Trading Steam For The Epic Games Store Creates More Problems

The Epic Games Store has a surprising number of exclusives coming over to their platform that used to be on the default one-stop shop on PC: Steam. And everyone lived happily ever after. Oh wait, actually, it led to Steam users “review-bombing” games such as Borderlands 3 and Metro Exodus after they went to the Epic store.

The bigger concern here is the whole idea of games that are exclusive to just one platform, and whether our game libraries really belong to us or not.

Epic has faced harsh criticism from Steam users for snatching up games that some of them had already pre-ordered on Steam. Add in the lack of features that Steam users have come to expect, such as cloud saves, on top of the already giant game library on Steam, and it’s a lot harder for users to just up and leave one platform for another.

I sat down with Kotaku’s Ethan Gach to talk about why the Epic Games Store, and the idea of platform exclusivity, can create issues down the road. Watch the discussion unfold in the video or read a small excerpt here:

Paul: I think about it the same way I think about Spotify or iTunes. Like it’s a thing I use because that’s just where everything is. Or like if Netflix has a Netflix Original — I could probably go to the theatre and watch it, but I can’t go to the theatre and watch Our Planet because it just doesn’t exist anywhere else.

So I’m curious to what the solution is moving forward, especially because everyone is trying to build their walled gardens and we’re just slowly becoming OK with that. And that’s alarming.

We talked about it before on a previous episode, about Google Stadia, where once they have exclusives that can only be played on Stadia because they have those beefy machines and their “Cyberdyne neural networks”, how do we move forward? Or is it just hopeless?

Ethan: It’s not like, “I just bought a bunch of VHS tapes and now I don’t have a VCR any more.”

It’s “I licensed a bunch of games from Steam or from Epic Games Store, and now all of a sudden, if I don’t like something that they’re doing, my only choice is to just leave all of that behind.” There’s a website where you can check how much money you’ve spent on Steam over your lifetime, and it’s a lot for me, and for a lot of people.

Even Facebook is easy. I can delete my profile, download all of my pictures, and I can get out of there. But with these game services, it’s not like Netflix where they’re just streaming it to you. I’ve invested in this.

I have a financial stake here, and if Valve ever goes belly up, and now I can no longer re-download those games — that’s the scarier thing, long term, when you’re creating stores that want to be your one-stop shop.

Paul: I’m curious if there is a solution… [like] a Trent Reznor or Radiohead version of this moving forward, where there is a different platform altogether. One that is transparent.

Maybe the pendulum is swinging the other way, where people are becoming aware of what it does to the developer side and the player side, and maybe they can come to an agreement. A goodwill agreement! Is that even possible?

Ethan: I guess I’m going to be pretty pessimistic about this. Similar to the way that Steam started as a tool for Valve to push out updates.

It’s weird to think about [BioWare] releasing a game out into the wild like Anthem that requires constant updates and a feedback loop between developers and players, and not having an infrastructure like Steam or Epic Games Store to do all of that.


  • Am I wrong in thinking this feels like half an article? I was enjoying reading it and then it just ‘stops’ with the Anthem comparison? I mean if there’s more out there to read it’d be great honestly…

  • I don’t understand why people want a Steam monopoly? You travel to physically different shops all the time to buy things, why is clicking one icon on your PC over another such a wrench? Competition is good, and both Steam & Epic stores will evolve to be better because of it.

    • Its not the Steam monopoly thing. They are the dominant player, to be sure, but they arent the only one. And they are dominant because they give the customer what they want, not by denying others the chance.

      At the moment, my launchers include Steam, GoG, Origin, Uplay, Blizzard, , Bethesda, and now Epic. I’ve missed a couple, and it doesnt cover things like NC Soft. Steam has the bulk of my games, but each of the others has anything from 1 to a dozen that I play, or played.

      Trying to remember whats on each gets increasingly hard, to the point I have several games where I have two installs, or even two accounts, because I’ve simply seen it on Steam, bought it, and installed it. I think I have Shadowrun three times…

      So, theres convenience. As for the physical shops comparison, personally I dont. I have JB Hifi one level above EB, and on the same level as Target. They are all in the same location, so theres no travel. Its convenient. I dont go to Target much, so its really just two stores that I can shuffle between in 20 seconds.

      Out of all that, I have choice. If I dont like EB prices I can go up and look at JB. I dont like that, I have other choices, like online. Even though the real choice is whether I buy it at JB today, or tomorrow, theres still a choice.

      Exclusiveness takes that choice away. Completely. It hides behind a timeframe of 6 or 12 months, but in reality its taken away. You either have to buy that fresh game from them or buyu a year old game. How is that competition?

      Steam never took choice away. You could still go and buy a game physically, and you could still go to another online platform, such as GoG, and buy there. Its never been locked away for any other reason than publisher choice. That IS competition at work.

      This isnt about competition. If it was, the games would be on both platforms at the middle of this, and Epic would be competing. Thats kind of what competition means – competing. And they could do so easily by differentiating them from the opposition.

      Instead, they’ve bought the ball, locked out the best player, and only invited the cool kids to play. Again, not competition. Its elitism and something society has been trying to get rid of for decades.

      Remember the movie Avatar? I hope you do, its the biggest movie of all time. Remember its push for 3D, and how amazing it looked? When it came out on blu ray, they had a choice. And their choice was terrible. They partnered up with a TV manufactuer, and the ONLY way to get a 3D copy was to buy one of those TV’s. Or wait until they changed their minds, or pirate.

      At a time when they were trying to get 3D going, they locked away the highest profile option to something so limited to be pointless. To me that played a large part in why 3D never got traction – the biggest potential selling point couldnt become the Must Have reason.

      Exclusivity killed competition.

      Epic can work. But how its going about it is pissing off enough of its customer base that its basically running on Hard Difficulty. They’ve put barriers in front of themselves while trying to take on the near monopoly Steam has. And in a way thats reminiscent of various anti-trust cases thrown against Microsoft over the years.

      • this! also epic knows it cant complete against steam fairly because steam is so well intrenched andalso knows that without pulling all this shit, the EGS would just become another digital storefront that no one asked for like the Discord Store Front.

        Infact im pretty sure that the EGS wouldnt even beable to complete against GoG,Origin, or Uplay for that matter due to fact those stores and launchers actually have all the basic features that one expects to have in a store front like a fucking shopping cart

        • all the basic features that one expects to have in a store front like a fucking shopping cart

          Once upon a time, people were throwing a lot of hate at Steam for bugs, lack of features, etc.

          • And it seems like no one learned anything from it and still repeat the mistakes of the past.

          • When Triumph released its first automobile, fifteen years had passed since Ford’s 1908 Model T. But they didn’t release a 1908 set of features and promise to add things over time that Ford already had for years, they built a car in 1923 with the features customers expected from a car in 1923.

            When Epic released its store, thirteen years had passed since Steam’s first storefront in 2005. Only here, they did release a 2005 set of features and promise to add things over time that Steam already had for years. They built a storefront in 2018 with none of the features customers expect from a store in 2018.

            Technology changed. Customer needs changed. The market changed. If Triumph had done then what Epic did now, they’d have gone out of business.

      • This is feel-good stuff. But it’s totally missing the point.

        The vast majority would never buy anything on Epic if they didn’t have any top tier exclusives.

        All this talk of “competitive features” is nice and all, but the people who agree with you are the ones who desperately want all games on Steam so they can continue buying everything there (which, admittedly, is most gamers).

        This whole conversation is already so boring. Just boycott Epic Games Launcher exclusives or whatever and be done with it. It’s only 6mo to 1yr.

        • Its so boring you still need to reply, and edit. Nice one.

          And you think I’m voicing my opinion because I want everything in one place? Wow, you really are that stubborn.

          I’m an analyst, and have been for 20 years. Before that it was writing legal rulings on Tax law. Just mentioning to give you a little perspective. With that analyst background, my professional opinion is that this is bad for the industry, and by extension, bad for us as consumers.

          Nothing to do with wanting everything in one place, that’s some fantasy you have in your mind that you cant get away from. Try to get your head out of your arse and consider that others may actually have a valid point.

          Personally, as I’ve said numerous times, I wont be buying from Epic unless I absolutely cant avoid it. Which I cant see happening any time soon. I will happily take their free offerings, but I’m not going to support their model where I disagree with it.

          So I’m doing what you say – boycotting it. As for being done with it, why? If you don’t want to read the comments, avoid the threads on the subject. Its pretty clear most people disagree with you, and that you’re in the minority on this. If you think otherwise, obviously I’m not going to change your mind.

          • Lots of shameful phone-typed grammatical errors.

            “Nothing to do with wanting everything in one place, that’s some fantasy you have in your mind that you cant get away from. Try to get your head out of your arse and consider that others may actually have a valid point.”

            You. Still. Haven’t. Made. A. Valid. Point.
            All you seem to be saying is “this is how I feel”. Something I wouldn’t expect from a professional.

            I mean, what are you trying to say?
            That “exclusives are bad”?
            That “Epic didn’t even make these games!”
            That the exclusive games might go the way of the 3D TV?
            That “this isn’t competition – it’s Epic being anti-consumer!”
            That “Origin and are OK because they make their own games?”

            I mean, surely you understand how childish all of these sound? As a manufacturer myself, I’m up to my eyeballs with all sorts of exclusive distributor deals with my product lines. I’ll go where the best deal is and renegotiate contracts on a regular basis.

            Here’s all that really matters:

            Publishers will go where they can make more money. If Epic takes a 12% cut, and then (for instance) reduces it down to 6% for exclusivity – the publisher will have to crunch the numbers and decide whether that makes more sense than selling to a larger audience on Steam, with a much lower revenue split.

            Some publishers may also be taking a longer term view, as increased competition (with lower revenue split) can only be good for them. In much the same way that I never want one of my distributors to be MUCH bigger than the rest, as it puts them in a much stronger position when negotiating contracts.

            Literally, that is all that matters. They are in the business of making money and we are their potential consumers. So boycott their exclusives (as you said you have) and just wait this out for a year or two. If enough people boycott them and revenue is down, then it simply will not continue.

      • Steam is the defacto standard because Valve basically forced it into being by tying their immensely popular catalogue to it, and because they were the first to release a proper digital storefront that actually worked. You’re right that exclusivity of third party titles is the dick move by Epic here – they’re using it as an anchor to force their platform into being a thing, while Valve only did it with their catalogue. But exclusivity kickstarted the Steam platform – and when Steam first came out lots of people hated it for it.

        I don’t like the Epic store and I don’t like what they’re doing with third party exclusives, but let’s not forget the genesis of Steam and how it was a hated platform too. It didn’t start off being good and loved, and it didn’t get that way for years after. No platform is great when it first releases, so they’ll look for ways to try to get people to use it. Epic just chose a particularly shitty way to do it.

        • The big difference is that if its exclusivity for their own products, its not a problem. Nobody has complained that Uplay, Blizzard, or Origin solely sell their own products (Blizzard partially extending into their Activision overlords).

          If Epic was only pushing their own products, or even if it was the exclusive platform for Unreal made products, it would be accepted the same as those above were. If it was to offer a valuable service only they offered, it would be accepted. They arent, they’re setting themselves up as an open option for all publishers, then buying up select games.

          When Steam came along, it was doing something that was a positive for the industry, and for us. It had its own catalog to get people into digital distribution, with Half Life 2 being the first one where you HAD to use Steam. And again, it didnt lock the purchase of games behind that platform. You could buy Half Life from a store, with Steam just acting as a launcher. Thats not exclusivity, thats transformative.

          It increased competition, and did so in a way that the entire industry quickly copied. Its early hate was for totally different reasons as well, namely the fact the launcher was necessary, and the server issues that happened when HL2 launched. But thats a) nothing unusual, and b) was sorted VERY quickly.

          From a Kotaku article reporting on Steams 10th anniversary:

          You can still find, if you look, forum posts from the time complaining about Steam, complaining about Valve, talking about how the service would ruin PC gaming, how it had ruined Half-Life. In hindsight, these prophets of doom turned out to be so wrong it’s adorable.

          And the usage of Steam as a platform for other publishers didnt happen until Steam was a couple of years old as well. That history is all relevant, because NONE of it applies to what EGS are doing here.

          And why its leaving a sour taste with gamers. Its not just because its yet another launcher, its because it kills competition, not helps it. It locks doors, and if it does manage to be successful will force publishers to choose. Thats not competition.

          I fail to understand why people are defending Epic on this. None of what they are doing is good for gamers, and none of it plays out that things change for the better. We’re all worse off because of it, whether its minor and just another button to click (I have no issue with that) or major with big studios failing because they gambled on the wrong option.

          • The big difference is that if its exclusivity for their own products, its not a problem.I already pointed that out, but if you weren’t around for when Steam first launched, it was seen as a big fucking problem.

            Thats not exclusivity, thats transformative.No, it wasn’t, that’s outright nostalgia talking. Steam was hated when it arrived because it was unstable and effectively online-only DRM. When HL2 launched there were loads of people who couldn’t get Steam to active and decrypt the files – such that people who pirated it were playing to before some who purchased it legally.

            But regardless, wherever you bought it, you needed Steam to run the game; it wasn’t an option to not use it. That’s effectively forced Steam, and its storefront, directly onto a massive portion of the PC gaming sector in those early days. I won’t bother to repeat the 2003-2007 arguments about Steam (IMO it didn’t get good until around when the Orange Box was released), but it wasn’t an easy launch and it wasn’t welcomed initially. Valve forced their storefront onto gamers, whichever way you want to look at it. You can hand-wave it because Steam has largely been positive (at least if you’re in the US – less so here where AAA games are often cheaper at retail than digitally), but that’s the cold, hard facts about how Steam ended up being so ubiquitous.

            I fail to understand why people are defending Epic on this.I’m not – and most of your post is basically a rehash or expansion of what I’ve already said. My point is that while Epic is complete fucking garbage because of their third party exclusivity deals, Steam started with forceful tactics to establish market dominance – it just did it with an immensely popular (at the time) franchise and back catalogue owned by Valve. Yes, that’s different than what Epic are doing – which I’ve already said a few times now. But acting as if Steam was the messiah and never resorted to forcing itself on gamers is complete bullshit, as anybody who was there remembers.

            It increased competitionDid it really? For some titles perhaps, but in the AAA sector Steam is expensive as a store front, and lots of developers are now demanding regional pricing and splitting off into their own stores/launchers… except, as you point out, we’re still losing out, and even the good ones like GOG are struggling. Steam has offered convenience and comfort, with a smattering of useful features which its built up over the years – and it maintains it with sales that are reaching the point of saturation with each passing period. I like Steam, I fucking hate Epic, but Valve forced Steam upon us, and we’ve just handed it digital distribution on a plate. You don’t need to give a fuck about people buying from other sites when most people just won’t for the sake of convenience.

          • Okay I fucked up the quotes but because Kotaku’s comments make no sense I can’t fix them without going into the moderation queue. Sorry.

          • Eh it’s still readable. Btw, can confirm everything you’e said. I remember buying HL2 on day 1. I had to resort to a pirated copy for that first month just to play the damn game…

          • @slipoch I guess that’s why I’m not really overly critical of the Epic store. While I get what others are saying, I’ll give it a year or two to get itself up and running, see how it pans out and then decide whether I’ll stick with it.

            I understand what people are saying about ‘features’, but then, I also note that noones talking about the fact they’re using a roadmap and sticking to it. It’ll take some time, Origin, Uplay and co. they all did too. They were nigh on unusable for the longest of times, especially Uplay, which is highly stable these days.

            So I’ll give Epic store a chance to improve, see how it pans out and go from there. Time will tell.

          • Yeah, don’t worry about the quotes, its all perfectly readable.

            FYI, I’ve been playing games since the 80’s, I was most certainly around when Steam hit the fan. I haven’t said it was perfect, or happily received, don’t make that leap. I’ve said it increased competition, and transformed the market, and it did.

            We no longer relied just on bricks and mortar stores, but could get our games online. What was before it? Direct2Drive, Gamespy (?), and a couple of other self launchers like Stardock. There were signs before Steam that we were heading that way, and they were the ones that made it work. Which is both competition, by allowing more ways to get games, and transformative, by changing how we got those games. If you don’t see that, so be it.

            I remember the launch issues with HL2 as well, don’t worry. They sucked, and sucked badly. I’m not arguing that they didn’t force Steam onto us (which they did), just that they gave an extra option through doing so. I got HL2 for Christmas that year so largely missed the drama, but I was around and remember it. Like you I also think it wasn’t consistent until the Orange Box in 2007. But the platform still never forced you to buy only from them.

            I hated Steam. I avoided it as long as possible, far preferring retail stores. I still do for that matter, but there is absolutely no doubt that Steam changed the game completely. Even the simple thing like having a library has meant convenience in hindsight, and why we defend it now.

            But it being based on exclusivity, so what? It was its own products that were exclusive, that’s it. Its a different form of exclusivity, and that was my point. If its for the publishers own games, nobody is caring. Its no different to plenty of other launchers at the time, or since.

            That’s the biggest difference in all this. The only exclusives on every other launcher I can think of were their own products, or because the publisher chose not to use them – like choosing not to sell through Direct2Drive and just use Steam. It wasn’t forced onto any publisher by Steam though, it was purely a business decision. That is so far removed from what EGS is doing it isn’t funny.

            If people are going to be so indifferent, I’m just posting for no reason. But there seems to be plenty here supporting EGS and dismissing the issues being raised. We seem to agree on the key points though, its just semantics we’re debating.

          • Pretty arbitrary to say that publishers have to use their own store/launcher or else they have to sell the game everywhere. Are you mad that Bonds clothing is available at Target and not at Kmart? It’s the same premise you put forward, either Bonds is exclusively sold by Bonds or it can’t be exclusive to or excluded from any retailer. Let’s not start going on about Coles and Woolies.

            There seems to be a lot of backlash following the announcement of an exclusivity deal followed by a lot of nothing. Metro Exodus. The Division 2. So far exclusivity has only been detrimental to gamers’ feelings of entitlement.

          • Is that a deliberate misunderstanding of what I said, or genuine? What I said about publishers and their own stores is that there has been no pushback. Consumers have accepted that practice, and they have since day 1.

            Even Steam wasn’t about locking Valve games behind that launcher, which had happened before, but that the launcher needed a connection and the bottleneck of the server meant things didn’t work properly. It was never about locking the games away though, at least not to my memory. Valve forcing the launcher on us back in 2004 is very different to whats happening here.

            Nobody has a shot at EA because all their games are solely bought online through Origin. They have a shot at them for a range of other reasons, but that’s not one of them. Likewise, nobody complains that Uplay is exclusively Ubisoft games, Battle. Net is Blizzard/Activision, or any other launcher is specific to their range.

            If that was the only complaint, this debate wouldn’t be happening.

          • Can’t reply to your other comment for some reason.

            It’s still an arbitrary argument against exclusivity. Epic was in the right to make an offer, 2k was in the right to accept, or decline, Valve was in the right to make a counter offer or no offer. You’re not in the right when you say it should be on Steam. There’s no compelling argument to be made. Just because a lot of games are releasing simultaneously on Steam doesn’t mean Borderlands 3 has to. Just because EA and Activision have launchers doesn’t mean 2k has to. Just because Epic does deals and gives better revenue splits doesn’t mean Valve has to.

            This pushback comes from an unfounded sense of entitlement. That’s the only reason why the debate is happening, if we can even call it a debate. No matter what way you slice it, these companies haven’t done anything wrong. Nothing illegal, nothing unethical, nothing immoral. Opting to not follow the status quo isn’t bad or evil. People just like to whinge until they get a #metoo echo chamber going. Like the sheep review bombing on Steam with the ASCII middle fingers copy pasted. It’s a mass temper tantrum over nothing.

          • Replies only go so many levels. After that you can only reply to an earlier point, or reply to the last one and quote someones tag to get their attention – that’s the @ names, so if I do @rufati it’ll give you a notification to follow. And another for this reply by the way.

            On the overall debate though, mark this period of time in history. Its the first time I can recall such an effort to lock competitors out for third party products. It may have happened, but I cant remember someone locking out the competition for anything but their own products.

            The closest I can find is third party companies selling keys, which ultimately had to be installed through Steam anyway. But those processes didn’t stop those competitors from selling those keys in the first place, and competing on price if nothing else.

            As I see it, decisions like this only hurt competition. The pressure on services like GoG drive them to shut down or as we’ve seen already, lay staff off. It also ultimately hurt sales for the publishers, either by simply pissing people off, or people not buying simply because they wont move from Steam. Which means developers have less money for their next game, or potentially go out of business altogether. That’s not competition, that’s the opposite.

            Yes, these are business decisions at play here. But my professional opinion (as a data/business analyst for 20 years) is that they are bad ones, and as consumers, we have the option to say something about it. So I am. If people don’t care, it makes no difference. If I’m wrong, I’m just wasting my own time forecasting the end of the world. So no harm.

            But given the positive ratings to my posts so far, I think plenty agree with me.

          • 3rd party games have been on one console but not the other. Trials evolution on 360 only. Lost Odyssey developers with the exclusive Microsoft publishing deal. House of the Dead on everything but the 360. More recently Sunset Overdrive was exclusive to xb1 and Spiderman to PS4; same developer with 2 opposing exclusivity deals. Destiny with the platform exclusive content. If you want to go old school there’s Square jumping ship from Nintendo to Sony. Exclusivity has always been bought or given.

            In your professional opinion why is what’s happening now so bad? There’s no monopoly to be had for Epic as they’ve only secured timed exclusives. Price is consistent so no price gouging. No fee/hardware gating like console exclusives.

            As far as upvotes go, I don’t equate popularity with correctness or truth. If I’m wrong I wanna know why. Too many people on here have an agenda that they want to push with eyes and ears closed.

          • That’s the factor that very few people seem to be addressing, the timed exclusivity. Talks of ‘anti-trust’, completely fall by the wayside (and are extremely over the top mind you) when timed exclusivity comes into play, as the product is not actually being solely locked to an environment permanently. I’m not pro or anti Epic store, I just see it as ‘another shop’, that’s all it is to me. However, I’m well aware that all the games are timed exclusives at the end of the day. Personally, I just think it’s a storm in a bloody teacup.

    • For me at least, having another launcher isn’t an issue, it is the issues that exclusivity brings. When you have a game and the only way of buying that item is via one online marketplace only, that doesn’t foster competition for the consumer’s money. It is the exact opposite.
      The Publishers can charge what they want because they are only offering it in that one place (at the moment). Capitalism tells me they will keep the price as high as possible to make as much money as possible before the exclusivity ends. Lets not fool ourselves here, by having an exclusivity deal they can keep prices artificially high because of the lack of competition to reach that goal. You want it, you have no other choices besides not buying it. The loser is always going to be the consumer in that scenario because there is no other competition to decrease the price. No steam keys in shops, not available in JB, not on Amazon, GOG can’t sell it, nothing. No way to get a better deal.
      It has yet to be seen if Epic will add other methods of buying from their store like the equivalent of steam keys, or how many sales they will have and to what extent the discounts are, or even if the Publishers will agree to have the exclusive items on sale. It is too early to tell. Hopefully they get better over time, but right now i really can’t support that sort of business practice.

      • it is the issues that exclusivity brings

        Unfortunately it’s no different than half the online stores already in full swing –, Origin, Bethesda, Playstation Store, etc.

        • The examples you gave are the ones that are different though. Most of those ones have exclusivity only for their 1st party games, and the Playstation store is on its own complete separate ecosystem.

        • What @gz said. The ones you mention are all exclusive to their own product, even PS Store, which solely caters to Playstation. They are all walled gardens, Epic isnt.

          They could be, and be building up a selection that could work as a base to build from. They could also use their reduced cut to undercut the competition and encourage us to use them as first choice.

          They arent. They’re creating a hostage situation, to force us to use them to the exclusion of the usual options. How can people want to reward that? Seriously, how?

          • For the record – I don’t like exclusives, and I’d much rather be able to buy it on the platform of my choice.

            They could also use their reduced cut to undercut the competition and encourage us to use them as first choice.
            People are ‘simple’ creatures. Most wouldn’t bother going “you know, Epic store is new, I’ll see if I can buy my game there instead”, most will just go with what they know, or decide to keep their collection in one place, etc. I’m not too different really; I would never have touched Origin, etc. if I didn’t have to. Adding more launchers to my PC, adds complexity to my user experience – I need to learn and use various launchers that all do the same thing? yuck.

            The ones you mention are all exclusive to their own product

            They’re creating a hostage situation, to force us to use them to the exclusion of the usual options. How can people want to reward that? Seriously, how?

            haha omg, it’s literally no different

            One company made a game, and keeps it exclusive, the other payed to make it exclusive. The end result to the consumer in both situations, is a game that can only be purchased from one place.

            Most of those ones have exclusivity only for their 1st party games
            As Above.
            I mean, if you don’t give a shit about Origin having exclusives, why would you care if Epic has some – how does the fact they did/didn’t make it change anything about that?

            In my opinion it’s actually WORSE if they make their own launchers for their own IPs.

            and the Playstation store is on its own complete separate ecosystem.
            Yes, obviously.
            I just used it as a further example, because there are many similarities.
            Personally I’d rather have the choice to buy it on my favorite console, which may or may not be a PS (I don’t own either at the moment, but this gen I like PS, last gen it was xbox). The only reason I let it go when it comes to consoles is because cross platform development can be trickier. Further, obviously, you can (for most games) buy discs from different places, instead of single digital location.

      • If you actually jump on the stores to compare prices you’ll see their pretty much stock standard RRP. Publishers set the price and they decide if/when to discount the game.

  • where there is a different platform altogether. One that is transparent.

    Something like GOG?
    DRM free; you buy it, you own it.

    • Ah yes, GoG. The far-superior, fairer, more pro-consumer Steam competitor which had to let a number of staff go this year due to decreased revenue.

      I wonder why Epic decided to go the exclusive route instead of “CoMpEtInG oN FeAtUrEs”.. lol

      • * Had to let staff go because they increased their cut to developers.

        And GoG has the issue of its very DRM policy means only older games generally comes to the service (hence the name I guess).

        • They changed from Good Old Games to GOG as they wanted to get away from being thought of as just old games.

          Regarding the layoffs, this is the quote from Jason’s article:

          “We were told it’s a financial decision,” that person told me in an online message. “GOG’s revenue couldn’t keep up with growth, the fact that we’re dangerously close to being in the red has come up in the past few months, and the market’s move towards higher [developer] revenue shares has, or will, affect the bottom line as well.

          However you split it – GOG never put a dent in Steam. There’s a statistic floating out there which claims GOG typically gets about 10% of the sales Steam does for games which are listed on each store.

      • lol yep.
        I like GOG, and I’ll buy things on there over Steam these days if I can.
        Maybe CDprojekt Red should make Cyberpunk 2077 a GOG exclusive – either way, I’ll be buying it there. 🙂

        I’m all for Epic store taking off, though I hope they don’t continue the exclusives. I agree that is exactly the reason why they are doing it, at least for now.

  • Couple points:
    1. steam was an anti-piracy system primarily, not a method of pushing updates. This can be seen by the relative maturity of the anti-piracy code vs the update/stability of the rest of the system when it was first released.

    2. Why is everyone treating it like a exclusivity period is permanent? Also why is everyone talking about it like Steam has not forced this on people?

    If Epic charge less of a cut than steam, then yes, developers will go there and will be willing to sign up for further cuts to this amount. Is it terrible to have 2 systems like steam and epic on your system? Most of us already have origin, uplay & steam, one more doesn’t make a huge difference.

    • Neither of those points are accurate.

      1. Steam was only a distribution network when it first entered use, it didn’t have anti-piracy mechanisms at all. Before release an anti-cheat layer and server browser were added to replace Sierra’s World Opponent Network, but there was no software activation and you could copy the initially supported games in from anywhere until the launch of Half Life 2 in November 2004 when activation was added for the first time, almost two years after Steam was first in public use and more than a year after its official release.

      2. The Steam storefront has never forced third party exclusivity on people. You’ve always been able to buy Steam games from multiple retailers, and with the rollout of developer key generation, any number of digital stores as well. Developers choosing to integrate the Steam platform into their games has nothing to do with how many vendors consumers can choose to buy the game from.

      • Steam was launched with CS1.6, which also forced the player to use steam (some of the later games made by others still did not force you to use steam, but had the option) to this end some very basic anti-piracy was implemented, to play the game without steam required a crack. The original CS1.6 release (pre-steam) could be copied fine.
        On HL2, the platform contained a more advanced anti-piracy layer (not anti-cheat) that it kept for some time. The distribution network was still not a major feature for the platform which was still releasing all their games as physical media, I am guessing here that it was mostly dev going on at this point, trying to adapt WON to their own ends. in HL2 The anti-piracy system was embedded as a part of the steam code within the game, this code was quite buggy and caused a lot of resource hogging and made the game run incredibly slowly and poorly, on removal it ran much better.

        2. Steam never forced 3rd party exclusivity? What about all the early releases exclusive to steam? The games that are exclusively found on steam? Epic is not forcing 3rd party exclusivity (be in trouble in Oz if it did) either, simply offering better deals to companies that do so by cutting their own profit margin. The situation is almost identical, games on the epic store can be multi-service-platform (STEAM, EA, Epic etc.), they are not forced. You also miss the point that being able to buy steam games elsewhere is forcing those stores to act as retail POS for the Steam distributorship, still enabling the exclusivity of the steam platform.
        We also saw the initial keystores get sued by Steam, further restricting the field of competition.

        I have still yet to hear a legitimate reason for the hate.

        • You’re mistaken. I worked commercially with the early Steam platform, both before and after it released, and it didn’t have the features you’re describing. When it was announced at the GDC in 2002, I was at Activision. One of my responsibilities was to evaluate the Steam platform to see if it was worth adding to our products. I assure you, the way I described it above is accurate: it started with only online distribution, added anti-cheat and server browser to replace WON, and launched with no DRM at all. Valve even described it at GDC in those terms, and Gamespot and IGN both reported that the crux of Steam was online distribution.

          Half Life 2 was the first introduction of DRM in Steam. It wasn’t a ‘more advanced’ version, it was the first version. The DRM had no effect on system resources because there was no continuous checking, the game always validated against the Steam application’s local authorisation cache, only once on startup and once per multiplayer connect. The Steam application verified the authorisation cache if it was online when a game request was made and the cache hadn’t expired. If there were performance issues (I bought HL2 on day one and never had any), it wasn’t caused by DRM.

          With respect to your other questions, you’re conflating the Steam platform (which is middleware akin to Gameworks or Easy Anti-Cheat) with the Steam store, and this is probably a big factor in why you don’t understand what it is people have a problem with. People aren’t complaining about Epic platform exclusivity because Epic doesn’t have a platform, there is no in-game integration between the EGS and any game they’re selling. What people are complaining about is Epic store exclusivity, wherein you can only purchase the game from a single store. The Steam store does not have, and has never had, exclusive rights to sell a third-party title.

          • Also just to add to this, Valve didn’t sue ‘initial key stores’, they sued grey- and black-market key stores. They were stores that were doing some combination of stealing retail copies, reselling copies from depressed regions (eg. Russia), cracking the keygen algorithm or even just outright selling fake keys.

            To the best of my knowledge, no keyseller was sued or shut down by Valve that wasn’t doing something shady to begin with. If you have a source for any, please let me know as I’m very curious to learn more about it.

          • Several Australian keysellers/resellers were sent cease and desist messages (I saw these originals at the time) and the initial openings in a sueball were begun, this was stopped pretty quickly as it goes against Oz law. In other countries it kept going, please note, I am not talking about the G2A or other fraudbastards.

            AFAIK no-one actually got shut down, but the costs to the people I know was pretty high. It was a very Apple move.

            Also, grey market games are perfectly legal in OZ, it does not matter what a EULA specifies, if someone wishes to purchase a game form another country then Valve breaks Oz law if they try to stop the activation (Fair trading have verified this and have instructed Valve accordingly).

            You identify the store/functionality separation, however if you wish to use the steam matchmaking, then the service has to run the store on the PC. You do not need to do this for Epic, there are no server controls that force the store (yet) to be installed. So in this matter I believe the Epic store is slightly less insidious.

            You had no problems with HL2 on release? that makes you one of 3 people I know of (I know there will be more, but it is the ratio that matters), when we got it back on day 1, had the crashes and resource hogging etc. I took a look at the resource use, the memory usage while running was steadily increasing, there were CPU lags & spikes. On reverse engineering the code (also legal in Oz due to a law made in the early 80’s) and ripping out the checks that steam was running, then killing steam, then trying to make it run without doing the checks to the steam subsystem etc. etc. (it took some time) We got it working fine at full speed at full resolution without running out of RAM due to the memory leaks and poor code.

            What I saw in the assembly showed that Steam was being used as DRM by HL2, not simply as an update system, it was actively checking to make sure steam was installed and was checking fairly regularly from what I could see (possibly it was an endless loop). But getting to the point, Once the steam service was deactivated, the game ran smoothly and worked as it did on systems like yours with no issues (well there were the 0-day bugs, but that was normal).

            Getting to your other points, you are correct, I was mistaken about the exclusives to steam (cept for the valve titles), so apologies there. It was developer choice.
            But again, Epic is not forcing exclusives, just offering developers a better deal, to do so, something Steam could have done to compete at any time in the last 15 years. I wasn’t working with it commercially when it was released, but later a while after HL2. When you talk about DRM (not anti-cheat dude) what exactly do you mean? Because the CS1.6 release required steam to be installed and AFAIK checked to make sure you legit owned the game. That is what I look at as DRM, a form of copy-protection and whitelist management for software.

            Getting back to the original point I made, this is not permanent exclusivity, merely an exclusive period on the Epic store, similar to a console exclusivity period (ie: 1st 2 years on PS, then on XB as well), some console games do have permanent exclusivity. So given we mostly have spyware/DRM it the form of steam, origin, and uplay already, is it really such an imposition to have another store on there? Does it really matter if something is exclusive to one store or another (although I think competition is always good).

            Personally I like the idea of a central store that can handle all the systems/subsytems of the others that can be used by third parties to do the selling, that way we get competition from the different sellers, we get a standardised system for the games availability, and the devs get tools for matchmaking and copy-protection. 1 install rather than thousands, unfortunately the video streaming services are going like the online stores and have fragmented now too.

          • Could you please give some sources on legal Australian key sellers that were sent C&D? I can’t find any information confirming this.

            Grey markets are legal in Australia, but Valve has no obligation to honour keys sold by third parties in violation of its terms of service. The seller shoulders the full burden of complying with Australian consumer law, the ACCC websites notes the manufacturer “may refuse to provide you with a remedy if it did not give permission to the seller to sell the product in Australia”.

            Repeat polling is not consistent with my experience with the code. I described above the circumstances when the local Steam application is polled, they’re not on a loop in any conventional sense. In assembly there’s a gulf of complexity difference between a sequential set of synchronous instructions and asynchronous multi-process communication. Interrupt handlers are OS-controlled and signal timing is dependent on all three components (origin, target and system). Loops are unavoidable in cross-process signalling, even when the block only executes once. I mean no disrespect, but I’m not convinced the assembly you saw did what you believe it did.

            I’m not sure where the confusion with DRM and anti-cheat is coming from, I described each correctly. Steam had an anti-cheat layer added after initial release but before launch; it didn’t have a DRM layer added until over a year after launch. The anti-cheat layer involved file integrity monitoring (not asset monitoring at that stage, unfortunately) and some rudimentary tamper checking for key memory addresses. It evolved into what is now known as Valve Anti-Cheat (VAC).

            The CS 1.6 beta required Steam because it was integrated with Steam as a server browser. That was the main point of the beta, they were removing the old WON integration and adding the Steam browser instead. I’m sure I said this somewhere above. The fact it had integrated with Steam isn’t the same thing as DRM though: DRM is an authentication process, not simply a service dependency.

            Steam didn’t require you to have purchased Counter-Strike because it had no means of checking. There was no store and you couldn’t buy anything on Steam until Half Life 2, there was no key authentication prior to then. The CD keys that came with earlier titles (including the first Half Life) were only validated against an algorithm, but never authenticated. This is why key changers were rampant in HL1 (including TFC, Ricochet, CS and all its other mods) as cheaters had their key hash banned and just came back on a new one. Keys were first associated with the Steam account itself, and first authenticated online, with Half Life 2.

            To answer your questions: yes it’s an imposition, and yes it matters if something is exclusive to a store. I’ve explained my position on all of this a half-dozen times by this point it feels like so I’m not going to repeat myself again, but you can probably find comments I’ve made in the several articles we’ve had on Epic exclusivity so far.

            What you described in your last paragraph is basically what the Steam platform (not store) is trying to offer. While it’s true that a title on the platform has to also be on Steam’s store, there are no restrictions on it being on any other store too, as key generation costs the developers nothing extra. I can understand a potential antitrust concern with Steam bundling the store with the platform (the same way Microsoft bundled Internet Explorer with Windows), but it seems relatively minor and easily solved if it came to that.

  • I am trying to think about why I don’t have a problem with Epic vs Steam.

    and I think the main reason is my age (I am 35) and I have seen a lot of changing technology.
    so this software is a minor difference so it doesn’t matter in the end.
    because this doesn’t require an investment

    look at the costly options below which required an investment
    Cassette vs 8-Track
    VCR vs Betamax
    Laserdisc vs DVD(&VCD)
    Blu-ray vs HDDVD
    Plasma vs LCD

    also I seem to remember when installing certain CD/DVD games were a pain in the arse such as Metal of Honor Airbourne (which requires the DVD’s version of physx to be installed)

  • Hypothetical scenario: Let’s say I’m releasing my own digital storefront. I’ve matched all of Steam’s features, from communities to user reviews to achievements and cloud saves. I’m selling all the same games at the same prices. Are you going to use my storefront? Of course you aren’t. Chances are that you’ve racked up $1000s worth of games in your Steam library so it doesn’t really matter what anyone does because you are bound to Steam.

    • Ah but then you undercut the competition with price. Instead of spending your millions of dollars on title exclusivity you sell your game for -1/5 the price.
      Consumers love the deal they can’t get anywhere else. You gain market share AND positive community feedback. And you only lose out on the money you were going to spend on exclusivity anyway.
      Honestly I don’t know why epic didn’t do this in the first place.

        • Epic has no say in the matter at all?
          I don’t think so.
          They could just pay the bribe money they’ve been using for exclusives to the Devs (more often than not publishers as we’ve seen) to release the game at a cheaper price point.

    • And this is why GOG hasn’t matched Steam – because Steam is the defacto standard simply by being first. Even if GOG does lots of things right (though the client still isn’t on parity with Steam), nobody will abandon Steam at this point. That network and investment effect is absurdly strong.

        • Sadly, this is very true.

          Those big companies have little vision, and almost zero maneuverability when they can’t flash cold hard statistics to prove something isn’t really that bad. i.e., DRM-free isn’t bad if you make a good product.

      • Late last night I was going to reply to your comment to me above and was going to mention the history of digital distribution. I think its a little hazy as to who was first myself. Steam was clearly the one that made it work though, so not disputing them becoming the de facto standard. And not disputing your other points either, just reflecting the years around Steams launch.

        Ignoring the pre-2000 stuff which, lets face it, never got traction (and there was stuff, dating back to BBS stuff in the 80’s and 90’s, or even FTP sites) but Stardock was around a couple of years before Steam (Stardock launched 2001, Steam 2003), and Direct2Drive was a major player before Steam got traction.

        D2D is the more significant one because it wasn’t just its own products, but Stardock was an early example of launching exclusively for its own products. D2D launched May 2004, about 6 months after Steam launched, but 6 months before HL2 forced Steam into the public consciousness. So do you count Steam from when it launched, or when we started using it, which are a about 14 months apart.

        Steam didn’t start with third party stuff until 2005, when it sold Rag Doll Kung Fu and Darwinia. As I said, its clear it quickly became the de facto option, so its just semantics, but there were a lot of people trying to get something similar going at the time, and in the years after before Steam really started to pull clear. A surprising amount when you look into it.

    • If all you’ve done is match Steam’s features, of course you won’t overcome inertia. You’ve done nothing to distinguish your store. What you should be doing is surpassing Steam in some way: sell for a lower price (which you can do, despite your comment elsewhere), offer unique services (like GOG, Humble, Discord, Uplay), offer better services (better refund policy, better curation, better discovery, better integration).

      Steam has the benefit of being the dominant player, but the notion that their lead is insurmountable by competing on quality alone is bunk. There was a time when Xerox was the undisputed king of office printing and nobody even came close, until someone did, and then surpassed them. Xerox almost went bust, and it wasn’t because its competitors bought exclusive access from manufacturers or denied Xerox the ability to compete, it was because they sold customers a better product and better service.

      • There’s no comparison to be made with Xerox. Machines eventually break down and need to be replaced and companies will typically evaluate who they want to do business with at that point. That doesn’t work with Steam.

        Your Steam library isn’t going anywhere. You won’t need to refresh your licences for your games every 5 years. Short of cashing you out on the value of your Steam library, there isn’t much that can be done to compete. I can’t think of anything software based where a giant has been taken down.

        GIMP hasn’t blown up Photoshop, KDENlive isn’t taking out Premiere or Final Cut. Even the Windows store chucked it in and threw a couple games on Steam.

        I’ve got 100s of Steam games, I don’t care about Steam but nothing can peel me away from that store. It was bad for the longest time but I’m stuck here. The features are nothing extraordinary but I’m stuck here. I know why people are cut and it’s nothing to do with Epic’s tactics. I know why no one can compete on the same level and it’s nothing to do with matching features or beating prices. It’s all to do with having a ridiculous amount of money tied up in your games library. That’s it.

        Anyway I’m currently 9 out of 13 or so hours into my shift and I feel like there’s too many tangents in this post so I’ll cut myself off there.

        • The product Epic and Steam are competing on are the stores, not (just) the games the stores sell. The stores themselves are competing on features, quality of service, privacy and data security, long term availability. Product range is just one of many factors. What the stores offer is what determines whether customers stay with their incumbent or move to a new one. For Xerox, the product was the device. For Epic, the product is the store. The comparison is sound.

          You’re not stuck on Steam, there’s nothing stopping you from buying new games from another digital store if you choose to. The reason you don’t buy from other stores is because you value a single unified collection above other features. If portability was your main concern then you’d be buying from GOG.

          I know why people are cut and it’s nothing to do with Epic’s tactics.

          Then you don’t know why people are cut. Because I’m one of them, and it is absolutely because of Epic’s tactics.

          • The Xerox analogy doesn’t hold up at all. I work in manufacturing for one of Australia’s largest companies. Everything from copiers/printers to forklifts are on some type of leasing agreement or other short fixed term contracts. They won’t hesitate to drop companies with bad products or poor service when renewal time comes around. On the flipside, since we’re the market leader, a lot of our customers never leave us despite threats to do so.

            People are cut because they assume they should be able to buy everything on Steam. That’s never been true. You can buy your games wherever the publishers wants to make them available for sale. Up until recently that’s always included Steam.

            Like you said, you can opt to buy it or not. It’ll be interesting to see how many people stand their ground come release day.

          • You’re ignoring the reasons people are telling you for why they’re bothered by this and superimposing your own assumptions. If you’re going to tell people what their problem is instead of listening to them tell you, then there doesn’t seem to be much point in trying to explain it to you. But it does explain why you’re not grasping the concepts at all, because you’re stuck on your own narrative.

          • Your issue is lack of retailers to buy the game from? JB. EB, Gamesmen, Amazon and Epic Store isn’t enough? How many retailers need to sell the game to make you happy?

          • My issue is with the practice of third party exclusivity at all. It’s been thirteen years since Steam launched, and almost as long offering free key generation. For over a decade, Steam has been one of many digital stores you can buy game keys from. I don’t care about physical retailers in 2019, I care about digital availability. I can buy any Steam game from any of a dozen legal key stores today, but I can’t buy Metro Exodus or Satisfactory or most of the other titles Epic purchased exclusivity for anywhere but Epic’s store.

            I also have a problem with buying exclusivity. I don’t care if it’s Epic or Microsoft or Sony or Nintendo. Exclusives are anti-consumer. It’s inconvenient but tolerable with first party titles, but third party exclusivity is a turf war that divides the market into a handful of large players who can afford to buy it all up and prevent anyone else from entering the market. It’s bad for consumers, it’s bad for market flexibility, it’s bad for choice. Steam has never done this, Epic has.

            Like I already said to you, it is Epic’s tactics that are the problem.

          • @zombiejesus

            So in your case only being able to buy from Epic is self inflicted. The division 2, metro, borderlands, all available at retail despite being part of exclusivity deals. You not caring about retail is not a compelling argument. Whether the key is in an email or in a box it still unlocks a digital product. The only real issue comes with games that won’t release at retail. You’re kinda screwed in that way.

            Didn’t Valve pick up a bunch of mod developers over the years? Then the portal developers. Dota developers? Then the firewatch developers more recently. Maybe you could argue semantics but the end result is perpetual exclusivity from these Devs, if they ever release another game that is.

            Maybe 10-15 years ago I’d be on the hate train. Now that I’ve got a PC with too many launchers, all the consoles, exclusivity isn’t an issue anymore.

          • I have my reasons why I don’t buy physical retail copies, and frankly your opinion on whether they’re compelling or not is irrelevant. Plenty of titles that Epic has secured have no physical release. But that aside, this is the market as it exists today, digital is the dominant form of PC game distribution. It’s my view that paying for third party exclusivity in that space is unethical and harmful to market competition, and I will not support it. I’m not stupid, I have years of experience as a programmer in the games industry. I know a bad thing when I see it, and this is a bad thing.

            Nobody’s requiring you to feel the same way. You have the right to choose how to feel about it. While you’re enjoying that right to choose, perhaps spare some understanding for those of us who care about this choice we’re no longer able to make. “It’s not important to me but I feel for the people it is important for” is a much nicer sentiment than “it’s not important to me and anyone who thinks otherwise is being precious”.

          • @zombiejesus

            Just curious. Why no retail? The only things that come to mind are refunds and preloading. For me whether the key comes from Kickstarter or Humble or retail it’s all the same.

  • I just had a quick look to see if any shops are going to selling Borderlands 3 on PC and… JB HIFI, EBGames, Gamesmen, Amazon are all taking preorders. I wonder what the issue will be now.

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