Indie titles could be changing how major games are made

Player Unknown's Battlegrounds Logo

Gaming boss Tim Sweeney says indie titles could be changing how major releases are made in the future.

He's behind Epic Games, which makes the Unreal Engine, a tool that creators use to build their own products.

"We're seeing games with budgets of hundreds of millions lose money or not make serious money at all," says Tim.

"There's much more potential in creating new types of games rather than building a gigantic team to extend existing known genres."

Gameplay of Rocket League
Image caption Rocket League came out in 2015 and sees players control cars playing football on a giant pitch

"The experiments of independent games are the most exciting thing happening in the industry right now," he tells us at Gamescom - the world's biggest gaming convention.

"At one end of the industry you have these very large teams of hundreds of people making huge scale games that are fairly predictable in their form and their content.

"But smaller developers, where anywhere between one and 10 people are getting together to build wildly creative games, are having huge success."

Games like Rocket League, Goat Simulator and Player Unknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG) have been made by smaller scale teams compared to the number of people working on major franchises like Assassin's Creed or Call of Duty.

They're also being played by millions of people across the world and are proving to be very popular with gaming live streamers on websites like Twitch and YouTube.

Tim Sweeney founder of Unreal Engine
Image caption Tim Sweeney is the founder and CEO of Epic Games

PUBG started life as a modification of another shooting title.

In it, 100 players are dropped on to an island with the aim of being the last one standing. Players have to scavenge for weapons and armour to survive.

It's now the number one game on PC gaming platform Steam and has more than 800,000 active players at any one time.

Microsoft announced at E3 that the game would be coming to the Xbox One and they've recently signed a publishing deal for the title.

"It's important the industry continues to reinvent itself," Tim tells Newsbeat.

"If you trace the history of any one video game that's gone through many, many sequels and refinements, over time more and more people lose interest.

Player Unknown's Battlegrounds gameplay
Image caption More than 800,000 players can be active on Player Unknown's Battlegrounds at any one time on the PC gaming platform Steam

"They get more complex with each release but have a smaller and smaller audience each time and eventually you need to restart and rethink everything from scratch."

The success of games like PUBG makes Tim think that the model, where big companies spend millions and employ hundreds of people to work on developing new versions of existing titles, could be about to change.

"I think we're constantly seeing this point illustrated," he says.

"There's so much more potential in creating new types of games rather than building a gigantic team to extend existing known genres.

"We're seeing games with budgets of hundreds of millions lose money or not make serious money at all. These smaller projects have much more potential."

However, this change may take some time. Big franchises like Call of Duty and Assassin's Creed consistently top the UK's best selling games chart.

Player Unknown's Battlegrounds gameplay
Image caption The game began life as a modification of the shooting game Arma 2

Last year, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare sold nearly two million copies in its first week despite sales being 50% lower than the previous version.

At the time of writing the latest game in the Uncharted franchise was number one in the UK's gaming chart.

Tim explains: "The experience with these smaller scale games is that all you need is a title with an enormous amount of fun and good gameplay and people will adopt it.

"The magic of PUBG is that there are probably 10 different twists on the shooter genre that could be equally as popular.

"But no-one is experimenting with them yet because all these teams are spending vast amounts of resources on the next slightly improved version of their franchise instead of rethinking the whole thing.

"It's also a risk to the industry because some of the best developers are tied up in these 1,000-person teams building the same game they made last year, only with minor improvements."

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