Sameer Pitalwalla currently serves as the BD director for Epic Games in ASEAN and India. He is a digital media and technology entrepreneur, and prior to Epic was the co-founder and CEO of Culture Machine, a digital media firm that reaches 300 million unique audiences per month and 1 billion monthly views. He is an Indian National award-winning film producer, Forbes 30 under 30 in 2017, and holds multiple patents to his name.
Welcome to Marketing In Asia Sameer! We are honoured to have you gracing our platform, and Epic Games needs no introduction. Let us get to know you better; who is Sameer as a person and professional?
Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview! I am very pleased to have this opportunity to share more about Epic Games and our work in the region with you.
I am the Business Director for Epic Games in ASEAN and India and have been with the company for six months. I have spent a decade immersed in India’s digital and media business, enabling companies to exploit greenfield opportunities in a shifting internet landscape. Before joining Epic Games, I was the CEO and Co-Founder of Culture Machine and have spent the decade prior working with Walt Disney India and Times Internet. I believe that the future of content and how we consume it online will soon be real-time, interactive, personalized and 3D. My role at Epic Games gives me an opportunity to shape this future.
Briefly (for the non-gamers) tell me more about Epic Games.
Epic Games was founded 30 years ago. Today, we are the leading interactive entertainment company and provider of 3D engine technology. We have over 40 offices and 3,000 staff worldwide.
We are probably best known for Fortnite, one of the world’s largest games with over 350 million accounts and 2.5 billion friend connections. But more importantly, we also develop the Unreal Engine, which powers the world’s leading games and is also adopted across industries such as film and television, architecture, automotive, manufacturing, and simulation.
Over the years, we have grown the Unreal Engine community to over 11 million users from the game design and enterprise sectors. The software is positioned to change the way we create and experience content in the digital world.
Asia is a fascinating region for us. We started building our team here in 2020 and currently have staff based out of Singapore and India.
Let’s talk about the Unreal Engine, truly it’s an industry-defining tool used by video game developers. Recently it has been used by filmmakers, architects, etc. I believe that the utility of this engine can be expanded to other sectors, such as education, virtual tours, interactive events etc. What are your thoughts on this?
Yes, it can certainly be expanded to other sectors! The Unreal Engine by Epic Games is a complete suite of high-quality development tools for anyone looking to leverage real-time technology solutions across mobile, PC, console, AR and VR platforms. From design visualizations to immersive cinematic experiences, creators can now leverage Unreal’s real-time 3D technology for their photorealistic visualization, interactive product design, film, virtual production, mixed reality, TV broadcast and animated entertainment needs. We are set to release the latest iteration of our engine — the Unreal Engine 5 — later this year. Check out our demo here!
For instance, the Unreal Engine can create simulations for technical and high-risk training, where mistakes are not an option. This includes training programs for pilots, surgeons, and defence personnel. The simulations can also be used to practice and perfect techniques and model various scenarios that would be impossible to recreate in real-life.
In the virtual and interactive events industry, the Unreal Engine opens new doors for engaging consumer audiences. We have already seen some strong use-cases for next-gen music and entertainment experiences, with Travis Scott’s Astronomical performance, and Christopher Nolan’s Tenet trailer premiere on Fortnite. These have demonstrated stunning audio-visual capabilities and the possibility of creating immersive, hyperconnected and interactive virtual worlds — far beyond the gaming industry. Concerts, movie premiers and conferences can all take advantage of this opportunity.
Another great thing about hosting events virtually is that venue capacity is hardly ever an issue. For example, Travis Scott’s performance was viewed by 28 million Fortnite players worldwide, more than any physical venue anywhere in the world could accommodate.
As the lead in Business Development at Epic Games Southeast Asia & India, what are the day-to-day tasks involved?
Our focus currently is to grow adoption of Unreal Engine across our key verticals of Gaming, Media and Entertainment, Automotive, Architecture, Engineering and Construction and Simulation. A large part of doing that is educating customers on Epic’s ecosystem of Unreal Engine, Marketplace, Quixel, the upcoming MetaHuman Creator tool as well as training and educating them. The team’s growing as well, so while I tend to focus on M&E and Gaming, a large part of my time spent is shifting to overall strategy and operations.
How would you describe your journey so far as the Lead in Business Development at Epic Games Southeast Asia & India?
It has been a great ride so far; I enjoy building businesses and working with teams and this is another exciting chapter in that journey and an incredible time in technology.
I must say, your role must be a challenging one. What is the biggest challenge you have faced so far, and how do you tackle it?
The rate of change in technology compounds and escalates. It is always a challenge keeping pace with that. The biggest challenge remains in the art of making high-quality decisions in a world that changes so quickly.
We all know that a lot of sectors are affected due to the COVID-19, but the video game industry is seeing gains as a whole. Would you like to share how it was for Epic Games, especially within the region?
I am grateful that our industry has had it easier than most during this pandemic. Our priority during this time has been to ensure that our user communities continue to be fully supported.
After lockdowns were announced, we quickly unveiled a whole suite of online learning opportunities to continually equip and upskill the global developer community. One of the initiatives we launched is the Unreal Engine webinar series, which are guided learning paths for anyone keen to learn more about real-time 3D technology. This includes industry-specific courses for developers as well, such as advanced visualization techniques for architecture.
As part of our Epic MegaGrants initiative, we have also channelled US$100 million to support game developers, enterprise professionals, creators, students, and educators who are using the Unreal Engine in creative ways. We have always been passionate about pushing the games industry forward in innovation and support, and the pandemic has provided a great opportunity for us to further that mission.
Epic Games launched Epic Online Services back in May 2020, a cross-platform play SDK for game developers. How do you think this feature will impact the brand as a whole?
At Epic Games, we will always prioritize our core community of developers in everything that we do. The launch of Epic Online Services was a step to support developers, enabling them to launch, operate, and scale great games with the same services Epic uses for its own games. Together with our Epic Games Store, we now provide an end-to-end digital ecosystem for developers and creators to build, distribute, and operate games and other content.
We have also stayed true to our core community of developers and implemented key updates to our licensing and publishing agreements. Our royalty-based model, the first of its kind in the industry, waives fees for developers on the first US$1 million earned in-game revenue. This serves to ease the game creation process for indie developers, enabling them to focus on creating next-gen experiences, without being bogged down by the costs of the engine till they succeed.
What is your take on encouraging regional game developers to produce homegrown titles, specifically those in Southeast Asia & India?
We want to help regional game developers succeed by building teams that are proficient with the latest creative tools and techniques. We have a range of initiatives, such as online training, workshops, and fellowships to enable developers and will continue to launch more programs in the months to come.
The MegaGrants initiative that I spoke about earlier is another avenue for us to support developers. India-based Nodding Heads Games is one such indie developer. The grant helped them realize their dream of representing local culture and mythology on the world stage in their highly-awarded game: Raji: An Ancient Epic.
How can our readers get in touch with you, Sameer?
We would love to hear from Marketing in Asia’s readers! They can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.