Animal Crossing” convert, and this week a quote from Lis Smith, a top advisor to former presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, went viral when she said Joe Biden’s presidential campaign could learn from Scott’s takeover of “Fortnite”. While many will be in awe of Epic’s take on the power of Unreal 5, in which we see a heroine traverse photo-like mountainous environments, the worlds Epic hopes to build are those that unite the virtual. with ours.

“If you look past the huge improvements in pixel quality and lighting that you see just superficially here, I think we’re at the very beginning of a collision that’s going to happen between all the different parts of the world. Says Tim Sweeney, CEO of Epic. by touting the benefits of software that builds 3D universes in real time.

“Ford has nothing to do with ‘The Mandalorian,’ which has nothing to do with ‘Fortnite,’ but as ‘Fortnite’ has demonstrated, there are huge opportunities to bring real-world brands into the world. Real-time 3D in an impressive and engaging way for consumers. You’ve seen Marvel content in “Fortnite”. You have seen concerts in “Fortnite”. You have seen Star Wars characters in “Fortnite”.

“What is it really,” Sweeney continued, during a Zoom Tuesday call that also included the Washington Post, “Are all these different brands starting to reach consumers without running ads.” It is very intensive to serve ads on Facebook or Google, but what they do is bring that content directly to consumers in a fun and engaging game through “ Fortnite ”, and it does. is just the tip of the iceberg. . ”

As part of the pursuit of its goals, Epic hopes to make its software more attractive to developers. The company is restructuring the way it collects royalty payments for those who use Unreal and Epic Online Services, which will currently connect gamers on Windows, Mac, Linux, PlayStation, Xbox, and Nintendo Switch – mobile to come – is free. The company, in announcing the initiatives, wrote in a new FAQ on its site, which was presented to the media, that it “currently operates at enormous economies of scale.”

“Fortnite”, for example, has over 350 million registered users and reportedly grossed $ 1.8 billion in 2019. So the company says its current goal is “wider adoption of all of Epic’s offerings. “.

“Just like every business created a webpage a few decades ago, and then at some point every business created a Facebook page, I think we’re approaching the point where every business will have a real-time 3D presence, thanks to partnerships with gaming companies or through games like “Fortnite,” “Minecraft” and “Roblox,” ”says Sweeney. “It’s starting to happen now. It will be a much bigger thing than these previous gen changes. Not only will this be a boon for game developers, but it will be the start of breaking down barriers not only between platforms, but between games. “

Sweeney envisions a future where players can not only play together regardless of platform, but also move more easily between types of games, services, and entertainment. Competing and closed platforms have long been seen as a barrier to game adoption.

Consoles and gaming hardware are expensive, and gamers who commit to a single product can’t always afford to experiment with working on a competing system. While today’s gaming platforms aren’t exactly unified as Sweeney predicts – “We don’t know exactly how it’s going to play out, but we’re seeing more and more of it happening every day,” he said – Epic Online Services is being touted as a step in such a direction.

Epic promises photo-real environments in Unreal Engine 5.

Epic promises photo-real environments in Unreal Engine 5.

(Epic Games)

“There was a lot of concern,” Sweeney says, referring to “Fortnite” willingness to connect players across competing systems. “The old view from the past was that keeping a platform closed to its competition would give it an edge, but what we saw with ‘Fortnite’ was when we opened up Xbox players, PlayStation and Switch can play together. all platforms, usage increased on all platforms.

“I think everyone realizes that there is a much greater opportunity to connect people than to separate them,” adds Sweeney. “For console manufacturers, at the best of times, they have 100 million unique players in their ecosystem. But it’s really small compared to the billions of people around the world who own smartphones. Everyone with high-end gaming rigs, including console and PC, should be looking at how to connect all players together in order to create an awesome leveling path so that people who play on the screens of smartphones today can buy a PlayStation or a Switch … the engine of growth.

Epic has radically changed its royalty structure to make Unreal more appealing to small independent developers.

In the past, developers owed Epic 5% royalties when a game’s gross revenue exceeded $ 3,000 per quarter. As of Wednesday, Epic increased its royalty exemption rate to $ 1 million. So if a developer’s revenue on a single game, in an example provided by Epic, is $ 1.2 million, they will owe 5% of the $ 200,000.

Sweeney said the gaming industry has long been full of “regressive taxes.”

“A lot of systems in the video game industry are designed to strengthen the success of existing businesses and create more and more barriers for new businesses to enter,” he says. “We want to help be the reverse factor and open it up.”


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