Epic Games Boss Says They Will Stop Doing Exclusives If Steam Gives Developers More Money

Epic Games Boss Says They Will Stop Doing Exclusives If Steam Gives Developers More Money
Photo: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/25730674112">CC/Official GDC</a>

Last night, Epic Games boss Tim Sweeney tweeted that his company would end its controversial exclusivity agreements if Steam raised its revenue cut for developers. It’s a strong statement, even if there are reasons to be sceptical of Sweeney’s position.

“If Steam committed to a permanent 88% revenue share for all developers and publishers without major strings attached,” Sweeney wrote, “Epic would hastily organise a retreat from exclusives (while honouring our partner commitments) and consider putting our own games on Steam.”

Since the Epic Game Store launched in December, the company behind Fortnite and the Unreal Engine has struck several exclusivity deals with high-profile games like Borderlands 3 and The Division 2, preventing those games from appearing on Steam.

The practice has been contentious, drawing a lot of ire from PC gamers, especially considering the Epic Game Store lacks many of the features that make Steam so enticing for players.

For developers, however, being on the Epic Store is a boon, as it gives 88% of revenue earned from games to the people who make them. PC megalith Steam, on the other hand, gives developers between 70-80% depending on sales.

In a followup tweet, Sweeney wrote, “Such a move would be a glorious moment in the history of PC gaming, and would have a sweeping impact on other platforms for generations to come. Then stores could go back to just being nice places to buy stuff, rather than the Game Developer IRS.”

While Sweeney’s tweets seem like Twitter chatter rather than an actual challenge to Steam developer Valve, the sentiment certainly sounds nice. Question is, is this a bluff that Sweeney knows Valve will never call, an effort to charm angry PC gamers, or is it a genuine promise?

Sweeney summed up his vision as “Essentially, the spirit of an open platform where the store is just a place to find games and pay for stuff.” Sure.


  • Really seems like one of those things you claim when you know the other side isn’t going to do what you want…

  • Comedy gold.

    This whole shitstorm is stupid. There’s isn’t a person living who wouldn’t at least consider going epic store if they were faced with getting a larger split of money. Anyone saying differently has obviously never been faced with paying their power bill and rent, or is lying.

    • While on the consumer side there isn’t a person living who wouldn’t at least consider going to the cheapest store if they were faced with saving a larger amount of money. Anyone saying differently has obviously never been faced with paying their power bill and rent, or is lying. It’s something that works both ways and can’t happen if there’s only ever one store to choose from.

  • An increased revenue share on a different platform doesn’t guarantee greater profits though.

    Steam offers greater visibility which may net a greater volume of sales and over compensate for a lower revenue share.

    • Steam also allows the publishers and other third parties to generate keys as well. Keys that dont create any profit for Steam. Epic doesnt do that. So if Steam went to 88%, they’d be making less than Epic as a net of all sales on their platform.

      This amounts to extortion, and I think most people are wise enough to realise that.

    • Steam offers greater visibility? Are you sure? I haven’t been able to use Steam in years to search for and purchase a game that I didn’t already know existed.

      Literally last week I was between games with no ideas on what to play next. Fired up Steam and tried searching for a game that would appeal to me…gave up in the end without finding anything.

      • I purchased a game “knights of tartarus” just a couple of dats ago which I had no idea existed until i found it on steam. It happens quite frequently for me.

      • There are so many games in my Steam library I never would have found without the personal recommended lists that Steam generate.

  • Epic Store can become something if they improve its features. they money they are paying developers to make exclusives would have been better used if they improved their platform.

      • They claim they are.

        The fact they are reluctant to add user reviews says a lot about their motives. They aren’t in it for us the consumers. They are in it to line their pockets and the publishers.

        • I am surprisingly okay with developers and publishers receiving a larger share of the profits on the games they make/publish.

          Without developers, we wouldn’t have games. Without publishers, we wouldn’t have AAA games.

          • Where do you think the larger share of profits is going? You probably have this lovely image of hard working employees getting nice bonuses. But it’s far more likely that any increased profits are going to go towards executive bonuses and shareholder dividends. In the case of publicly listed companies, shareholders would expect to get higher dividends due to such a deal with Epic, or anyone else.

          • You seem to believe that publishers own developers? That is only true for some of the more extreme examples. Take Obsidian for instance, who were independent until they were recently acquired by Microsoft. They more recently developed games like Pillars of Eternity and Tyranny through Paradox. In the past, they’ve partnered with everything from Deep Silver to Atari.

            On top of this, most of the games on the EGS are single player experiences. Exactly the sort of game publishers have been moving away from because they’re much riskier and less profitable than GaaS. Also, remember the EGS provides significant benefits for smaller, self publishing studios.

            You can hate on the EGS all you want. Those who care about the health of the industry will continue to purchase good games where they’re available. I’d rather promote Metro: Exodus, Ashen and The Outer Worlds over stinking trash-fires like Artifact, Anthem and Fallout 76.

        • You mean that you can’t use Google to find out what a games like? I never use user reviews on a platform like Steam because they are prone to review bombing. I’d rather go to somewhere like Whirlpool.

  • Aren’t the exclusives, along with the increased cut for developers, the main point of difference for the Epic store? Take those differences away and would there be much reason for anybody to use it instead of Steam?

    • No reason at all. Which is why they need to develop a different point of difference. As an example, if they made Epic the sole avenue for Unreal made games that would be a point of difference in line with a lot of other launchers.

      Gamers still probably wouldnt like it, but it would be similar enough to Origin, Uplay, Battle.Net, etc that we’d accept it more readily than a Steam clone with less features.

      • Epic has far, far closer ties with developers than Steam. The unreal engine is the gold standard and a lot of studios lean on Epic for technical support.

        I definitely think that’s the way they’ll pivot their exclusives too… once the store has enough traction to with consumers. They will partner with companies who use their tech.

        Quite different than Origin/Battle.net.. there are an enormous number of games you’d never suspect made with the UE. For example: Ace Combat 7, Dragon Ball FighterZ, Octopath Traveler, Sea of Thieves and way more.

        • Yeah, I know how many games the Unreal engine is behind. Its why I’m saying that because they control the Unreal engine, they’re functionally in a very similar spot to EA, Activision, Ubisoft, etc where they are the constant across all Unreal made games.

          Not exactly the same, because THEY arent the publisher, but they’d be close enough and could pull it off pretty easily with a simple clause in the contract. If that was where their exclusives came from, I doubt there would be anywhere near as much backlash as there has been.

          And moving forward its a way to get back on track with consumers, rather than the aggressive and hostile tactics they’ve tried so far. Which I’m not sure is getting them the traction with consumers they’re after.

          • I think you’re also underestimating how powerful their free-game program is.

            Every schoolkid who plays video games currently has EGS installed on their desktop. They get Fortnite AND a free game each fortnight. 26 games a year.

          • Not at all. Go read my many other posts on this, I get all their free games myself. To base a comment about underestimating the free game program is dismissing everything I’ve said since day one just to try and make some sort of point.

            That free program is part of my point. How many of those free games, Fortnite included, are leading to sales? We dont know, and we never will, but the analyst in me says its not as much as they want it to be thanks largely to the hostile approach they’ve taken so far.

            On paper EGS has a similar number of active users to Steam. I think theres only about 5m difference. But plenty of those EGS users are there solely to log into Fortnite, and spending nothing on the store, and a percentage more are there JUST to get the freebies. Like me.

            So in practice, how many users do they have spending money? Thats what they need and want out of this, to replace the windfall gains of Fortnite when they eventually dry up. Given the backlash, the analyst in me thinks that the percentage converting to money is pretty low.

            Thats also not saying that all the active accounts on Steam are spending money either, but this isnt about them. Their position is safe in all this regardless of what EGS does, they’re just too big. Its the other players like GoG and GMG that suffer first as the big sources of income for them disappear in an exclusivity battle.

            Which hurts the industry, hurts gamers, and ultimately hurts the publishers. So how is it progressive?

  • Do you really want the Chinese Communist Party to be installing software on your PC? You all know about the laws forcing Chinese companies to install spyware in secret on request of the Chinese government don’t you? Sure there may not be any installed today but no guarantees for tomorrow’s updates.

  • Oh…just…f*&k…off! This dickhead needs to stop worrying about what other business’ are doing and think about EPIC’s value proposition, which is currently a big fat middle finger to consumers with anti-competitive exclusive dealing!

    This is some juvenile school yard bullshit, he needs to grow up and think about what value EPIC can offer consumers rather than holding games to ransom on their crappy store.

  • Wow, now they are truly being scumbags and literally holding games hostage and giving Valve (and every other storefront let’s not forget) a ransom. This is not how you encourage competition, this is not how you induce change. Epic is forgetting there are three key players in this equation (the developer, the storefront, and consumer) and their actions are more likely to disrupt the relationship in a negative way.

    Right now they are focusing on the developer and monopolising them so Epic, the storefront, can get the lion’s share of sales from the initial launch. The developer also benefits too because hey, 88% of revenue and virtually free store space. Where does that leave the consumer though? Paying the same prices because developers aren’t passing on the savings.

    A developer selling a $60 game can reduce their game’s price by $13 before they would be getting the same amount as on Steam for a $60 game. If a developer didn’t go exclusive and wanted to encourage people to buy on Epic, knock $5 or $7 off. That way both the consumer and developer benefit because the consumer still has choice of platform and cheaper options while the developer has potential for greater revenue because they aren’t losing consumers due to their exclusivity.

    What about the storefront though? Epic has a barebones front so their upkeep and maintenance isn’t as high. Plus they have Fortnite and Unreal engine licenses to make up the differences. What does Valve have? A rich, full-featured storefront with a lot of tools that developers can use to support and promote their product. This doesn’t come for free and needs to be supported somehow, namely through higher revenue cuts. It’s a bit rich for developers to expect Valve to take less when they provide a developer with more infrastructure.

    So let’s look at what might happen to Valve if they give in to Epic’s ransom through an existing case, GOG. GOG provided something the consumers liked, DRM free games, the Fair Price scheme and a limited but still relatively solid client. Epic came along with their 88% and GOG found that they needed to be competitive on the developer side and modified their revenue take. The result? Layoffs and the termination of the Fair Price scheme because they didn’t have enough money coming in to support themselves.

    Valve is a larger and more well-established entity but they certainly wouldn’t walk away unscathed if they reduced their revenue share so drastically.

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