Epic Games Goes to China

By Chris Remo, Sep 25, 2006 12:24pm PDT Gamasutra is reporting on news from the Tokyo Game Show's CEDEC Premium conference that developer Epic Games is opening up a Shanghai-based outsourcing studio, apparently headed up by former Ubisoft Shanghai head Paul Meegan. Though several major publishers have recently opened up development branches in China, Ubisoft was one of the early leaders in the region among Western companies; Ubisoft's Shanghai operation is responsible for various titles in the Tom Clancy's franchise, among others. Epic's new studio looks to be more focused on asset creation and middleware maintenance than full game development, potentially extending the reach of the already popular Unreal Engine 3 even further.
Epic VP [Jay Wilbur] indicated that the average game project budgets for the PlayStation 2/Xbox game generation was $2 to 6 million, whereas the average budget for next-gen gaming can be $8 to 20 million. Noting that the average team size for the PS3/Xbox 360 generation is 60 to 80 people, he claimed that a combination of outsourcing and engine licensing enabled companies such as Epic to run at a much lower full-time employee base and cost.

Interestingly, one motivation behind the studio's formation is to entice Japanese developers into considering using more middleware--Epic's, in particular--to keep costs down as average development budgets continue to rise. Traditionally, Japanese developers avoid reusing the same engine, even internally from game to game, preferring to take the more costly route of developing new tech specifically created for each game and platform. This strategy is becoming less feasible, however. Capcom recently spoke on its new internal Framework engine, which is being used across the company's various next-gen projects. The company has no intention of licensing the engine out to third parties, which leaves the door open for middleware providers such as Epic to step in and do so.

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