Epic Games President Talks “Bulletstorm,” “Gear of War 3” Multiplayer Beta

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What happens when one company makes two of 2011’s most anticipated games? Well, if you’re Epic Games, you reward players who buy the limited edition of Bulletstorm with exclusive passes into the Gears of War 3 multiplayer beta.

(more on TIME.com: Origins: Tanya Jessen, Lead Producer on Bulletstorm)

But, unlike special editions that go for a significant mark-up, the Bulletstorm Epic Edition–which is for Xbox 360 only–will be available at no extra charge. Here’s the bulk of the official announcement from EA and Epic:

In this unique promotion, Epic Games and EA are blowing out the launch of Bulletstorm with access to the public beta for Gears of War 3, the spectacular conclusion to one of the most memorable and celebrated sagas in video games. Players that purchase the Epic Edition are guaranteed early access to the Gears of War 3 beta*. Pre-order now to reserve a copy of the Epic Edition which will be available on Feb. 22, 2011 for MSRP $59.99, only for the Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system, while supplies last.

“Epic is poised to break new ground in 2011 with Gears of War 3 and Bulletstorm,” said Dr. Michael Capps, president of Epic Games. “With these two highly anticipated triple-A experiences comes a unique opportunity to do something to really excite players, and that’s what we intend to accomplish with the support of Microsoft Game Studios and EA. This is for the shooter fans.”

In addition to access to the beta, the Epic Edition gives players bonus in-game Bulletstorm content when playing online, including 25,000 experience points, visual upgrades for their iconic leash, deadly Peace Maker Carbine, boots and armor. With this unique gear, gamers can kill with skill in style. Bulletstorm’s insane Anarchy four-player online cooperative mode takes full advantage of the game’s unique skillshot gameplay and unlock/upgrade weapon system to deliver the best possible multiplayer experience within the Bulletstorm world. The combination of Bulletstorm’s multiplayer gameplay and skillshot system creates a frantic and frenzied experience setting itself apart from the multiplayer experiences in traditional shooter games.

(more on TIME.com: Killing with Skill: Trailer and First Look at EA & Epic’s Bulletstorm)

I had a chance to speak to Mike Capps, president of Epic Games, about the company’s first-ever special edition release and how the beta program came about.

I think most people weren’t expecting Bulletstorm to be connected in any way. Why link these two Epic properties together in this way?

From our perspective, we don’t think about who’s publishing this title or that title. We’ve got two great games and we think that Gears players are going to like Bulletstorm and vice versa. We brainstormed with EA and Microsoft to bring together these games in a way that would make Epic fans happy.

I think Crackdown was a really good example. That game was used to drive a really strong Halo 3 beta, but it was also the other way around, too. The Halo players were introduced to Crackdown, which was a new IP that they weren’t familiar with. Crackdown was an awesome game; I might never have picked up that game if not for the Halo beta. But I’m really glad I did. So, we kind of want to introduce Bulletstorm to our Gears fans in the same way.

25,000 experience points, the new weapons, the gear… this is a really beefy reward. What’s gotten into you guys?

We’ve been making games for 19 years and this is our first Epic Edition. The size of the package is a reward to our fans, who’ve supported us through the years. It’s a limited edition–and it really will be limited–but it’s the same price as the regular edition. We know that the Gears 3 beta acess codes will be highly sought-after, so our most passionate fans will get the inside track. The beta starts in the spring and, honestly, we’re still debating what exactly is going to go into the beta so fans will want to be there from the very beginning to see how it evolves and grows.

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A lot of times these limited edition assets become available later after launch, for an additional fee. Is that something that Epic is thinking about as well?

There will definitely be material that’s only available in that box. That’s kind of the whole idea. We want it to be really and truly exclusive. When we did something similar for Gears 2, they all sold out on day 1.

With this linkage between the two games, is there any chance that Grayson, Trishka and the Bulletstorm crew will show up as playable characters in Gears of War 3 multiplayer?

[Laughs] That’s a really cool idea! We haven’t said anything about it but I’d love to have some kind of collaboration between the two IPs. I don’t have anything to announce about it but that would be an obvious and cool idea.

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