Epic says that their exclusive games strategy for their online store is the only way to challenge Steam’s dominance

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Epic-vs-Steam

Some people love them, others hate them but it’s hard to deny just how effective the Epic Games Store has been at disrupting the current digital distribution status quo that Steam has dominated for so long. You could say that Epic Games have upset the apple cart, but that’d be an understatement. They’ve proper flipped it over, set it on fire and climbed to the top turnbuckle to deliver an elbow drop of note that has seen scores of developers flock over to their in-development storefront.

With a far more generous cut of the sales of games done through them, the Epic Games Store has earned plenty of exclusive titles and scorn from gamers alike. Personally, the hate seems off to me. Exclusivity drives the gaming industry, and Epic’s enticing split between revenue and distribution makes perfect sense from a business standpoint. Of course, a company like Ubisoft would take advantage of that, creating what has essentially become the Monday Night Wars between PC platforms.

So what does Epic Games founder and head honcho Tim Sweeney have to say about all this? That this aggressive approach is the only way to break Valve’s monopoly on the industry. “This question gets to the core of Epic’s strategy for competing with dominant storefronts,” Sweeney said in a detailed Twitter thread (Cheers, Video Games Chronicle).

We believe exclusives are the only strategy that will change the 70/30 status quo at a large enough scale to permanently affect the whole game industry. For example, after years of great work by independent stores (excluding big publishers like EA-Activision-Ubi), none seem to have reached 5% of Steam’s scale. Nearly all have more features than Epic; and the ability to discount games is limited by various external pressures.

This leads to the strategy of exclusives which, though unpopular with dedicated Steam gamers, do work, as established by the major publisher storefronts and by the key Epic Games store releases compared to their former Steam revenue projections and their actual console sales. In judging whether a disruptive move like this is reasonable in gaming, I suggest considering two questions: Is the solution proportionate to the problem it addresses, and are gamers likely benefit from the end goal if it’s ultimately achieved?

The 30% store tax usually exceeds the entire profits of the developer who built the game that’s sold. This is a disastrous situation for developers and publishers alike, so I believe the strategy of exclusives is proportionate to the problem. If the Epic strategy either succeeds in building a second major storefront for PC games with an 88/12 revenue split, or even just leads other stores to significantly improve their terms, the result will be a major wave of reinvestment in game development and a lowering of costs.

I’m a big believer in supporting the things you love, whether it be through avoiding piracy or subscribing to a Patreon. I hope that EGS becomes a lifesaver for smaller game studios who deserve as much of the cut from sales as possible, especially with Steam’s storefront being a regularly broken hub of quick-flip games made using the cheapest of assets and somehow always finding their way to the top of search results instead of worthier and more passionate game projects.

There’s a whole other debate worth having when it comes to AAA game studios making use of EGS and Steam, but that’s an article for another day.

Last Updated: June 27, 2019

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