Well, a form of the “console wars” has hit the PC market, and it’s a bit of a doozy. For the longest time, Steam has been the primary go to when it comes to digital PC Games. While you can purchase games on sites like Humble Bundle, Indie GoGo, Green Man Gaming, Amazon, GoG, and more, many of these storefronts would provide you with a Steam key in order to activate your game in addition to a download.
Steam has been around since 2003 when it was only a launcher for Valve games and has since grown into a massive storefront housing tons of mainstream and indie games, and a lot of hot garbage as well. Seriously, the sheer amount of nonsense in the indie section is scary. I went in there recently to see if I could find something new and interesting and the amount of shitty unity games and hentai games was kind of disturbing. While Steam has not been the only game in town (just look at the GoG store, and of course EA, Microsoft, and Ubisofts own launchers) it has been, in a general sense, unchallenged for supremacy and relevancy.
Enter the Epic Store. Epic has grown leaps and bounds these past few years thanks to Fortnite Battle Royale, and at some point Epic decided that they were gonna take a hard shot at Steam for part of the PC Market and games. Thus the Epic Store was launched. It offers a much better deal to devs first of all (12% goes to Epic vs 30% going to Steam for each sale), but what it offers consumers is really next to nothing right now.
Just look at the list of features that Steam offers vs what Epic offers, to its customer base:
Hell, as Jim Sterling pointed out in his recent video Epic doesn’t even have an actual shopping cart, meaning you have to make single purchases each time you want to buy something rather than having everything in a single transaction. That’s just…weird. And kind of annoying.
Now, the Epic Store does have a Roadmap on Trello that lists its planned features and updates, but even looking at this, as far as a consumer friendly store, it’s got a long way to go. This is on top of Epic being owned by Tencent, a supermassive Chinese gaming company that’s partially owned by the Chinese government, meaning that if you purchase something on Epic, you are funding Tencent, and that wigs out a lot of people. One person compared Tencent to an actual Shadowrun level Corp and I cannot disagree with that sentiment.
So what is Epic doing to try to attract consumers to come and buy games over there? Well…they are forcing exclusives. What they are doing is offering large amounts of cash to Developers to entice them to release only on the Epic Store for a year, before going to other stores. So far Phoenix Point, The Quantic Dream Games such as Heavy Rain / Detroit Become Human, the Outer Worlds, Hades, Metro Exodus, and a few more have been made into “Epic Exclusives”. The worst part is that some of these originally advertised as if they were going to be released on Steam! Outer Worlds and Metro Exodus both had / have steam pages, but no longer are purchasable on that platform! Phoenix Point had a Kickstarter where people who pledged on Kickstarter were PROMISED copies on Steam and Gog, but are now being told “No, sorry, you can get it on Epic or you are screwed” and Phoenix Point has even been making Refunds difficult. And Epics stance during all this is to make fun of their customers (Tim Sweeny has tweeted a few times about Entitled Gamers).
In essence, Epic is attempting to FORCE you to use their store, rather than entice you. Let’s do some math. If you have a game that’s $60, and you sell it on both Epic and Steam, here is what your cut (as a Dev) would look like:
- Epic (12%) – $60 x .88 = $52.80 to the Devs
- Steam (30%) – $60 x .70 = $42.00 to the Devs
So on Epic, a dev makes $10 more per sale. That does in fact add up. If an dev sells 100,000 copies, that’s roughly $1,000,000 more in revenue on the Epic store. But what happens if, instead of forcing exclusivity, Epic and the Devs of a particular game say “Well on Steam the game is $60, but hey, if you come to Epic, you can get the game for $50, saving YOU the Consumer $10!”. Doesn’t seem like a lot, but for a lot of us PC gamers, $10 in saving is a good enticement. And what happens to the cut the Devs get?
- Epic (12%) – $50 x .88 = $44.00 to the Devs
- Steam (30%) – $60 x .70 = $42.00 to the Devs
Obviously the devs only get $2 more per sale vs $10 more, but they still get more money and the consumer now has a good choice to make: Do I spend $60 to have it on Steam with all my other games? or do I spend $50 on a different store, thus saving money? In this case, while the Devs don’t get as much extra per sale, they also reach a much LARGER Audience. They reach all who are using the Epic Store, and they are also STILL reaching all the Steam users! Plus, Epic doesn’t look like a completely dick in the process.
Truth be told I would rather games be available on as MANY platforms as possible, both PC and consoles, so that way the devs can reach the widest audience possible and the consumers / gamers can pick and choose HOW they want to play the game.
Personally my big issue here really is that Game Devs are not going to Epic solely because of the 12% vs 30% issue, but rather because Epic is handing them massive stacks of cash in exchange for exclusivity rights. That’s a nasty move and is not consumer friendly. Does it work? Hell yea it does. It makes people like me have to make a choice: do I buy the game on Epic, even though I don’t want to really support Tencent in that manner, nor Epic in that manner? Or do I wait for it to be released elsewhere.
The Outer Worlds is a big one for me, as I was super excited to see it announced. But I have zero interest in using the Epic store. But it seems that the outer Worlds is going to be released on the Microsoft Store as well, and I might just purchase it there to support Microsoft over Epic (plus, Microsoft is bringing Halo to Steam so I mean, I gotta support those fine folks).
Hell if all this mess was JUST about the Dev’s cut of each sale, the Discord Store (yes, Discord has a game store BUILT IN NOW) takes even less then EPIC does from each sale (10% vs Epics 12%) so it’s all about that Payola, that big fat stack of cash Epic is handing devs in exchange for exclusivity rights. Pretty sure if Epic wasn’t offering companies massive payouts the companies wouldn’t be going there. It’s all about the money in this case.
I am however glad to see that Steam is getting some competition, let me be honest. Steam has been a monolith, a company that most PC gamers use because it’s all we have. I use it because it’s easy, it’s customer friendly, and it’s never done me wrong. The ease of use, the ability to have all my games listed in a single place, the updates and whatnot. The sales are a huge deal as well. I am, in fact, entrenched in Steam (I have near 800 games on there alone). But I am pragmatic enough to be willing to look at other stores, such as GoG (I am near 200 games over there), Origin of course for EA Stuff, and Uplay for Ubisoft stuff. Generally if I am looking to get a game, I look for the best price when I am ready to purchase, and go to the store giving me the best deal.
Further, as much as I hate to say it, GoG / Origin / Uplay / The Microsoft Store are NOT really competition to Steam. They still, however, offer more to consumers then the Epic store does at least. Almost all of them have better features, more options, and better treatment of their customers right now then Epic does.
Steam could, and SHOULD, lower their cut at this point for Devs, to help the devs make more. A drop to even 20% would be a good thing overall. Steam also needs to start really digging into the sheer mass of garbage that exists on their platform somehow. They claim they don’t want to be the “quality police” but at this point something has to be done about the sheer amount of shitty asset flip games and other trash that piles up, making it hard to really find good stuff on there at times.
But from a consumer standpoint, i.e. the people who actually BUY the stuff, Steam is still on top. Epic has a long way to go to catch up, and perhaps one day it will. But their practices has soured them to me, and I am not a fan of their attitude nor their actions as of late. I would rather wait for the games they are paying to be exclusive come out on other platforms then support Epic and by proxy Tencent and the way they are acting. Business in this regard is about both the company and the consumers, and about meeting in the middle to have a beneficial transaction on both sides and right now Epic is acting like they own the world and can do whatever they want from my perspective. And I hate that.
How do you feel about this? Are you going to purchase games on the Epic store or simply wait for them to appear on the store of your choosing? Do you feel that Steam finally has some decent competition in the market? Let me know in the comments below!
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