Why did Epic make Infinity Blade for iOS?
By Kevin Douglas Femmel
(Jan. 6, 2011) — Epic announced that the Infinity Blade IP has netted more than $30 million since the first game came out in December 2010. The original game has earned $23 million, and the sequel has earned $5 million in one month at its $7 price tag. They should be praised for making such a successful game on the iOS platform. Could they have made even more money and a better game by releasing Infinity Blade on traditional handheld game consoles like the 3DS or PSP?
Let’s start by saying that one or two compromises aside, Infinity Blade would be nearly as good looking as it is on the PSP or the Nintendo 3DS. It would control even better with real buttons. One could argue the game would be lost at retail amongst all the stiff competition for shelf space, but there are millions of other apps and games to compete with on iOS so if Infinity Blade can overcome that we assume it could make a decent impact at retail.
Epic walked out on some big money by not making the game for traditional handheld consoles. While they could make Infinity Blade a downloadable game, it could earn them a heck of a lot of money at retail where they could charge more for the game. Epic might worry that a higher price would decrease the amount of people who buy the game versus the amount of people who buy it at its low iOS price.
Imagine Infinity Blade 2 released for $30 on Nintendo 3DS or PSP. If Infinity Blade 2 has grossed $5 million at its $7 price tag in about one month we can estimate that it may have been downloaded just over 700k times. Let’s say that the game sells 30% worse on traditional handheld game consoles at retail in comparison to how many times it is downloaded on iOS.
In this scenario a retail version of the game would sell 30% less than the iOS version netting about 500k customers. That sounds bad, right? Well, not exactly. Considering that the game is only $7 on iOS the increase in profit from a retail version would be astronomical even if it technically doesn’t reach as many customers. At the theoretical price point of $29.99, if the game sells 500k copies across the globe it would muster up $15 million.
That is three times the amount it has made in one month on the app store with 30% less sales. We don’t have exact numbers on how many times the original Infinity Blade was downloaded, but let’s assume both games are priced at $7 at all times, barring any sales. If Infinity Blade made $23 million at $7 price point than it might have been downloaded 3.2 million times. Let’s say somehow Infinity Blade 2 stops where it is and grosses only $5 million at 700k downloads. That’s just under $30 million for both games reaching about 4 million customers.
Once again, if cut those sales down to about 2 million and price it at $30 per retail copy, the games together would net $60 million. If you cut the sales of the Infinity Blade franchise in half, but raise the price by making it a retail game and pricing it at $30 Epic would double their profits. Furthermore, if they sold it for $39.99 at retail instead of $29.99 to those same 2 million customers they would net $80 million.
Its odd to see Epic walk away from so much money. There is the issue of whether Infinity Blade could survive at retail, whether gamers would think it justified a higher price point, or if it could compete with Sony or Nintendo’s first party franchises. The most surprising thing is that even if Infinity Blade underperformed, even by selling 50% less at retail than it does on iOS, it would still double or triple the money it brings back to Epic.
It would seem to us that making Infinity Blade for the Nintendo 3DS and PSP at retail would help Epic not only gain more money and improve how the game plays, but the increase revenue from the game could go towards game development on home consoles.
We understand why smaller independent developers flock to platforms like iOS where they can become stars overnight without the costs of trying to get a game into shops around the globe. Epic is an established company who has some muscle behind what they say is good. Gamers listened to them because of their proven track record with IPs like Unreal and Gears of War.
Of course we don’t want to sound like snobby “knowitalls”. We don’t know why Epic/Chair chose iOS for Infinity Blade. There is a very real chance that they wanted to make a lot of money off a small investment. Perhaps making the game for iOS costs much less than the estimated $1 million average budget for most PSP/3DS titles. The first Infinity Blade came out before the Nintendo 3DS, but it does leave us puzzled why the IP hasn’t made it to retail on either the 3DS or PSP. We know there are plenty of reasons and circumstances that probably motivated Epic to make Infinity Blade they way they have.
There is also the fact that platforms like the 3DS and PSP can’t run the engines these games are using. While we imagine that is a huge deterrent to making the game multiplatform, more money seems like it would justify jumping through a few hoops to get it running on less optimal hardware.
Hopefully the big third party game developers who don’t need the benefits iOS development can bring to indie companies will wake up and begin to bring some of these games to traditional handheld game consoles. Not only would they make more money for these companies but they would also improve the quality of the games in a lot of instances. We understand why they might start out as iOS games, and we understand the benefits of doing that. We can’t help but wondering why so many large third parties, like Epic, aren’t interested in making these IPs for traditional handhelds like the 3DS and PSP.