I’m not on the hype wagon that Epic Game Store (EGS) is a new type of cancer on gaming. Not surprised at the amount of gatekeeping present in gaming circles, but hey, to each their own. People fear change, and Steam has been the mainstay of PC gaming for longer than gaming memory. (Side note, the last “successful” launch of anything Valve related was DOTA 2 in 2013. Aside from the twice-annual fire sale of every PC game ever made.)
Does EGS offer everything that Steam does? Hell no. Neither does Origin. Or Arc. Or Battle.net. Or the dozens of other storefronts/launchers. Is EGS coming to take your babies? Maybe. Will it activate your webcam and stream you out to Russia? Certainly.
And exclusives are a problem now? Remind me how again I can purchase Diablo 3 on Steam? Or Anthem? Right. (There’s an irony on this point that I get to later.)
Does it suck that I have to remember yet another password/id? Sure. Just like I have to remember 50 different ones for every website/service.
Gamers are notoriously fickle, and the things on reddit are often so blown out of proportion. Mainly due to the fact that the largest complainers have the least amount of spine.
Game companies have learned to navigate through the sewers of gamer miscontent, and find out what motivates players. And that point is almost entirely based on money. If EGS has the same games as Steam, but offers them cheaper… then guess where people are going to buy their games? Doesn’t matter if you have achievements or not. Or trading cards. Or wish lists.
The thing that many people are skipping over is that Epic already has a multi million (~250m at last estimate) player install base. Across every single platform. PC, XBONE, PS4, Switch and heaven almighty – mobile. That simply dwarfs anything else.
And the next logical step? Cross-play. Let’s be clear on one single and vital point. Console companies have been notoriously proprietary – Sony worst of all. Fortnite broke Sony. 10+ years of people trying. EA certainly pushed hard. Yet a single game, in about 2 months effort, broke Sony. You can play Fortnite on any device – with a single account.
From a developer perspective, this is a major benefit. Online games win/die by the amount of players available (since they are often the content). Imagine having a game suddenly have 6x more available players due to a code change. You haven’t sold more boxes… just allowed them to see each other.
Mark the Calendar
Epic released cross-play SDK tools in December. 2019 is the year that cross-play becomes an expectation in gaming. In an ever connected world, Epic managed to break down walls with barely a whisper. I am both amazed at the quick transformation, and terrified as to what comes next.
Cross-play doesn’t mean much to many. If you don’t own a console, you don’t care. If you don’t own that specific game on both PC and Console, you don’t care. If a game (like Fortnite) plays significantly better on one platform (PC with mouse+keyboard), and especially if its a competitive game, you don’t care about cross-play, unless you choose to gimp yourself by not using the dominant setup.
Additionally, any game with a large-enough population doesn’t really benefit from more people. League of Legends wouldn’t get better by adding console players to the pool; queues are already near-instant. Same can be said for PUBG, and plenty of other titles. Would a really niche title that is multiplayer benefit from cross-play? Sure, assuming the devs of said niche title are going to spend the time/resources to enable it, and then pay to sell said game on those platforms, and that the player count increase is enough to matter. Lot-o-ifs.
Meanwhile on the other end of things, because of the current practice of the EGS, a few titles get their ‘real’ release delayed by 6 months or a year. Oh and most likely, those titles are selling less because they are locked on a platform that far fewer players are willing to deal with compared to Steam.
Empirically, every point you made is incorrect. Subjectively, I think your points are valid.
Fornite demand is what pushed Sony to break. Clearly there is a demand for it. The use case that people only play on one device is I think the starting point where your logic breaks down. I know you have at least 2. You personally may not like the mobile controls – but to say that millions of people don’t is a large ask. And again, clearly proven incorrect. (I don’t know why anyone would play Diablo3 on consoles… but they sold a ton.)
I do get that the control scheme of something like LoL doesn’t translate well to other systems. Other games though… big benefits for cross play, as the game sticks in front of eyes for much longer. So say, play at home on a console, then outside of home on a mobile device. At this point is the MAU that matters (Blizz & EA certainly care about that).
Epic Games forced people to root their phones to get Fornite installed. There are 250m users on that platform, which is 3x larger than Steam. Perhaps the flaw here is that we’re talking about PC-version of EGS, while I’m actually talking about EGS as a service (across all platforms). I don’t think there are numbers for the PC-EGS count. I’d be surprised that it’s much lower than Steam. Even Origin installs due to Apex are insane.
And Steam gatekeeping is hilarious to me – the picture in the post shows exactly how much value that proposition really has. You have an iron will, that’s pretty clear. But the masses? Spineless.
The whole ‘lots of installs because Fortnite’ thing is kinda flawed logic though. Yes, lots of people have EGS installed because of Fortnite, but how many of those people do anything BUT play Fortnite via EGS? If people aren’t looking at the EGS as an actual store, that won’t help other games sell. Also the total number of Fortnite players skews very heavily towards console players, and all of those are a non-factor when discussing Steam vs EGS. Apex/Origin is the same example on a slightly smaller scale; the success of Apex doesn’t suddenly return Origin to be a viable and popular storefront competitor to Steam. It’s just the thing you have to deal with if you want to play Apex. The big difference right now is EA isn’t under any illusions, and isn’t paying other devs to only sell in Origin like Epic is doing.
Fortnite demand for cross-play is a result of Fortnite being popular, nothing more. Sony traditionally avoided cross-play because it gives lesser platforms ‘common ground’ with the dominant winner. Fortnite doesn’t impact that, its already huge, so Sony isn’t winning anything by keeping Sony players in one pool vs letting them play with others. People weren’t going to jump over to Sony to play Fortnite, which is what disabling cross-play aims to do in other games (successfully so).
People only play one game on one device is what I was saying. Yes I have mobile games, but even if said mobiles games were on PC, I’d never play them on that platform (or would only play them on that platform if the controls are better and its something competitive like CoC league attacks), just like I’d never play a competitive shooter or LoL on a console/mobile, even if the option exists. Diablo 3 (a simple, basically single-player game) sold well on consoles, but how many of those sales were from people who owned D3 on PC, and then bought it again on console. If that number is higher than 5% of total sales, I’d be shocked (I don’t think that data is available, but my point is that the demand for cross play just isn’t there).
We will see how spineless the masses are. The only sorta-data we have right now is the Metro announcement, and the way it was phrased suggests sales weren’t exactly awesome thanks to being only on EGS, while the trending pre-release was pretty high for that game on Steam. We will know much more once the exclusive period ends, and we see how well a game sells once its back on Steam. If the sales are high, we will have our answer.
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If EGS has the same games as Steam, but offers them cheaper… then guess where people are going to buy their games?
This would be great… if Epic were doing that. But they’re not. Instead, they’re taking Fortnite money and bribing devs for exclusives that only exist to claw market share away from Valve. Instead of, you know, creating value for consumers and letting market share grow that way.
I will jump through all sorts of hoops for a $10 discount off MSRP. Epic really isn’t offering that, even though that is precisely what they could be offering and still funnel more dollars to the devs. Instead, we have the same commodity that I could have purchased elsewhere, yet wrapped in a worse package with less support. Will there be EGS summer/winter sales, by the way? Will 3rd-party sites be competing over EGS keys like GreenManGaming and Fanatical (etc)? “Eventually” is not an answer that translates into Consumer Surplus, which means we are all worse off now, gatekeeping or not.
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