Epic Games Store Snatches Up Eight Exclusive Indie Games
Epic Games Store has announced that eight new indie games will be available exclusively on its store. The games were announced as part of a PAX West 2019 Showcase (opens in new tab), and include highly anticipated titles such as Ooblets and Wattam.
Epic Games Store snatches up eight exclusive indie games
Epic Games Store has released a 'PAX West 2019 Showcase', confirming that eight indie games will be available exclusively (at least for a time) on the store. We already knew about Ooblets, though the others are new additions to the library. Among these titles, there's also Wattam, conceived by Katamari Damacy creator Keita Takahashi.
The Epic Games Store is a digital video game storefront for Microsoft Windows and macOS, operated by Epic Games. It launched in December 2018 as both a website and a standalone launcher, of which the latter is required to download and play games. The storefront provides a basic catalog, friends list management, matchmaking, and other features. Epic Games has further plans to expand the feature set of the storefront but it does not plan to add as many features as other digital distribution platforms, such as discussion boards or user reviews, instead using existing social media platforms to support these.
Epic entered the distribution market after the success of Fortnite, which Epic distributed by their own channels to users on Windows and macOS systems rather than other storefronts. Tim Sweeney, founder and CEO of Epic Games, had stated his opinion that the revenue cut of Steam, the dominant game storefront run by Valve, was too high at 30%, and suggested that they could run a store with as little as an 8% cut while remaining profitable. By launch, Epic Games had settled on a 12% revenue cut for titles published through the store, as well as dropping the licensing fees for games built on their Unreal Engine, normally 5% of the revenue.
Epic Games enticed developers and publishers to the service by offering them time-exclusivity agreements to publish on the storefront, in exchange for assured minimum revenue, even if Epic made a loss on under-performing games. Epic also offered users one or two free games each week for the first two years of its operation to help draw users. Criticism from users has been drawn to Epic Games and those developers and publishers opting for exclusivity deals, asserting that these are segmenting the market.
The Epic Games Store is a storefront for games available via the web and built into Epic Games' launcher application. Both web and application allow players to purchase games, while through the launcher the player can install and keep their games up to date.
Epic planned to offer one free game every two weeks through 2019; this was increased to one free game every week in June 2019, and on weeks where the free game had a mature content rating and thus locked out if parental controls are enabled, Epic offered a second free game not so rated. Epic since affirmed that they planned to continue the free game program through 2021. Through the first eighteen months of this program, Epic had given out over two thousand dollars of games, as estimated by PCGamesN. Certain free game offerings had been highly popular; in its giveaway for Grand Theft Auto V in May 2020, more than seven millions new users claimed the giveaway in addition to existing ones, and temporarily crashed Epic's servers, and later, over 19 million users obtained a free copy of Star Wars Battlefront II offered in January 2021, with the new influx of players crashing the game's servers briefly. Documents unveiled during the Epic Games v. Apple trial in 2021 showed that in the store's giveaways prior to 2020, Epic paid buyouts to the developers of the free game ranging typically from $100,000 to $1 million, and measured this performance in new users drawn to the storefront on the order of 100,000 new users, with that buyout averaging from $0.50 to 5.00 per new user. Epic Games also has offered sales, in which Epic absorbs the discount from the sale. For example, its first store-wide sale in May 2019 offered a discount of US$10 off any game valued at US$15 or more.
The store at launch had a barebones set of features, but Epic plans to develop feature subsets comparable to other digital storefronts. Eventually the storefront will offer user reviews, but this feature will be opt-in by developers to avoid misuse by activities like review bombing. Cloud saving was added in August 2019, while preliminary support for achievements and user modifications were added in July 2020. Full support for achievements were rolled out in October 2021. There are no plans to include internal user forums. The storefront will include a ticket-based support system for users to report bugs and technical problems for games to developers, while developers will be encouraged to link to external forums and social channels of their choosing, like Reddit and Discord, in lieu of storefront-tied forums. However, a party chat system, similar to features of Discord, will be implemented in 2021 to allow friends to chat while in games supported by the store. Information taken from OpenCritic was added to product Store pages in January 2020 to provide users with critical review information. The store added a review system in June 2022, and as to fight review bombing, the system is based on randomized polling of users, and with presentation of random subsets of these reviews to storefront pages.
Where possible, Epic plans to extend its "Support a Creator" program that it had launched in Fortnite Battle Royale to other games offered on the store. With the Support a Creator program, players can opt to indicate a streamer or content creator, selected by Epic based on submitted applications, to support. Supported streamers then receive revenue from Epic Games on microtransactions made through the Epic Games Store from the players that supported them, incentivizing these content creators; within Fortnite, creators had received about 5% of the cash value of the microtransactions.
Digital distribution of games for personal computers prior to the introduction of the Epic Games Store was through digital storefronts like Steam and GOG.com, with Steam being the dominant channel with an estimated 75% of all digital distribution in 2013. Valve, which operated Steam, took a 30% revenue cut of all games sold through their services, a figure matched by the other services like GOG.com, and console and mobile storefronts. In August 2017, Epic's Tim Sweeney suggested that 30% was no longer a reasonable cut, and that Valve could still profit if they cut their revenue share to 8%.
In early December 2018, Epic Games announced that it would open a digital storefront to challenge Steam by using a 12% revenue split rather than Steam's 30%. Epic also said that it would not impose digital rights management (DRM) restrictions on games sold through its platform. The store opened days later, on December 6, 2018, as part of the Game Awards, with a handful of games and a short list of upcoming titles. The store was open for macOS and Windows platforms before expanding to Android and other platforms. Epic aims to release a storefront for Android devices, bypassing the Google Play Store, where it will similarly only take a 12% cut compared to Google's 30%. While Apple, Inc.'s monopoly on iOS currently makes it impossible for Epic to release an App Store there, analysts believe that if Google reacts to Epic's App Store by reducing their cut, Apple will be pressured to follow suit. Epic has tried to ask Google for an exemption to bypass Google's payment systems for in-app purchases for the Fortnite Battle Royale app, but Google has refused to allow this.
Prior to the store's launch, its Director of Publishing Strategy, Sergey Galyonkin, had run Steam Spy, a website that collected Steam usage data from public profiles to create public sales statistics. He ran the site as a side-project, but used it to learn what developers would want from Epic's store, namely fewer social elements and less visual clutter. The store's contents were hand-curated until Epic opened the store to self-publishing, starting with a beta of these features in August 2021. Epic's staff will still need to approve games for the store, a process that "mostly focus[es] on the technical side of things and general quality", according to Tim Sweeney. Sweeney does not expect this vetting process to be as stringent as the approvals needed to publish games on home video game consoles, but will use human evaluation to filter out bloatware and asset flips, among other poor-quality titles. Epic does not plan to allow adults-only mature content on the store.
In January 2019, Ubisoft announced its plans to distribute its games via the Epic Games Store, with its upcoming Tom Clancy's The Division 2 to be sold on the storefront (in addition to Ubisoft's own Uplay storefront) instead of Steam, making it the first major third-party publisher to utilize the Epic Games Store. Ubisoft said that selecting the Epic Games Store for future games was part of a larger business discussion related to Steam. Chris Early, Ubisoft's vice president for partnerships and revenue, described Steam as "unrealistic, the current business model that they have...It doesn't reflect where the world is today in terms of game distribution." Publisher Deep Silver followed suit later that month, announcing that Metro Exodus will be exclusive to Epic Games Store for one year, at a reduced US$50 (in North America) compared to US$60 when it was offered on other storefronts. Epic has subsequently made partnerships with Private Division and Quantic Dream for publishing on the store.
Epic introduced cabined accounts intended for children in December 2022. These accounts have access to certain free games on the store, including Fortnite, Fall Guys, and Rocket League with limited gameplay features to provide a safe environment for children. These accounts also cannot purchase games without the authority of a parent's approval, as well as other parental controls.