This is a pretty huge deal.
To summarize – Epic are going to broadcast development of Unreal Tournament 4 from day 1, they plan to work in close collaboration with fans to build the game, which will itself be completely free, and Epic plan to make money by opening a mod marketplace and taking a cut of mod sales.
Hell’s bells. This is surely a sign of the brave new world we’re living in, of early access and the trend toward open development. Kudos to Epic for taking this brave step. Sure, when you’re earning licensing income from probably the most popular engine in the market, there is a nice financial cushion to fall back on, you’re not risking the farm. But still, it’s bold, it’s innovative, it’s experimental. I like it. Kudos to you, Epic.
The open community development is interesting, but so is the monetization model. We’re all well-aware that the various types of Free To Play models are big in the mobile space. But to have one of the AAA studios embrace that model in the development of a flagship product is quite the statement. Clearly, the industry is moving, and this is probably just the beginning.
And before someone says anything, this is F2P. I know, there aren’t any microtransactions. But F2P just means using the base game as a platform to sell other products to players of the game, in some manner. The game isn’t the thing you’re selling, it’s a platform that creates the desire for the things you’re actually selling.
All that said, this is, in my mind, probably the least exploitative type of F2P imaginable. In fact, like Unity’s Asset Store, it’s a great example of a mutually beneficial relationship. The ability to sell their product encourages modders, they benefit financially for their creative work. And the developers benefit, not just from the cut of sales they earn, but from the fact that these mods increase the value of the game platform for other players. Modders benefit from making mods, the developers benefit from giving modders a platform to make their mods. Win-win.
I wouldn’t be surprised if this turned out to be an incredibly successful experiment for them. And if we didn’t see many other developers follow suite in the coming years. The Elder Scrolls, for example, is ripe for this. Forget the MMO, build this, Bethesda!
Anyway, I’ll be watching this play out with interest. It certainly is a brave, exciting new world out there! Gaming is such an exciting space to be in!