Epic's Game Store Is Already Locking Down Exclusives

Image: Hades

Epic Games’ new store is not only taking the fight to Steam by giving developers a bigger cut of their games’ earnings—it’s locking down exclusive games, too.

So far, six developers have said their games will be exclusive to the Epic store for a while, in some cases up to a year. These include interesting indies like Hades and Ashen, as well as Super Meat Boy Forever, which will launch in April 2019 and be exclusive to the Epic store for a year.

The Epic store is “desperately needed to get Steam to give a shit,” said Team Meat’s Tommy Refenes in the game’s Discord channel (via PC Gamer).

Refenes, like many other developers of Epic store-exclusive games, noted that some fans are upset that they’ll have to use multiple apps to play their game libraries. “It may [mean] more launchers, sure, but a small price to pay for a developer community that doesn’t feel like they have one choice on PC.”

Hades, the stylish new roguelite from Pyre developer Supergiant, was one of the Epic store’s flagship launch games last week.

It will be exclusive to Epic’s store until Early Access is complete, for “at least a year and a half,” the game’s creative director Greg Kasavin told Kotaku. Hades will likely come to Steam after that, he said.

Goat Simulator developerCoffee Stain Studios’ next game, Satisfactory, will also be launching exclusively on Epic’s store. Coffee Stain went so far as to take down Satisfactory’s Steam page, something that did not sit will with fans.

“I know a lot of people are gonna have strong opinions on that,” said community manager Jace Varley in a video. “Cool. Have those opinions.” Varley said that he understands the decision to use only the Epic store isn’t necessarily going to make everyone happy and said it was “incredibly frustrating” to not be able to tell people sooner.

The very cool-looking cowboy space shooter Rebel Galaxy Outlaw will also be exclusive to the Epic Games store for a year.

“Achieving Epic’s goals on the royalty front means more developers succeeding and surviving and making more good stuff,” wrote the game’s developers in an FAQ.

First-person roguelite ship builder Genesis Alpha One will be exclusive to the Epic store for an undisclosed period of time, and a planned “playable preview” that was to come to Steam has been shelved, for now at least. Developer Team 17 was conciliatory to an audience frustrated by the sudden change of plans.

“We understand this might be disappointing, and this was a tough decision to make but we believe this will help Genesis Alpha One get off to the best possible start,” it wrote in a Steam post.

For now, some fans aren’t taking these announcements incredibly well, given that Steam has been their one-stop PC gaming shop for years, and they’ve got communities and libraries of hundreds of un-played sale games there. But sudden change is messy and difficult—especially when it’s kept under lock and key by a bunch of NDAs ahead of an award show announcement.

Here’s hoping that after all of Epic’s talk, the new store can actually create change for the better.


Comments

    I really hope the Epic store succeeds and provides a strong alternative to Steam in ways that itch.io, GOG and others have failed to do.

      I really hope the Epic store burns.

      As a consumer, there is nothing for us here. The platform is a not even well glorified launcher, with no value ad whatsoever. You can't even argue but competition is good, because its making titles exclusive.

      Dev's obviously gain benefit out of it from the increased profit margins, but for us consumers, there is literally no reason for us to want to use it, and is in fact more restrictive than other platforms out there.

        While exclusivity does nothing to help the customer, having a near monopoly on game distribution/retail is not great either. Especially when the retailer is also competing with some of their suppliers.

        Imagine if Steam was the only way to purchase games and Valve decided that they could make more money if DOTA2 had no competitors in the MOBA genre.

        Multiple stores also opens the possibility to experiment with different business models. For example, EA wanted to try an "all you can eat" subscription model in Origin Access (something they also wanted to offer on Sony consoles but were told no). You've got companies like Robot Cache that want to experiment with used game sales (assuming that company is more than an ICO scam).

        If you've got a (near) monopoly, pretty much the only way you can get them to do things they don't want to is through government regulation. As an example, it is not at all clear to me that Steam would have implemented refunds without the legal action from the ACCC.

          I would agree with you, except.

          A: Valve freely lets dev's sell CD Keys elsewhere, cutting Valve out of the supply chain.

          B: Most titles except AAA are available across Steam, GoG, Origin, uPlay, etc, with the remainers held in publisher only store (Blizzard, Bethesda).

          Furthermore, you answered your own argument positing "Imagine if Steam was the only way to purchase games", Epic bringing exclusivity into the indie market is creating that exact scenario, and as we know with exclusivity, it doesn't do a damn for competition.

          The Epic store is great for developers, but for us consumers, it has nothing of worth.

            It’s likely that games will exist across multiple services after it gets established - and they can fight each other to set the price. One platform having an effective monopoly is worse than having multiple platforms that can increase competition. The only thing you benefit from as a consumer is only having a single app - but if Valve alters the deal (as they already have) you run out of alternatives. I can’t believe people want somebody to have an effective monopoly on digital distribution. It’ll bite us in the arse.

            Selling keys outside of Steam means jack shit if the keys become region locked, which several of the AAA titles are staring to do.

              Devs set prices, so no price competition except on Dev authorised sales.

              People keep trying to think that there will magically be price competition for consumers. There is no price competition for consumers in game distribution (only for features). All of these stores exist as competition for developers.

                A developer could certainly decide to set different prices on different services based on the store commission. It'd be similar to a bricks and mortar shop charging different prices for cash, Visa/MasterCard, or Diners Club/American Express.

                With different profit cuts we may see different prices. Some devs who have their own stores as well as selling on Steam can sometimes offer cheaper keys for their own storefront. It’s not inconceivable that a price drop could be used to incentivise buyers to move to a platform with a more favourable cut.

                You’re right that it’s devs that set the final price but the store front can influence that decision too, especially with the cut they take. Valve is not your friend and hoping for Steam to be a benevolent monopoly is ridiculous. They are out to continue making a killing selling other people’s games.

                What you’re suggesting is similar to demanding that EB Games were the only brick and mortar distributor because it’s more convenient. It might be, but competition and options are good. Exclusivity isn’t the way to go about it but shouting for a monopoly will almost certainly come back to bite us in the arse.

                  Who says I'm for only Steam?

                  I said there is no reason for us as consumers to use the Epic store. Last time I checked, GoG was doing perfectly fine.

            Timed exclusives seem like a necessary evil at this point. As consumers, we benefit when the development community thrives. More money and more choices for devs pushes platforms like Steam to offer incentives for devs and customers alike to use their platform. Yes, it can result in exclusivity. But some games are exclusive to Steam or GoG already. And in ths long-run, this means devs get paid more and we get cheaper games and better service. Best case scenario - Steam pulls it's head, develops better customer service practice, offers more sales, and develops Portal 3/Half-Life3/Left4Dead3 in order to stay competitive with the giant threat that is Epic. At the cost of an additional installer, I'm down.

              Why would you think this is going to encourage them to develop HL3 or LFD3? They make far more money on the distribution platform than they could ever make from a game. So if the platform starts to struggle they're more likely to throw more effort at the platform, pulling resources *away* from game development.

                It's really not that far of a jump. The resources a company like Valve would employ for game development are not the same resources they would employ to maintain the platform, so suggesting they would divert those resources elsewhere is a false equivalency. If things got serious, and Epic posed a genuine threat, it becomes less about financial expenditure and more about strategic advantage. The strategic advantage self-published 1st party exclusives would give them is phenomenal. It's the same reason Sony's stellar first-party titles assist them in winning the console war. Yes, there are other factors that contribute to choosing one platform over another, but ultimately the IP's Valve retains are a resource they are saving for a rainy day. Eventually, when it rains, they'll use them.

                  Doubtful. The value of those few properties is minuscule compared to the overall value of other games being sold on the store. And if they had good ideas for those IPs at the moment they'd be releasing games already. To imagine they have some secret plan to pull out HL3 as some sort of cash injection for dire times seems unlikely.

                  As for pulling resources to work on the platform rather than the game, resources aren't just referring to people. It also refers to budget. If money becomes that tight they'll sack people who aren't making money. If you're in a "gaming" team and you haven't released a game in years how secure would you feel?

                  @skrybe The value in those games isn't in their retail price. In the event that Steam is hemorrhaging consumers from it's platform, the value is in bringing people back. People are creatures of habbit. That's why Steam does so well now. But in the event that Steam starts losing customers to Epic, they could release one of their core IPs on the storefront and Joe Gamer will come back, because 'no way am I not getting this'. And then, while he's buying Portal 3, hell, why not get the new Assassin's Creed, it's on sale anyway...
                  Steam stands to make substantial increments of sales from getting people back. Selling one game is nothing - but Steam is a circus, and once people are in the door they'll buy the goddamn popcorn and peanuts for $5 a bag.
                  And certainly, people are not the only resource. But Valve has been printing money for yeaaaaars now. The amount of money they have rivals some of the biggest publishers in the business. The only reason they aren't making games is because they haven't wanted to - why would they with Steam and Dota lining their coffers?
                  Let Epic try and take a piece of the pie and we'll see whether that gives them incentive.

            Valve still sees value out of the free keys they let developers generate. The customer will need to create a Steam account to redeem the key, which reduces the barriers for future Steam purchases. Further more, it stops the developers from sending their users to a competing store. It also leaves the developer responsible for most of the difficult parts of running a store (payment processing, fraud detection/prevention, refunds, security, privacy, etc).

            Without credible competition, there would be less incentive to do this. Sony and Microsoft don't let developers freely generate codes for the PlayStation and Xbox ecosystem, for instance.

            So I'd say if Epic's store becomes a credible competitor to Steam, then it will have provided a benefit to consumers irrespective of anything else it does.

      I much prefer GOGs approach for a couple reasons.

      1. No DRM. This is the biggest selling point for me.
      2. Launcher/App is optional, you can just buy and download games from the website.

      Respect your customers, don't force crap they don't want down their throats and you have my business.

      Back to the article, I don't mind if Epic's game store does ok, but the idea of exclusives gives me the shits. Don't lock it to their platform, that takes away my choice. It also means the game doesn't have competition from another distributor so there's no pressure to drive the price down. To be honest, if they force an installer like steam/origin/uplay on me I probably will stop buying their games.

    Is what Epic doing a bad idea? Yes and No
    In my opinion Steam was the first online store to actually exist as far as buying games and having access to updates online. Steam has not been behaving well at current state, but then neither is any other online storefront. Overpricing is just out of control. Actually finished creation games is almost impossible to find. Everything sells as beta (lots of alpha there too), and is generally broken. What Epic do will just prove itself over time but will be no different then other game focused online sales. (Origin, Blizzard, Uplay)

      IMO GoG is the best option.

      I also have no problems with stores selling pre-release and alpha versions as long as they're clearly labelled as such. It's a great way for the dev team to gauge interest and acquire funding without having to sell out to a major publisher. You're more likely to get a game that hasn't been messed up by marketing and executive input by allowing beta/alpha access.

      I'm also not sure about overpricing being out of control, tons of games are quite cheap, and there are frequent sales with massive discounts. Sure there are a bunch of AAA games that are very expensive on launch, but (a) they cost a fortune to create these days, and (b) you can wait a couple months and buy it cheaper.

    Great....splitting my f*cking library amongst several launchers.

    Exclusivity is anti-consumer. Repeat as many times as necessary to learn it.

      Like the exclusivity of Monster Hunter World, Nier Automata, Payday 2, Final Fantasy XV, or any Valve game? Huh... today I learned...

        Yes it is bad. I'd love to be able to buy HL2 or CS:GO that's not reliant on Steam. Or Diablo3 that's not reliant on Battle.net. And that's without worrying about pricing.

          My point was that Epic doesn't have the patent on exclusivity. Sitting around saying that it's bad doesn't stop it. Breaking monopolies discourages, if nothing else. In it's current state, a great many PC games are Steam exclusives.

            Sadly most people do nothing about it. I've largely voted with my wallet and refused to buy a lot of the games. But my (lost) sales are a drop in the bucket when you have 14 million people getting fortnight or some other big name release.

        Part of the issue here is that two concepts are being conflated:

        1. a retail store for purchasing games.

        2. an identity service to persistently identify a user for multi-player, chat, etc.

        While it is common for these two to be provided by the same service there's no reason it needs to be done this way. For example, pre-Steam PC games often had their own account system, and I've played mobile games that used Facebook for (2).

        If you've built a game that needs to identify users for multi-player and aren't big enough to convince users to create a new account, then Steam is a decent option for PC games. And once you've chosen Steam as an identity service, you've pretty much tied yourself to Steam as a retail store.

    This is really bad news for the consumers. Epic is monopolising developers and the consumer is paying for it. Yes, the developer benefits from a bigger cut but only if consumers are prepared to buy from Epic's store. It also prevents developers from going to sites like GOG and itch.io or even setting up their own store page if they want to increase visibility and potential sales.

    Stick it to Steam by not putting your game on there, don't stick it to the consumers as well by being exclusive to one storefront.

      since my earlier comment got eaten, I might as well expand on what you mention which I tried to cover earlier:

      Timed exclusives can be okay, and I don't mind the idea of early access on one platform leading to full release on others, but implementation here has yet to be seen. I'm happy enough in Steam's ecosystem since I can always get DRM-free backups where devs have made them available via GOG/Humble/itch.io/etc. (or vice-versa with the rare case like Project Warlock as a timed GOG exclusive now hitting Steam) - but I no longer buy anything from companies like EA/Ubi/Rockstar who force everything through their end points such that consumers have no long-term security for even single player games (especially with their histories even including the odd bait-and-switch when called out on it)!

      I feel like everyone has the wrong end of the stick here. If exclusivity is the foothold Epic needs to bring devs and consumers in, great. Steam already has a ton of exclusives, to the point that other platforms can't compete in their current state. Epic have obtained these exclusivity deals from developers who do not approve of Steam's business practice and want to break that monopoly. The lesser evil here is short-term exclusivity. We can all reap the benefits of healthy economic competition on the other sife of this. I mean, by the sound of it, these devs haven't signed exclusivity deals with Epic solely on the basis of marketing and licensing rights. They did it because Steam f#$ked over indie devs with their recent monetisation scheme. Goddamnit, I just want large corporations to fight over the right to take my money, is that too much to ask? Who will win, Coke or Pepsi?! Who the [email protected]%k cares, I only drink Fanta...

        Kindof unrelated, but if Pepsi wins that war, you may have to settle for Sunkist instead of Fanta, unless you go to a supermarket or something - fast food retailers and smaller stores commonly have deals with one distributor or the other - stocking either Schweppes drinks or Coca-Cola Amitil drinks, rarely both.

          Was going to say something similar. Soft drinks highlight a problem with all industries at the moment, small companies with a good product are bought out by conglomerates. Sometimes to remove competition, sometimes to just bring those sales into the company.

          It is problematic though, because as pointed out you get scenarios like a shop being unable to sell a product because their main distributor has opposing products. Or you get companies completely changing a product to save costs (since profit is the ONLY goal) and killing it because it's no longer as good. Or hell, just outright cancelling the product.

          And of course the fewer competing companies, the less incentive there is to innovate and lower prices. It's a lot easier to form a cartel and fix prices when there are two or three companies than 20 or 30.

            Actually, independant developers of games, music, books, art and other creative mediums have found a renaissance through online distributors, making creative industry as a whole an exception to your observation. The advent of the internet has decentralised mainstream publishers and given independants the opportunity to market to a broader consumer base at minimal cost, hence why indie games/music/art/etc does so well right now.
            Yes, large publishers sometimes buy smaller studios, but realistically the indie scene is so prevalent and prolific that buying up all the competition simply isn't an option. We are pretty lucky to have so much choice.
            However, if you are maintaining the beverage company to distribution platform equivalency metaphor, it doesn't really hold up. A distribution platform needs to be large by definition in order to market its product to as big a consumer base as possible - ie. there's no such thing as a small, independant distribution platform. Steam isn't going around buying up the competition.

              For the record that little discussion was less about gaming and more about groceries and other products.

              It's pretty annoying when you go into Woolworths/coles/aldi to buy a bottle of jam and discover that they no longer stock it and instead you have to buy a different brand that doesn't quite taste the same. Or you go to the takeaway and they only sell Pepsi not Coke. Or you go to buy a particular brand of shorts and they are no longer available. Or you buy shoes from Rivers because they are quality, only to discover that Rivers is no longer quality, it's cheap shite.

            I stopped buying Dominos when they stopped stocking coke.

            Not that they give a single fuck.

              I stopped buying Dominos when I found a local place where the pizzas aren't shit :P

              But it's a good point. Companies lose sales when they reduce diversity, but until enough people vote with their wallets they don't care. I also suspect that they wouldn't realise the reason they are losing customers is Pepsi -v- Coke. Largely because there are so many other possibilities like the burger joint across the road, or a downturn in the economy and so on.

                This is why I've always argued that 'piracy as protest' actually means something.

                If someone doesn't buy your product, it could be for any reason. Price too high, quality not good enough, product doesn't have an audience, poor marketing/awareness, etc, etc, etc.

                If people are shitted off by awful marketing practices and boycott a game that uses it, the marketers directly responsible can point to low sales and say, "It's because the game wasn't popular enough; there was no demand." Piracy negates that argument by indicating how much demand there really is, which means the quality/audience/awareness questions aren't worth looking into as much as price/accessibility/miscellaneous.

                Piracy tells a company a hell of a lot more than a simple non-sale.

                  I get what you're saying, but it's up for interpretation.

                  You or I might see the reason as "game costs too much" or "I hate the DRM".

                  Company sees it as "gamers are tight-arse thieves".

                  They also see every pirated copy as a lost sale when it's definitely not the case.

      Playing devil's advocate for a moment, they haven't said exclusivity is mandatory. I'm not sure they're "preventing developers from going to sites like GOG" so much as "encouraging them not to go to GOG". Just want to be clear.

    We already have exclusivity in developers only selling on Steam. The only difference in Epic Games doing it with their store is it's a different launcher. Either option is still bad for the consumer.

    I can understand why indie developers are jumping ship to Epic Games though. They more than halve the cut that the store takes and likely these early adopters are getting even better deals than the 12%.

    For me Epic doesn't have to compete with steam, rather the resellers like Fanatical, Humble Bundle (not Humble store as it more or less is just a Steam mirror when it comes to pricing) and GMG. Unless the revenue split allows for a more competitive price point, the only reason I'm going to visit the Epic store is for the free game every 2 weeks for however long that lasts.

    I'm surprised there hasn't been a lot of chat on here about how the biggest issue right now isn't exclusivity, but how apparently the Epic Store interface is hot garbage....

      I've brought it up every time it's come up, but yeah - the Epic store site is less complicated than my first Grade 9 'Hello world' web page.

      That's not a problem when you only have four titles available for purchase and another six 'coming soon', but for fuck's sake, that bullshit store page better be a place-holder that gives way to reveal a fully-functioning actual competitor to Steam, and not a fucking model T Ford that acts like power steering and air-bags haven't been fucking invented yet in the year 2018 because it's their first time making a car themselves.

        Oh sorry, I missed it, my bad. But yeah, it's just a complete faff at the moment. And.....
        And...
        AND
        Apparently there are a bunch of refund issues cropping up, which is gonna be fun if the ACCC notices...

    Well a great way to turn fans off your product is to enforce exclusivity. I'm sorry Devs but I'm not going to install epic game launcher just for your game. My backlog of games on steam from a decade of sales is more than I can play (to completion) in a life time. Is your game so amazing that I must pick up another launcher? Probably not.
    Just my guess but the dollars you'll get from a better cut won't equate to copies sold, especially if you piss off your customers.

      Well that's a good thing, isn't it? Like you, I already own more games that I could play through even if I spent the rest of my life playing them, died of old age, was reincarnated, grew up and started playing them again. And yet I constantly struggle to stop myself buying more games whenever there's a big sale. This sounds like just what you and I need to help us keep control of our wallets.

    Refenes, like many other developers of Epic store-exclusive games, noted that some fans are upset that they’ll have to use multiple apps to play their game libraries. “It may [mean] more launchers, sure, but a small price to pay for a developer community that doesn’t feel like they have one choice on PC.”

    Paraphrased: "Inconvenience is a price I'm willing for you to pay for my benefit."

    See, I'm just not seeing anything to benefit consumers, here. So... good for some, I guess? Some who aren't me?

    Not super thrilled about this shit. And I'm sure some indie devs are happy and their friends in the gaming press want us to be happy for those devs, too, but I don't see much cause for celebrating how we're getting the short end of the stick, here.

    Just about everything they talk about comes with a massive caveat. Better cut of a sale is great! But a smaller cut of something big is much worse than a huge cut of... nothing? I'm not sure about that. And the reference to un-played Steam libraries is particularly notable. You know what's easier and cheaper for me than buying something on a Steam sale and telling myself I'll play it some day, and the developer walking away with my money? Me not seeing it on a Steam sale, not buying it, not having it in my pile of shame, and the developer not seeing a cent.

    And a lot of these devs are assuming that Epic's store is going to give them the magical visibility that they crave, to off-set the sideways glances that they were living off from the massive audience that Steam has. But that gold rush only lasts so long... it only lasts for the first dozen, first couple dozen, first hundred to rush and claim that gold. After that... well. I keep saying it, but these guys are not stuck in traffic. They ARE traffic. They've carved out a new lane to use, sure... but when that lane fills up too? They'll still be in fucking traffic.

    Last edited 11/12/18 9:25 pm

    sigh, can we not have 'exclusives' any more. especially when its just forcing people to purchase from one specific place. that is anti consumer. doesn't breed competition.

    "Do what you want 'cause a pirate is free
    You are a pirate!"

    Yar har, fiddle de dee
    Being a pirate is alright to be
    Do what you want 'cause a pirate is free
    You are a pirate!
    You are a pirate! Yay!

    We've got us a map (a map!)
    To lead us to a hidden box
    That's all locked up with locks (with locks!)
    And buried deep away
    We'll dig up the box (the box!)
    We know it's full of precious booty!
    Burst open the locks!
    And then we'll say, "Hooray!"

    Yar har, fiddle de dee
    If you love to sail the sea
    You are a pirate!!
    Weigh anchor! "

    "So far, six developers have said their games will be exclusive to the Epic store for a while, in some cases up to a year."

    It's devs decisions guys, you gonna blame them to want to get a better profit of their games, most of them are just indie companies. If you want to support your favorite devs you should respect their decisions.

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