If you’re even remotely tied to the PC gaming community you’ll likely have heard about Epic Games launching their own competitor to lifelong favorite launch platform Steam by Valve. Now this inherently isn’t a new thing, there are countless launchers and some of them (like Ubisofts uPlay) are fairly big and commonplace as well. But the main difference between all those and Epic’s version of it, is that they all bow down to Steam and work in tandem with it to ensure the largest possible audience.
Now there is a new kid on the block and people struggle with it. I don’t know why, but I feel like writing my look on the story.
Valve catching steam
Valve was once a revered gaming company and everything they did was instant gold. So was their distribution platform Steam. It was so successful that it quickly became the industry standard for PC gaming; you wanted to play games? Install Steam first. The addition of the Steam Store, turning it in to a marketplace to buy games instantly made it so that Valve almost completely left gaming and focused on Steam entirely.
This means their business and earnings model became dependent on Steam way more then before, but with the popularirty of the platform and the included store, it was easy enough; take a cut of all sales via the platform. The Steam Store page is the most visited and viewed online storefront for gaming anyway. But businesses get hungry for more and Steam started to overeat itself so it seems.
The UI of the whole platform has been getting outdated more and more, the changes made never really fixed this issue. The store is overwhelmed by crappy indie games and you literally have to wade your way through the crap to find the pearls in there. It is becoming more and more of a hassle for users, but it still is all we know.
In comes Epic
Epic has struck gold with Fortnite and is laughing all the way to the bank. But just like you don’t hear anyone raving about PUBG anymore, I think Epic realises Fortnite’s success isn’t infinite. At some point it will grow stale and someone else will do it better. And it is with this exact concept they must’ve looked around for another source of reliable income and set their eyes on Steam.
Epic has the cash to compete with Steam in the most important way; they take a way smaller cut of each sell. This is huge for game companies. Whenever a new game comes out, the first and only big earnings are made in the first couple of weeks. And if in those weeks you have to give away 30-35% to Steam or just 12% to Epic, the choice is easily made.
And a lot of people call it unfair how Epic is creating timed exclusives by having exclusive rights to a games release for 1 year. The fact they “stole” games set to release on Steam for exclusive launches on their own store could be called unfair. Some game companies spoke out against it, but apparently Epic knows how to sweet talk the publishers, which is easy when talking money.
On top of stealing those exclusives AAA-titles they also have a brand new and shiny store/launcher. It’s design is simple, clean, focused and most importantly; the content is curated by hand. You won’t see thousands of shady Japanese dating sims clutter this store – not yet at least.
The people cry murder
Or well, “boycott”. A lot of gamers get their panties in a bunch because they hate exclusivity deals. We all do to some degree. I hate to have to buy a PS4 to play certain games when I already have a more powerful PC for it anyway. I get that.
But what I don’t really get is this Steam/Epic feud. These are the same people who demand fair market competition because that is where the consumer profits. Then we have an old monolith (Steam) who has settled into their role as market leader a bit too comfy and the platform is suffering from bad choices of the company. Along comes a very capable competitor with a plan to quickly reach the same heights and offer a better product in return, and people shout boycott?
I can’t believe this is because of the hate for exclusivity deals, because nothing really changes for the consumer. Instead of booting Steam (which is free) you now boot Epic (which is also free) on the same hardware. Nothing forces you to buy anything else to be able to play those games. It’s a small piece of software, that’s it
Now most of them do this because they don’t like having multiple launchers. And/or because they don’t want to spread their personal data around too much. But I bet all these people still reluctantly use launchers like uPlay and all of them have some connection to Google/Facebook so their personal data is already on the web far more then they care to realize.
I’m happy for it
No matter what people say they’ll do or won’t do, I’m sure the Epic Game Store is going to be a fierce competitor for Steam and I’m happy for it. Steam really needs a new kid on the block to steal it’s spotlight because papa Valve really needs to look at it’s business model and think back to why they started in the first place. We already got a planned redesign of the platform thanks to it
I think a lot of the criticism is because people don’t like change, and Steam has been a staple of gamer’s lives for years now. Mine too, I am a Steam user of the first hour, I created my Steam account somewhere around 2004/2005 when Steam was still a baby and Valve was still a game company.
Sure, stealing games from Steam isn’t a nice thing to do. There are a bunch of games that were set to release on Steam but just before launch announced to be exclusive to Epic. But let’s be honest, what should we care as gamers? For us it’s just another launcher, it doesn’t really effect our gaming experience in any way, and I don’t care for any launcher that much. I’m not tied to any brand. I just want to play games. And if the Epic Store makes Valve rethink their strategies, I’m happy for that.