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Infinity Blade is Epic's most profitable franchise ever

"In terms of man years invested versus revenue."

UPDATE: Epic executive Mark Rein has tweeted to clarify that Infinity Blade is Epic's most profitable game "in terms of man years invested versus revenue only, not total profit".

ORIGINAL STORY: Infinity Blade is Epic's most profitable game franchise ever.

That's "in terms of man years invested versus revenue," Epic CEO Tim Sweeney told an audience at GDC Taipei (reported by Gamasutra).

"It's more profitable than Gears of War."

iOS series Infinity Blade, developed by Chair Entertainment, earned over $30 million in the year after the launch of the first game. Infinity Blade 2, which launched in December 2011, had seen net earnings in excess of $5 million after just one month on sale. As of 5th January 2012, the first game had grossed more than $23 million.

The revelation came as part of a talk on the rise of free-to-play, which, over recent months, has convinced some that consoles will go the way of the dodo. But for Sweeney, free-to-play is an addition that will fuel the growth of the video game industry.

"Nowadays the high end of the game business is in these console game," he said. "Activision invests almost $100 million per year in Call of Duty. And who can realistically afford to do that?"

At E3 Crysis maker Crytek was keen to push the notion of free-to-play being the future. Indeed, Crytek boss Cevat Yerli suggested the future of console gaming is free-to-play.

So far, publishers have been unable to make free-to-play work in a meaningful way on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 - although CCP Games' FPS Dust 514 is blazing a trail in this regard.

But what of the next generation of consoles? Sweeney said that "it is a very realistic possibility" that publishers will be able to ship a freemium game on PC and on console at the same time in the future.

Echoing comments made by id Software's John Carmack, Sweeney pointed to the ever-growing power of tablets and smartphones as evidence that platforms are converging.

"We expect DirectX technology to be widely available on these mobile devices in the next few years," he said. "We're also seeing an interesting thing happen in terms of the overall development pattern globally.

"These platforms are rapidly converging, with a set of common capabilities. The lowest end device [the iPad 2] is still a DirectX 9 device!"