Epic Games has been busy of late.
The Cary, NC-based company has been working for three years on its first new game since Infinity Blade and it’s finally letting gamers play the free-to-play PC multiplayer strategy tower defense game, Fortnite.
The game maker is also expanding subsidiary Chair Entertainment’s iOS Infinity Blade franchise to Xbox One in China, courtesy of investor Tencent.
Natalie Brickell, community coordinator at Epic Games, said the first invites were sent out to gamers to help Epic test Fortnite from Dec. 2 through Dec. 19. Epic has been testing the game inside the studio for quite some time, but this is the first online test of the game, which has yet to be given a release date. Given the Alpha stage of the gameplay, a 2015 release is likely.
“During this phase of the Alpha we are testing to make sure all of the basic stuff, from the launcher to all the game systems, is working so we can start getting real feedback from real players to help us make the game better,” said Brickell. “The game is still rough around the edges but we think it can benefit from your input even at this early stage.”
Epic is inviting fans to register for the chance to play the game at https://www.fortnite.com/register
Brickell said Epic will be adding more people over time as they continue to work on the online gameplay experience.
Darren Sugg, lead designer of Fortnite at Epic Games, said the team is testing to verify at a larger scale that the basic systems in the game function properly, from sign-ups and patching, to gameplay. He added that Epic is devoted to taking its time and working with players to make Fortnite a great experience.
“We’re pretty excited about Fortnite as a living product because up to this point Epic hasn’t had the freedom to really update games at the cadence that it wanted,” Sugg said. “Now ideas that in the past we’d have to do through downloadable content can be discussed with the community. We can make plans and put new features on the list and we can float that out to the community and see what they think is cool. And then that’s what we’re going to work on. It’s been challenging to get the framework up, but we’re pretty happy where we ended up. We’re looking forward to getting out in front of people.”
Infinity Heads to China
Right now, the only people who can play the Xbox One version of Infinity Blade Destiny are Chinese gamers.
Chinese Internet company Tencent, which invested $330 million for a 48.4% minority stake in Epic in June 2012, has brought the Chair mobile game home for the first time. The Kinect game allows gamers to play the fantasy action game with the same types of arm swipes that the Adrenaline Amusements Infinity Blade FX arcade game offers U.S. gamers at establishments like Dave and Buster’s.
The Xbox One game features all three Infinity Blade games, and the downloadable content that Chair released on mobile for the bestselling franchise will be added in the future. Tencent, which debuted the game at its annual Tencent Games Carnival, has not revealed details about a release date or pricing for a Chinese or international launch of the game.
If the game is done, the odds are good that Microsoft will want it released around the world. The game giant is in desperate need of quality Kinect games and Infinity Blade is a huge mainstream game franchise thanks to its success on Apple devices.
Microsoft has a long-standing relationship with Epic Games. The company bought Epic’s Gears of War franchise in January 2014 and has Vancouver-based Black Tusk Studios working on a new title.
Former Epic executive producer and director of production Rod Fergusson has returned to Microsoft, where he worked from1996 to 2006, to oversee the franchise.