Monday, March 25, 2019

Digital Game Store Competition - Epic vs. Steam

Jim Sterling has a pretty good piece on the Epic Store and why it seems to be generating so much ire:

One item that isn't pointed out enough about the Epic Store is it's profit split with publishers.....according to reports, Epic is doing a 12% take with publishers, in contrast with Steam which is a 30/70 split. Gamers may be pissed off....but that's significant, and business owners (the publishers and devs of games) would be engaging in poor business practice not to take advantage of this. Hell, I wouldn't be surprised if the whole point of going exclusive with Steam for some of these larger publishers like Ubisoft wasn't to put a dent in Steam's stranglehold on the online market for this exact reason.

Gamers who recall 2003-2004 well as I do may also recall that all this row with Epic sounds an awful lot like the exact same fit people had when it was revealed that Half Life 2 would require the Steam store link to download. And while, as Jim Sterling points out, the Epic Store does not have even a fraction the features that Steam offers was also true back in 2003 when Steam was revealed that Steam itself had no special features (outside of getting Half Life 2 to us on slow speed internet connections) and lots of disadvantages against a physical purchase in the store.

One thing Valve did offer through Steam back then was a clean storefront with a selection of games people wanted. It wasn't huge at first....but it was possible to actually find the game you wanted on Steam, and you didn't have to drive around looking through dusty bargain bins to located it. Cut to 2019, and suddenly Epic offers up a clean, simple (too simple) site with a limited selection of "curated" titles (special backdoor exclusive deals aside), and Steam is the digital version of the dusty bargain bin filled with trash that you wouldn't pay 50 cents for....and somehow, miraculously, Steam has managed to bury its own quality under mountains of digital detritus.

Steam could take this back from Epic. To do so, it needs to recognize that it's unmoderated wasteland of content is just not going to work anymore, but continuing to develop a reliable, feature-laden, community driven service that it has morphed in to over the years should be priority. Also, maybe find a way to compete on the price split, the end, it doesn't matter what you have on offer if the publishers can get an extra 18% on their game's price by going with the competition.

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