Epic Games has surprised a lot of gamers by announcing that it was reviving the long-dormant Unreal Tournament, an experience focused on competitive play, but the company once more impressed the public by announcing that it was planning to make the entire game available for free.
The official announcement made sure that all potential players understood that the entire code base would be offered without any sort of payment being required and that none of the elements of the free-to-play genre would be used.
The new Unreal Tournament will be created by a rather small team inside Epic Games and it seems that the first bits of code will only be delivered in a few months, with the entire fan community able to communicate with the studio via the official forums and Twitch in order to deliver their requests and their feedback.
The developers are saying that the core competitive shooter concepts will stay true to the history of the series, but that they are also aiming to introduce some innovative ideas and work with the Unreal Engine 4 team to deliver impressive graphics.
Unreal Tournament seems to be a bold experiment for Epic Games and it will be very interesting to see whether such a game development process and the promise of it being free will create a long-term hit or just an interesting conversation.
Free Might Not Be a Good Business Proposition
The numerous free-to-play titles that are on the market at the moment cover a variety of genres, but for most of them, the aim is to capture as many players as possible while convincing a limited number of them to pay for items that do not have a direct impact on gameplay.
Unreal Tournament, as currently envisioned by Epic Games, will not do that and the company plans to deliver a marketplace that will allow content creators to sell their creations to the rest of the community, with the studio taking a percentage from each transaction.
The problem with such an approach is that it requires either a very dedicated fan base, which is ready to try out all new mod releases and gameplay tweaks, or a very large number of players engaged at the same time.
Unreal Tournament 2014 was a phenomenon in its day, but the market is much more crowded at the moment and it’s not clear whether the same critical mass can be achieved by just one title.
Epic Games Is Ready for Bold Experimentation
Not long ago, analysts were saying that Epic Games was actually getting ready to exit the video game development space in order to only focus on developing and on selling their tech to big customers.
They then delivered Unreal Engine 4 using an entirely new monthly subscription model and are now saying that Unreal Tournament will be offered for free, which is a clear sign that they want to actually revolutionize the industry in some way rather than abandon it.
Experimentation, especially coming from such veteran developers, is a great idea and I, for one, am entirely willing to spend hundreds of hours once more playing Unreal Tournament, defeating friends and getting fragged in interesting ways.
Let’s just hope that the recently announced innovation does not fizzle out soon, disappointing analysts and fans alike.