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Microsoft forcing fees? Marketplace Phil. 101 with Epic and Microsoft


In the most recent podcast of the 1UP Yours show Tim Sweeney and Mark Rein from Epic Games (Gears of War, Unreal Tournament) sat down and talked about Xbox Live Marketplace and a host of other topics. But the quote that stuck in people's heads was when Tim Sweeney implied Epic would like to give Gears of War maps away for free on Xbox Marketplace (like they did the original maps), but Microsoft won't let them.

Sweeney said, "We already released two [maps] and we have four more maps that we've built. We've been wanting to give them away for a long time but actually Microsoft has been pushing back on us for that. They're trying to build this business model around selling additional content for games and that's a valid idea, but definitely we would like to release more stuff for free, and we haven't been able to do so -- yet. Which is unfortunate, there's a lot of good business reasons for releasing free content for a game."

This naturally sparked some heavy debate on the Evil Avatar forums. Joystiq spoke with Mark Rein over the weekend and he laughed at how out of context the conversation was taken. He asked people to listen to the podcast before they weighed in. He says there are simple business philosophies separating Epic and Microsoft.

After our conversation, Rein posted a statement on the Evil Avatar forum, sending a copy to Joystiq, which said in part, "Quite frankly Xbox Live Marketplace isn't our store. It's Microsoft's store. Like any retailer they have the right to figure out what goes on the shelves of their store and what price they sell it at. They spend the money to operate the store and deliver the content. They've also spent billions of dollars to create and build Xbox and subsidize it's the price so you can afford it and we can make games for it. As our publisher, they also invested tens of millions of dollars marketing Gears of War, and have done an awesome job for us, so they have a right to a good return on that investment."

Rein says both Epic and Microsoft want to make money, they just have different philosophies on how to do it. Epic believes in giving content away for free, building the user base of their product by adding value after initial purchase. A model they've learned extremely well from being involved in the PC market for years. Microsoft believes in charging up front, and in the case of Xbox Marketplace, they have a store to run and infrastructure to pay for -- this doesn't mean the GoW maps won't be given away for free later like the Halo 2 maps. Rein believes it's their job to advocate for their product to maximize users and profits. It's Microsoft's job to maximize their profits on Xbox Marketplace so that both companies benefit. Rein understands Microsoft has a store to run on their console, makes sure to say they "aren't evil" and can't fault them for trying to make money -- he likes money too.

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