Success often breeds contempt, but sometimes actions have consequences.
When it comes to Epic’s Game Store, the popular maker of Fortnite might be swimming in a mixture of both.
From a business standpoint, no one can really blame Epic for cashing in on the massive success of Fortnite by launching its own games portal to compete head on with Steam and the like.
Since Fortnite exploded in popularity – and captured a ton of user information in the process – Epic decided that launching their own game store made a ton of sense, and it does.
But the launch has met with a lot of resistance from gamers, mainly because of Epic’s penchant for snagging exclusives for their PC platform.
This means that the games won’t debut on Steam. That’s sad and unfortunate, especially when you consider how Steam has basically carried the PC gaming market for years.
On top of all of this is the residual hate for Fortnite and its success.
Some gamers now view that game as a trojan horse for Epic’s plans to further fragment the video game world into a myriad of competing services (most of which will not survive) and who are dividing the PC gaming market -of all things – into fiefdoms.
No one was surprised when EA decided to do their own thing. They’re EA. Further, no one is really surprised by Blizzard’s dedication to its launcher. They’ve used that system for years.
But Epic’s “Johnny come lately” grab for a share of the PC market while using tactics like snagging exclusives and converting “free” Fortnite users into automatic Epic Game Store account holders is going over like a hot fart during church.
First, Epic’s move into the PC game vendor space is more aggressive than many people know.
They’re taking 12% of the game’s selling price as opposed to Steam’s 30% and Epic Game Store is decidedly more developer and publisher centric than it is geared towards the user.
Features such as “optional” user reviews for games and a “more curated” experience mean that the Epic Game Store will eliminate the review bombing you see on other platforms as well as drastically cutting down on the number of games the service offers. This is being positioned as a quality over quantity argument and as evidence of Epic’s dedication towards providing more high-quality games than simply providing more games.
None of this really bothered users because, hey, no one is going to cry about a 30% versus 12% cut for the service that sells you the games. The more competition that is out there, the better it is for everyone, right?
That is until Epic started cordoning off its store and snatching up exclusives like a console would.
In fact, the announced exclusivity of Metro: Exodus some two weeks before that game was supposed to come out really highlights just how underhanded Epic’s tactics started to become.
Even though it started with Metro, it has continued to this day. It is almost as if Epic didn’t realize that this first move wouldn’t be popular if they tried it again, and again…and again.
Of course, Metro’s move led to outrage on the Internet and negative reviews from users looking to make a dent in the game’s impact. Whether or not they had any effect will remain to be seen but we know that what happened probably wasn’t what the publishers behind Metro (and others) were expecting.
The perception is that Epic is trying to unfairly shift games from Steam to their store exclusively in order to further some developer-centric agenda that cuts out the community aspects that Steam has nurtured for years.
That brings us to the second major point of contention and that is that Epic’s version of Steam (as some are calling it) isn’t even a good copy.
Most of the Epic Games Store is mostly underdeveloped and lacks in community features. This includes buddy lists, forums, and all of the other conveniences that Steam has incrementally added over the past decade.
Switching to the Epic Games Store means that you have to settle for less in the here and now while praying for a better future.
For many gamers, that’s just not a value proposition worth exploring.
And a third, less serious complaint, revolves around the various conspiracy theories involving Epic and its major investor, Chinese gaming giant Tencent.
Because there’s so much ill will out there already for the Epic Games Store, some people have taken to generating conspiracy theories about everything from Epic spying on its users to the company selling information on gamers to the Chinese central government.
This speculation even prompted a response from Epic’s CEO Tim Sweeney, who said on Twitter: “I support everyone’s right to complain about tech industry stuff…Epic’s store, with exclusive games and a spartan feature set, is a fine target for ire. But please help separate facts and opinions from the lies about spyware and foreign control. I’m the controlling shareholder in Epic Games, and have been since 1991. We have a number of outside investors now. Tencent is the largest. All of Epic’s investors our [sic] friends and partners. None can dictate decisions to Epic. None have access to Epic customer data.”
As you can tell from the above response, things are getting more serious by the week. It will be interesting to see whether or not Epic decides to chill out on its current approach or if it decides that Internet outrage is a price they are willing to pay to try and undercut Steam in the marketplace.
Many people are pointing out that, prior to this, Steam was a kind of virtual monopoly for PC games.
But few people follow that up with the relevant fact that, for years, Steam helped breath new life into PC gaming which was feeling the pressure from cheap consoles. There’s a debt owed to Valve and Steam, to be sure, but who knows if that will be enough to sustain their dominance indefinitely.