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Epic Games Launches Own Games Store
Quote:Epic Games, the maker of the Unreal Engine gaming engine, has just announced its own multi-platform games store. The company will support Windows and macOS at launch, but it will also support “other open platforms,” including Android and presumably Linux, next year.
That means Epic Games takes only a 12% cut, which is almost three times smaller than what Steam and Google Play Store charge most developers. Epic said there are no tiers or thresholds that developers have to meet either, unlike with other platforms.

Moreover, developers that use the Unreal Engine and who normally have to pay a 5% royalty will be exempted from paying that royalty, as Epic will take its 5% cut from the 12% store commission. Epic Games noted that games using other game engines are welcome on its store, too:
Google normally takes a 30% cut from the third-party developers’ app revenues. Apple and Valve’s Steam service take the same 30% cut. However, Steam recently announced a reduction in its commissions for large developers, presumably to preempt the launch of Epic Games’ store.

Steam now charges large developers that have earnings of over $10 million a 25% commission, and those that have earnings over $50 million a 20% commission. The latter is still almost twice as large as Epic Games’ commission. Additionally, some of those developers may still have to pay the 5% Unreal Engine royalty on top of the Steam commission.
Quote:Epic looks to give developers far more freedom with their digital platform as well. Offering access to their 10,000 strong Epic Games Support-A-Creator program that is designed to get a developer's games into the hands of YouTube content creators, Twitch streamers, etc. They even go so far as to cover the first 5% of creator revenue-sharing costs for the first 24 months. Better yet while its an option it is not mandatory, thus giving developers options that best suit their needs without forcing a one-size fits all approach. Developers are also given complete control over their game pages and news feeds, with no other advertisements or marketing of competing titles.

Overall it appears Epic is ready to take a slice of the digital pie and has prepared for some time to do just that. The only real problem will be converting users away from Steam. While EA's Origin platform has had some success, it has also been around for seven years at this point. Meanwhile, Ubisoft has a weird amalgamation of Steam and Uplay, that is somewhat separate from their stand-alone Uplay store which when you consider the issues associated with it, comes off as being a complete mess. Therefore while it seems the Epic Games store is primed for success, it's all about gaining users, and while Fortnite is a phenomenon, it remains to be seen if it will be enough to convert a legion of followers into using the Epic Games store instead of Steam.
Quote:Epic further notes that it wants developers to have a direct relationship with players. Those buying games in the Store automatically get subscribed to the developer's news feed, and there will be no store ads or cross-marketing of other games on a particular title's page. The company notes that it won't allow paid ads in search results, either.

In another grassroots-building move, developers will be able to allow referral purchases of their games through the Epic Store. The company will cover the first 5% paid out through the revenue-sharing program per game for the first two years. Once again, that's a right hook at Valve, whose Steam storefront has no referral program.
The point is generally good, although he misses the fact that Valve released Artifact last month.
Quote:And there it is. Valve isn’t a game developer. It’s a gate-keeper that exploits its position in the PC market, knowing the chances of anyone going elsewhere are slim, because where would you go in the first place? Services like GoG, Origin, and uPlay can work for some titles, but Steam has been the virtual storefront for most of PC gaming. The problem is, virtually none of the wealth poured into the company on a yearly basis actually seems to go to making games. Or a Steam client redesign. Or content moderators. Or OS development. Or hardware development. If you love DoTA, Valve is great. If you cared about Portal, L4D, Half-Life, Valve’s practically dead already.

Obviously, it’s still early days. Epic Games’ service might suck, or refuse to offer refunds, or be catastrophically buggy. But this is the biggest change we’ve seen in years for someone to compete more effectively with Valve. According to Sweeney, the Epic Games store will be giving out a free game every two weeks in 2019, so keep an eye out for announcements.
Quote:Epic Games launched its own store in December of last year in an obvious bid to undercut Steam-owner Valve by offering a bigger revenue share to developers. Now, that effort may be starting to pay off as Ubisoft has decided to release Tom Clancy's The Division 2 to the Epic Games Store and skip Steam.
Quote:The latest game to join Epic Games Store's exclusivity pool is Metro Exodus, which has ditched Steam to move onto the new digital store, making it the first game in the trilogy to not launch through Steam for PC.
Fans who've kept their eyes on the game may have noticed that there has been a Steam pre-order page for Metro Exodus for some time now. Thankfully, those who've pre-ordered from Steam aren't being left behind, as Deep Silver will still be honoring these orders, similar to what happened when The Walking Dead: The Final Season moved to the Epic Games Store recently.
Quote:Valve came out earlier today, with a statement (that you can find on the Metro Exodus store page), stating that the decision to pull the game from Steam was “unfair to Steam customers”. The game will of course still be accessible to those that pre-ordered it on Valve’s platform come the 15th of February, however it won’t return for sale on Steam until February 2020, a year later.
Quote:Epic Games, which was a fence-sitter that stuck to Steam for distributing its wares, took a plunge into this business and served up a disruptive revenue-sharing offer that beat the other platforms. Smaller studios who could use a greater share of revenue than what Steam was offering, made a beeline for Epic Games Store. The latest big deserter is 4A Games, which is releasing "Metro: Exodus" as an Epic Games Store exclusive.

Losses from these desertions will hit Valve's bottom-line, and the company will no doubt undertake a slew of measures, such as improving their revenue-sharing deals, and making its platform "glamorous" again. People recognize Origin as "something you need for playing Battlefield and FIFA" rather than "the largest selection of PC games on the planet." Steam runs the risk of being reduced to "a place to go for indie games," with indie developers drawn to Steam for its captive audience. One way Valve can change that perception is by becoming a major game developer again.

Valve does not make its financials public, but in whatever few glimpses the game business industry got, it's a multi-billion Dollar company, which can afford to develop AAA games, or at least contract a lesser known game developer by licensing its IP to make games (a la Sledgehammer Games developing id Software titles). Additions to key Valve franchises such as "Half Life," "Portal," and "Left 4 Dead" could add value to the Steam platform, and increase its captive base. "Half Life 3" is a meme today, and each year gamers expect an announcement on that game. It remains to be seen if Gabe Newell wants to pick up the gauntlet one more time.
Wow. Just wow. And the writer's sycophancy to Steam doesn't hold up. If Deep Silver wanted to take advantage of Steam's near-monopoly on PC gaming to get more publicity, let them do it.
Quote:Loyal Steam users were in for quite a shocker a couple of days ago, when they were treated to the news that publisher Deep Silver is not releasing Metro Exodus on the platform, and has instead signed an exclusivity deal with the new Epic Games Store, just a few days from the title's launch. Needless to say, gamers have not responded to this information well and have begun review-bombing other Metro games on Steam.
It is this writer's own humble opinion as well that Deep Silver skipping Steam like this is highly despicable, as the publisher essentially used the platform as a free storefront and then jumped ship when it got an exclusivity deal, without any prior indication.
I honestly hope this is real and that it happens, because I'm disgusted with PC gamers over this review bombing.
Quote:We do not agree with this behavior, but neither do we condone what happened next. A user by the handle scynet on the Russian Gameinator forums claimed to be one of the developers on the Metro game franchise, and expressed disappointment, and even anger at the review bombing ongoing. Perhaps emotions took over, when he then effectively threatened that the Metro series would not come to the PC platform again, and be a console exclusive, should this behavior continue and also if PC gamers in turn decide to not buy Metro Exodus as a result of the move from Steam to the Epic Games Store. We will note here that (a) the identity of said person has not been confirmed to be an actual developer for the game, and (b) such decisions are usually in the publisher hands. Regardless, both parties are not showing their best here, and hopefully cooler heads will prevail soon.
Quote:[Update: Feb 3, 2019: TechPowerUp user birdie has provided what appears to be the most accurate translation at this time, which can be seen past the break.]
This does not seem as feverous as initial translations make it out to be, however the underlying tones are still applicable to the same bottom line. We also are more confident now that the original poster is a verified employee of 4A Games, and likely a developer on Metro Exodus as well. He/she is no doubt passionate about the work put in to the game, and ideally recognizes that the deeds (however undeserving the review bombing of past games may be) of some members of the PC gaming community does not speak for everyone. At the same time, this does not mean that 4A Games/Koch Media/THQ Nordic/Epic Games Store are all blameless in this debacle either, just that here too the work of few is affecting the rest adversely.
And PC "gamers" continue their disgusting review bombing.
Quote:"Metro Exodus" is the week's big AAA PC launch, and the latest entry to the post-apocalyptic horror-survival shooter franchise by 4A Games. The Ukrainian studio recently pulled the game from Steam and made it an exclusive with rival DRM platform Epic Games, in pursuit of a higher revenue-share. This invited inexplicable hatred from Steam users, who appear to have review-bombed the game on review ratings aggregator Metacritic.
Quote:Tom Clancy's The Division 2 hopped over to the Epic Games Store in a surprise move last month, dropping the original Steam launch plans. While fan reactions to games switching to the Epic Games Store haven't really been positive, it seems Ubisoft's course of action has been a success.

In an earnings call, Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot said the pre-order numbers for the PC version are "higher than for the first Division," with the Ubisoft Store alone bringing in six times as much pre-orders than before.
Quote:For those who were able to add the game to their Steam library before it got moved, and there are a lot of those too given Metro Exodus rose to the top spot of best selling titles once that news broke, the game appears to be more than satisfactory at first glance. While many were expecting users to review bomb the title negatively again, the current status of the game on Steam is "Very Positive" as far as user reviews go. Discussions have been mostly on point as well, until you dig deeper. The most helpful reviews, as rated by other Steam users, are really just a dig at the Epic Games Store, with language used that is less mature than the game rating itself. Newer reviews continue to do the same, so perhaps this was an attempt by many to appease the game publisher by leaving positive reviews of the game, but still making it more about the Epic Games store than the game itself. Not the best way to go about things, but it is still better than review bombing the game.
Quote:Much of the behavior categorized by users as potentially suspicious, like enumerating running processes, really aren’t. For the most part, this appears to be a tempest in a teacup. For example, the launcher does enumerate all currently running processes — so it can avoid attempting to update games that are currently running. It uses a tracking pixel to cover the Support-A-Creator program so it can pay creators. Code for various functions, like the Hardware Survey and the UDP traffic created by an Unreal Editor communication function, can be found on Github. Epic’s VP of Engineering, Dan Vogel, responded to some of these concerns in his own posts.

But Sweeney does acknowledge one point where gamers have a genuine complaint. At launch, the Epic Game Store scans and makes an encrypted copy of the localconfig.vdf Steam file. Vogel writes:
Users have asked why Epic would need to import this information this way, given that Steam includes APIs that allow other applications to access this sort of data without scanning files in other folders. Sweeney’s response hasn’t gone over particularly well:
This is not a particularly good explanation. Even if Epic has no nefarious intent — and there’s no proof they do — there’s also no reason not to make a specific exception for a specific, trusted, third-party. And maybe more to the point, it’s clear that the privacy expectations of users aren’t even being considered, here.

Sweeney goes so far as to acknowledge that the current method EGS uses to perform this task is the result of a rushed delivery schedule and a tight timeframe to add social features to Fortnite, but he apparently believes that the mistake is in scanning the file before the user chooses to import Steam friends. The idea that his application shouldn’t be scanning user files at all when an API exists to gather this information in another fashion, or that the EGS is performing a malware-like activity, doesn’t seem to have occurred to him — or, if it did, it’s viewed as less of an issue to breach user expectations of privacy than to risk the privacy issues inherent to integrating an isolated third-party API usage to perform a specific task.

While I don’t agree with Sweeney’s decision on this topic, I have a hard time arguing with the logic. In a world where Facebook deliberately shares private and personal information on tens of millions of people with companies that never should have been allowed to see it, the idea that scanning a single file for a list of friends you won’t even upload without permission would constitute a privacy violation is pretty laughable by comparison.

The constant drumbeat of Facebook privacy scandals hasn’t just damaged Facebook. The fact that Facebook and so many other companies continue to be allowed to exist with little-to-no meaningful punishment after breach after breach and scandal after scandal also demonstrates how little value is placed on privacy, anonymity, or security by our society overall. This arguably feeds the unconscious perception that these aren’t issues that actually need to be considered when designing a product.

There is, as far as we can tell, no evidence that the Epic Game Store is spying on people or performing untoward PC monitoring. I’d love to end this story with a discussion of how frustration with Epic’s policies might be a sign Silicon Valley would start to consider user privacy more seriously and to take more steps to secure it. But honestly, I’m not feeling that optimistic.
The guy saying this is Richard Geldreich, who is best known for his incendiary rant about the state of graphics driver support for OpenGL in 2014.
Quote:However, a former Valve developer has come forth to say that in his view, Valve's 30% cut was already way behind the times, and was actually "killing PC gaming". The train of thought is that Steam itself changed Valve from a software company to what mostly amounts to a service provider, with Steam serving as a veritable digital money printing machine, that stole focus from games to games publishing, due to higher margins and much lower development costs. It's interesting - and logical - to assume that the reason an Half Life 3 never saw the light of day was because Valve had its revenue stream well secured in Steam. Why invest for a game that could be a flop, when you can just take a 30% cut from other developers' efforts?

Of course, the argument does make some sense. At the same time, it's true that Valve's Steam platform did advance gaming for publishers more than is being let on - a 40% royalty on digitally published games beat the usually 50% take that brick-and-mortar stores usually took in order to reserve shelf space for a new game release. However, as times changed and digital publishing became more commonplace (and game development costs rise and rise), it's understandable that a 30% cut was hitting a new sustainability ceiling for developers. And that's where Richard Geldreich's argument makes more sense: a 12% cut will allow for developers to invest more heavily into their games due to the much reduced revenue cut they have to take into account on projected sales.

That, or they'll invest the same amount of money and take a deeper cut for investors. It could go both ways.
Quote:Late in 2018, Epic Games, makers of the Unreal engine and the massive battle royale game Fortnite, released their new storefront, the Epic Games Store. Since then, they’ve announced a number of exclusive titles, including some games that were formerly exclusive to Valve’s competing service, Steam. This, and some other issues we’ll discuss, have generated quite a bit of blowback for the company.

If you’ve worked or paid attention to the tech industry for long enough, some of these complaints may be giving you a sense of déjà vu. Back when Steam launched, gamers didn’t just dislike it — they hated it. Virtually every aspect of the service was controversial, including the mandatory Half-Life 2 online activation. When Valve made the service mandatory with Counter-Strike 1.6, some players revolted by refusing to upgrade. Valve eventually forced them to by shutting down the older CS1.5 game servers.
Sometimes, what represents a more fair outcome for one group may be perceived as a less fair outcome to another. Game developers are looking for platforms that give them an increased cut of profits and where they don’t have to compete with thousands of other games being released per year. It’s hard to argue with that. PC gamers point out that the EGS isn’t a replacement for Steam and that it lacks a great many features while selling games at the same prices. Both groups have valid points.

In the long run, gamers will vote with their wallets and decide whether Steam’s near-monopoly is worth preserving. But the fact that gamers are reacting so strongly to the Epic Games Store now isn’t necessarily proof that the endeavor is doomed. Once upon a time, they — or we, if I’m being fair — loathed Steam at least as much. In the long run, competition could improve both services. Certainly, that’s typically the case — and Steam has faced very little direct competition in its years of dominating the PC market.
Quote:The Epic Games store launched with a major feature that its main competitor, Steam, hasn’t been willing to offer so far -- an 88/12 revenue split model in favor of developers. Epic's CEO this week said that if Steam would adopt the same model and share 88% of game revenues with all developers, it would drop the exclusivity deals it sometimes makes with certain game developers.
The Epic Games store currently takes only 12% of a game's revenues, with the rest going to the developers. In comparison, Steam takes 30%, or two and a half times more, as commission from games making under $10 million. Those who make more than $10 million in sales from a popular game can have that commission reduced to 25%, while those making over $50 million in revenue from their games have to pay 20%, which is still significantly more than Epic’s 12% fee.

Steam’s current tiered revenue split seems to mostly favor larger developers and hurt indie developers, which could help Epic in the long term.

Epic Games’ store is still very much in its infancy, but if it keeps getting more popular with developers due to the low commission rate, it could become a larger threat to Steam. Epic has also promised to launch its store for macOS and Android in the near future
Quote:I, for one, don't see much of a problem with virtual segregation of games across multiple PC-bound platforms - one of the strengths of PC gaming is actually the ability to install multiple applications that increase functionality, after all. But if the end game of all of this is simply to give more back to developers and Epic's move facilitates that by forcing Valve's hand in matching them for fear of drying profits - then so be it.
Quote:Update: A clarification was sent out earlier today where Epic said that they won't stop supporting Rocket League on Steam, as they never could actually do, since legions of players that had already purchased the game on that platform would pick up their pitchforks with a vengeance. However, wording on Epic's clarification leaves much to be desired, and seemingly confirms that the game will not be available on Steam:
Quote:In April, Sweeney claimed the Epic Games Store would stop with the exclusives if Steam adopted its revenue model (Epic's split is 88%/12% in favor of developers, Steam's is 70/30). Now, Sweeney is attempting to illuminate the thought process behind this initiative. The exec took to social media with a series of tweets, explaining that exclusivity deals are part of a longer-term solution meant to improve cuts for developers.

According to Sweeney, simply offering a better cut for creators isn't going to change the industry standard rates. Instead, Epic Games believes in purchasing exclusive games at scale in an effort to pressure Steam to reduce their cut.

"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," wrote Sweeney. "Nearly all have more features than Epic; and the ability to discount games is limited by various external pressures." He added that these outside factors lead to the "strategy of exclusives," which indeed may be "unpopular" with Steam gamers, but it does work.

Sweeney also said that the tactic could indeed be seen as aggressive, but it's “proportionate to the problem it addresses." With Epic's long-term goal of lowering the cuts that platforms like Steam take from developers as an industry-wide standard, the strategy does start to make more sense.

"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," he summarized.

This may not be the most optimal solution for gamers resistant to change, or those who prefer Steam to the Epic Games Store, but it does appear that Sweeney and company believe this is a viable option to better the industry as a whole. And with a goal like that in mind, it's honestly hard to fault them – though we'll grant you the fact that it is a pain to constantly have to swap between launchers.
Quote:EPIC CEO Tim Sweeney in a veritable Tweetstorm detailed EPIC's strategy on gaming exclusivity a bit more - and to listen to the CEO, EPIC is doing this as a way to break Steam's grasp on the PC games distribution market and their 30/70 distributor's cut. Asked on games exclusivity and their usage as a digital storefront strategy, Sweeney said that EPIC "believes 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 also says that this split is a "disastrous situation for developers and publishers alike."
His stance is that EPIC's 12/82 split is fairer for developers (stating that a 30% cut would almost totally cut into their profits), and that this additional money that enters studios' pockets will necessarily be split among "(1) reinvestment, (2) profit, and (3) price reduction", and that in this way, EPIC's solution is both proportionate to the problem, and a move that will benefit gamers in the long run.

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