The battle for the best has begun and the showdown happens to be between both Epic Games and Valve with the Epic Games Store and Steam, but there’s a reason behind it. Devs are turning to Epic for a very specific reason: Profits.
For the past year, I’ve been quietly sitting by in the PC gaming space. I’ve come quite familiar with Steam over the past ten years or so. Compared to some, that’s very little, but I come from a different era of PC gaming where you didn’t have digital storefronts as you do now.
I come from an era where there were Floppy Disks, CDs, and CD Keys to enable your games before their install could be completed. Now, we’re in the digital age where Valve, Blizzard, Epic Games, Ubisoft, and even EA have their very own storefronts to compete against one another. When it comes to competition, Steam has remained without a rival in the realm of digital distribution. There’s not been another place outside of games like GoG or Humble that could really make them tremble as they had in the past few days.
But over the past few days, Epic Games have taken some very much needed shots at Valve and the Steam Store itself. Publishers such as 4A and Deep Silver have already turned to the Epic Store, preparing for the release of one of the years biggest and most anticipated games: Metro Exodus, which is expected to launch on the Epic Store on February 15th of this year.
The bigger slap in the face? It’s also cheaper than it would be anywhere else, at least in the United States, setting it up for a $49.99 price point the day of launch. Something we’d not seen ever before, but why is this happening? Why is Deep Silver not the only one migrating to Epic’s Store over Steam? Well, there’s a lot to take in, so let’s start with the biggest reason.
Profit Cuts are a lot lower on the Epic Store than Steam
When you are a developer, the cost of games is hard to recoup if your launch doesn’t go as expected. Games these days cost millions to develop and even more to see profit returns due to physical copy distribution, promotional ads, and even influencing programs. Top it off with the cost of using engines such as Unity and Unreal and the costs get a bit steeper than before.
To combat this ever-growing problem, Epic Games has decided to do something a bit different than what Valve has done with Steam. They’re letting the developers make more at a lower cost to them. Epic Games is taking a 12% cut of a games profit in comparison to that of Steam’s profit sharing of 35% of games using Unreal Engine 4 while only taking 30% of games using Unity for their engine. That means developers and publishers only see roughly 65% to 70% of returns from a copy sold.
If you add that up, that means Steam is taking a massive cut at the end of the day, which doesn’t just hurt indie developers; it could cripple them before their game ever launches. Thankfully, Epic Games is doing things a little different. They’re making an economy that’s both consumer and developer friendly and they’re doing it rather quickly. Their storefront is already working and with the fact they are already working on both Android and other mobile platforms for a launch in 2019, Valve has a lot to be worried about in the upcoming days.
For developers, Epic Games Store means a lot and the company isn’t even backing down from their stance by keeping a level playing field for developers both big and small.
Hand-Curated Games and DRM-free titles
One of the biggest problems plaguing steam is the lack of curation for the games that get released on their platform. If you go onto the Steam store, you’re bombarded with “newly released” titles that are both unique, but at times, suspicious due to their low price point and developers that you may never have even heard of.
Steam has even seen quite a bit of news regarding games being investigated to see if they are really a game in some form or another. Epic, however, wants to fix this problem. They want to hand-curate the games that launch. They want legitimate games, ones that can be proven to be what they are and ones that meet Epics standards for their storefront itself.
This means all games will remain as they are. All games will remain yours, they will remain authentic, and you’ll be able to refund them if something goes awry.
Power to the devs and content creators
One of the big issues with Valve’s Steam Store is that it’s hard to navigate from time to time. People want to navigate to their game, interact with a developer, and they want to be able to see news for their game in regards to updates, other games like it, and changes being made in a recently released patch.
Luckily, Epic is going through with this thanks to them giving developers full control of their storefronts and their newsfeed for their games. They’re allowing developers to work closely with their communities in making their games great and their connections with their fans even better.
Epic has even helped roll out their Support-A-Creator program which allows developers to hook up with content creators such as streamers and YouTubers to help them promote the games they love and even see a profit return depending on their standing with a developer and the type of content that they create.
Something we’ve yet to see hit Steam in any shape or form. For developers both big and small, content creators can play a massive role in how well their games perform or consumer interest is piqued. A lot of games these days see massive exposure and even a rise in popularity thanks to streamers such as Summit1G who recently helped Sea of Thieves get a rise in viewer interest once again (source: Polygon).
For other games such as PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and, streamers such as DrDisrespect helped those games gain momentum, pushing those titles to success. Now, it seems that through the Epic Games Store and their Supper-A-Creator Program, there’s going to be more invested interest from content creators and developers moving forward.
A healthy and friendly competition is what Steam actually needs to continue growing
Apps are annoying, having too many of them to play a select few games even more-so than ever before, however, it’s something we needed to see happen as Valve had almost single-handedly monopolized on the market of digital distribution of games. They were – and in many ways – are the go-to place when you want to buy a game.
Gamers have grown loyal to the Steam brand and want to remain that way as they have a healthy market to purchase Steam Trading Cards, items they’ve earned in various games, and even gift one another games users purchase. While Steam does have built-in streaming capabilities, Steam does lack in innovation in recent days.
We don’t see many Steam exclusive partnerships arise outside of things such as Warframe’s Tennogen shop or Steam-exclusive Free-to-Play titles. To be honest, there hasn’t been a reason for Valve to REALLY try to push for the launch of a single game in recent times. Now, with Epic Games making their move with the Epic Games Store, there’s no doubt this will change.
Valve has a lot to lose if innovation or marketing strategies fail to change. Thanks to Epic Games’ developer, content creator, and user-friendly approach, we very well could see some massive changes happen across both digital stores in order to see who can offer the best bang for their users buck.
With heavy hitters such as Metro Exodus becoming one-year exclusives on the Epic Store, Epic Games isn’t frowning at this newly-found partnership that could see other big-hitters leaving the Steam store sooner than later just as Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 had just in the past few weeks.
It’s time for Valve to evaluate their current situation and see what they can do better in order to keep developers around. But all of this is good, it gives the Steam Store a much-needed and healthy form of competition as they will need to fight for consumer loyalty.
But in conclusion, no matter what, both will exist and have their dedicated fans
Much like any store out there, there are loyalists and people who swear by a single name. For some, it’s Steam. For others, it might be a place like GoG or Humble Bundle. Others, it’ll be something new and upcoming like the Epic Store. Whatever your preference actually exists, we’re in an age where the digital distribution of PC games is coming to an all-new battleground.
Unlike consoles, PC gamers don’t have to worry about the console wars, the war for the best exclusive games or even the fight about who can deliver the best graphics on a single set of hardware. Instead, PC gamers have a lot of variables to take into consideration running from hardware to software and their gaming accessories. Now, they’re just getting their own console-style war with the war between two titans of gaming as the war between the Epic Store and Steam gets underway.
But at the end of the day, is the competition really all that bad if it helps developers lower the cost of their games and even make gaming an affordable hobby once again? Regardless, the consumers, in the end, will win as they enjoy the games they do regardless of where they purchased it.
About the Writer(s):
Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the boarders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. You can find him over on Twitter or Facebook.