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Epic plans to influence next-gen consoles

Capps asks for more power, open content delivery.

Unreal Engine powerhouse Epic Games plans to actively influence how Microsoft and Sony build their new home console systems, according to company president Mike Capps.

Speaking in an interview with Develop, Capps explained that Epic intends to engage with platform holders as production on new systems ramps up.

"That's absolutely our plan. I can't say much more than that," he said, before cryptically adding, "Okay, let's say, a year ago that was our plan, and I can't tell you whether we've done it or not yet."

Capps went on to explain that the Samaritan demo shown off at GDC last year was the first part of that plan.

"Our Samaritan concept, if you look at PC hardware in two or four years' time, is something that the next consoles can achieve. It was just that no one knew what a next-generation game would look like - so that was our idea, to show people what we can achieve.

"I mean, The Samaritan is a real-time demo that looks like an animated movie from about five years ago - the tech is getting that sophisticated. So our goal was to show off some of the technologies we would like to see on the next-gen platforms, and also to have The Samaritan as the benchmark.

"We believe what we've demonstrated is achievable at a reasonable development cost, so it's what gamers should be demanding for next generation."

Elsewhere in the interview, Capps detailed exactly what he wants to see from next-gen consoles. First up: more power.

"I think it's very important that a gamer sees an Xbox Next or PlayStation Next and can clearly see the tech is not possible on current consoles. Otherwise they won't be a success. And that's a very tall order.

"I mean, PS3 is still very bad-ass - Heavy Rain looks great. To blow that away we need the hardware to do it."

His other key demand was that platform holders grant publishers and developers a more open content delivery system.

"I think another thing that's changed is the way people are willing to spend their money. Consoles need to adapt to this," he explained.

"Game revenue has moved to the service model and the microtransactions model. Consoles need to start being comfortable with that. They need to be able to do something where small virtual items can be sold and bought for 20¢ without a long certification process and a price approval process.

"Right now we're not even allowed to change the prices of virtual content. We're not even allowed to set the prices. I just don't think this protectionist approach is going to be successful in a world where the price of virtual items changes on a day-today basis."

Capps argued that allowing developers to set game prices - as is the case in the digital PC market - is vital in maintaining a healthy market for console games.

"Double-A games will never come back unless we get rid of this notion of a game being $60 or not released. The console manufacturers need to let this happen.

"The best way of driving developers to PC is telling them they have no freedom in what prices they can set for virtual items. It would be great to have the level of freedom that, say, Steam gives you."

If Epic's input is taken on-board by console manufacturers it wouldn't be for the first time. The company reportedly convinced Microsoft to double the amount of RAM on the Xbox 360 from 256MB to 512MB, arguing that the original Gears of War needed the extra power to run in HD.