Thu. Nov 21st, 2019

Epic Games CEO tries to defend much-maligned exclusives strategy

Epic Games CEO Tim SweeneyTim Sweeney believes limiting where gamers can buy their games is the only way the Epic Games Store is going to be able to compete with Steam.

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Epic Games has become something of a swearword in the gaming community because of their strategy of paying developers to sell their games exclusively on the Epic Store, but Tim Sweeney believes it is the only way they can compete with Steam.

Epic Games exclusivity deals

It all began in December 2018 when Epic Games, the creators of Fortnite and the Unreal game development engine, launched the Epic Games Store.

It did not get off to a good start. Upon launch, gamers were greeted with a feature-lite, buggy mess of a storefront application. People laughed at the idea that this was supposed to be competition to Steam.

However, what followed did indeed change the game but not in the way everyone was hoping.

Epic began launching a slew of exclusivity deals which they secured with game developers and publishers through a combination of offering a better split of the profits and a hefty signing bonus.

Not a popular move

This made gamers angry. Especially in the cases of games like Outer Wilds where the developers raised money to make the game on crowd-funding platforms with the promise of a steam release, only to reneg on that promise when announcing the game would be an Epic exclusive.

While exclusivity to a platform is not new to gaming, and has actually been a big factor in the console wars, it is not something typically associated with PC gaming.

Just about every announcement of a new exclusive to the Epic Games Store is met with massive negative backlash online. To the point where it doesn’t even matter any more how good the game is, or even how good the Epic Games Store is compared to Steam.

Epic’s justification

Sweeney caused somewhat of a stir on social media in June when he shared a PC Gamer article announcing that the Good Old Games store, a subsidiary of CD Projekt Red, were working on a universal game launcher.

This would allow people to manage and run their games from one location regardless of what storefront they made the purchase.

It is a bold idea and would need buy-in from all parties to get anywhere close to making it happen, but Sweeney sharing the article raised eyebrows specifically because of their exclusivity strategy.

The company has repeatedly stated it does not intend to persue the exclusive strategy forever, but Sweeney’s response to criticism of his post was even more interesting.

Apparently he believes exclusivity is the only way for anyone to compete with steam in the short term.

“This question gets to the core of Epic’s strategy for competing with dominant storefronts. 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,” he said on Twitter.

“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.

“We believe that there’s no set of features which Epic, or any other store, could add that would be so revolutionary as to lead to a large-scale move of gamers from a dominant storefront to a new one.”

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