DICE keynote: Epic Tim Sweeney argues for more open platforms, less politics in gaming companies


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"It is a ghost virus, this idea that publishers must" own "the customer or have a monopoly on the customer relationship through some form of login or e-commerce," Sweeney said. "We must give up our attempts to each create our own walled garden and private monopoly and agree to work together and acknowledge that we are all much better off if we connect our systems to grow our social graphs together."

Last year Epic Games released its own new digital store. The store has sparked controversy by offering exclusivity offers to game developers and publishers in what critics have described as an attempt to undermine its direct space rival, Valve & # 39; s Steam Store. The Epic Games Store offers sign-on connectivity with a number of other platforms, including Xbox Live, PlayStation Network and Facebook.

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Sweeney's most corrosive comments were left behind for Facebook and Google, two companies he hadn't been shy about in the past.

"What we have now is a huge scaling down of industries based on hostile business models, companies that benefit from harming customers and harming their supportive ecosystems," Sweeney said. "Facebook and Google are leaders in this trend. They give you a free service, and they make you pay for it in the form of currency that is more expensive than money … loss of privacy and loss of freedom. "

Sweeney said the gaming industry should lead in moving Silicon Valley away from anti-consumer models and practices, such as loot boxes. He noted that the industry is practicing robbery practices similar to the Las Vegas gambling industry, except that there is no promise that money will be returned to the player.

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“We have to ask ourselves as a branch: what do we want to be later? Do we want to be Las Vegas, or do we want to be globally respected creators of entertainment products that customers can trust? & # 39; Sweeney said.

Sweeney also argued for more open platforms and cross-platform economies. Fortnite, a feature of Epic Games, allows purchases on one platform (be it a game console such as PlayStation or your smartphone) to be available on any other platform. Activision & # 39; s Call of Duty franchise that introduced cross-platform play with the newest Modern Warfare title (allowing players to play together on different gaming platforms) was a sign of progress, he said, and also noted that players who play the game Xbox bought it must have been available to play on other platforms.

Sweeney remembered the difficult conversations Epic had with Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo when they asked them to work together to make Fortnite a universal, standardized experience. Large and small developers, he said, must be willing to have more "uncomfortable conversations" if the industry wants to realize this vision.

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Renee Gittins, executive director of the International Game Developers Association, said that Sweeney's comments about publishers and studios make perfect sense.

"I think a lot of progress is based on uncomfortable conversations, and when you move forward trying new things, it's uncomfortable," Gittins said.

Epic Games is still working to achieve these goals, Sweeney said. Fortnite last year organized an in-game concert by the electronic musician Marshmello that was watched by 10 million people. Sweeney described an ideal end goal as a goal where every artist or musician could organize his own concert without significant coordination with Epic Games.

"We can go much further with the creation tools built into games, and where this ultimately goes, games are becoming more and more open platforms for creators to build their own things, independent of the companies," Sweeney said. "In the future we would like every musician to give such a & # 39; n concert without coordinating with us."

He also called traditional display ads outdated. Display ads (such as 15-second ads before a YouTube video) distract from the content with which viewers actually want to communicate; Sweeney said he hoped for a more natural collaboration with holders of intellectual property that does not detract from the core product. He pointed to Fortnite & # 39; s collaboration with Marvel and Star Wars, where players can easily use the characters of these respective brands without ever interrupting the game.

Sweeney then delved into the subject of discourse around gaming companies. He briefly expressed his astonishment at the idea that people choose where to buy chicken sandwiches based on the policy of a company, referring to the support of Chick-fil-A for anti-gay groups. To this end, he argued for a separation of church and state, since it relates to politics and to video game publishers.

"I think we see a lot of controversy about political censorship of social media. To get through that, we have to separate ourselves from politics," Sweeney said. "When we make decisions about content moderation, we need to establish very clear rules as an almost judicial branch of the company. "

It is unclear what the reason was for the comments. Epic Games was one of the few major publishers who said they would stick to their player's rights to express a political opinion in response to Blizzard's controversial dealings with a competing Hearthstone player who last year supported demonstrators in Hong Kong.

Sweeney later went to Twitter to clarify his comments.

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