Friday, April 05, 2019

Epic's Digital Storefront

Lately, one problem I've been having with the gaming community is that so many issues go like this:

A pretty lame "surpised pikachu" meme.
My foray into outdated memes

Case in point is Epic's new digital storefront. Everyone is complaining about games being exclusive on Epic's store. But this was entirely predictable and expected.

When Epic announced the store, the major point which set them apart from Steam was that Epic's cut would be 12%, compared to Steam's 30%. Developers would get 88 cents of every dollar instead of 70 cents.

But developers are not Epic's customers. Developers are Epic's suppliers!

The only point in giving a supplier a better price is so that they will sell the product to you instead of selling it to your competitors. Or in other words, exclusives. Epic's entire strategy is centred around exclusives, and has been from the very beginning.

It is an interesting strategy, certainly. Steam is so consumer-focused that it is hard to see what Epic could have offered that could compete consumer-side. They could have offered a lower average price. Of every Steam dollar, give the developer 70 cents, take 12 cents, and effectively "give" the consumer 18 cents. But Steam sales are so steep that pretty much all the cost-conscious consumers would probably wait for those rather than buy at the default Epic price.

There is the curation issue, I suppose. People complain that there's a lot of junk on Steam. But is this a real problem for consumers, given that you can search for the specific game you want? I don't think Steam has gotten to the point where search fails, which is where curation becomes really valuable.

Ultimately, I think Epic's exclusives strategy was entirely predictable. It's also possibly the only strategy with a chance of breaking Steam's hold on the market. I expect that while Epic may pay lip service to complaints about exclusives, they're going to ignore the community clamour, and follow this strategy until they get established.


  1. "People complain that there's a lot of junk on Steam. But is this a real problem for consumers, given that you can search for the specific game you want?"

    If you know exactly what you're looking for, search works fine. The excessive junk problem means that you are unlikely to discover a given title unless you know it is there already. Is that a problem for consumers or developers? I can argue it both ways. But it is a problem for somebody.

    As for Epic, they're doing what the need to do to assail the dominant player in the market. They don't have the tools or the mods or the backlog or the history or the reputation for sales or the consumer investment in the platform that Steam does, so they needed something to get people to come to their site.

    We'll see how that plays out. Some people are loudly declaring that the REAL ship date for Epic exclusive titles are when they hit Steam. But I imagine for a lot of people who just want to play a new game, they'll just go to Epic and be otherwise unconcerned.

    1. Yeah, but do gamers, especially the ones who complain on social media, actually use Steam for discovery?

      My thought is that if you're savvy enough to complain on Reddit or Twitter that Steam is full of junk, you're also savvy enough to discover new games through Reddit, Twitter, Twitch, etc.

  2. > until they get established.

    Sorry, come again? Until?

    If exclusives help them get a decent share of the market, why would they abandon a working strategy? Epic has already made it clear they aren't interested in pleasing customers, and are willing to simply force customers into using their store. Why would that attitude change if it bears fruit?

    The only way Epic abandons exclusives is if it DOESN'T work. And if it does, expect it to become a common practice throughout the industry, and we can all look forward to eventually having to use 50 different launchers, only 2 or 3 of which are actually secure and decent customer service and features.

    1. You're right. I meant something closer to "Epic stops aggressively pursuing exclusives, and relies on developers naturally choosing to be exclusive on the Epic store."

  3. Except Epic isn't luring developers and publishers through taking a smaller cut; they're doing it by buying exclusivity. That's at least part of the issue I find people having with the EGS(myself included).

    The other part of it is how anticonsumer the store is beyond that issue. From security issues, to refusing refunds, and just generally lacking features compared to Steam or other stores, it's just bad.

    1. A smaller cut and a buying exclusivity are two different tactics in service of the same larger strategy. In some cases, the smaller cut is enough to push the developer to use Epic solely. In other cases, a smaller cut plus an upfront payment secures exclusivity.

      I don't see much of difference, everything points in the same direction.