Epic, the company behind the phenomenon called Fortnite, recently revealed the Epic Games store. Simply put, this is a digital storefront for PC gamers. People familiar with the term “digital storefront,” are undoubtedly familiar with another digital storefront called Steam, which has long been the primary means of purchasing games on the platform. A lot of good has come from Valve, but now that Epic is a competitor, it seems likely that Steam and PC gaming in general are going to get a whole lot better.
To be clear, Steam has had competition in the past. Itch.io is a good place to purchase indie games, EA Origins is meant to be the ideal place to purchase games published by Electronic Arts, and fans of adult games have long had to find their games on other services. In fact, in regards to adult games, the last year has proven beyond a doubt that Steam needs some competition to encourage them to more closely listen to the demands of consumers. When various complaints came up regarding adult games and censorship, Steam changed its policy. When that policy seemed a little too lax, Valve made some changes. But, overall, it has felt a bit half assed.
This, of course, makes a degree of sense. Steam is a solid platform and has done a lot for the PC market. Its sales have done a lot to fill gamers' libraries with a bunch of games they’ll probably never play for a very small price. Steam has made it easy to incorporate PC gaming into the living room with in-home streaming. The company behind Steam, Valve, has also made its fair share of influential games, like Dota and Team Fortress 2. It is a very capable platform and, as such, very profitable.
The hope is that Epic’s store will encourage Steam to be more proactive at improving the platform. This doesn’t just extend to pricing. A large part of how this business is run pertains to relationships with the people who actually make the games. Right now, it is looking like Epic is courting developers. As it stands, developers on Steam receive a cut of 70% of the profit. On the Epic Games store, that percentage will be considerably increased to a staggering 88%.
Developers making more is good for us all too. It’s important that the people who make the games we consume can better live off the profits. It means that they can safely take risks and invest their time. It also means they have more resources, so they can hire more people. Big publishers don’t take as many risks as indies, and indies don’t always have the resources to fully explore their vision. I’m excited to see what the team who made Super Meat Boy does during its year of exclusivity with Epic Games.
That exclusivity is good, too, because it gives social proof to the concept. People are more likely to look at the storefront as viable if it is supported by developers. Already, that is happening in spades. Beyond that, Fortnite’s popularity will drive people to the new storefront. The buzz the store is already creating has me excited.
Another interesting feature that will contribute to the buzz is the fact that Epic is putting systems in place to reward streamers for supporting developers via their content with monetary rewards. Considering the role “influencers” play in the industry at the moment, I would hope Steam would adopt a similar policy.
Naturally, I don’t want Steam to disappear. Like I said, it’s a valid platform. Now it has an incentive to grow. While Epic has built up a lot of good faith, I would also be extremely hesitant to wish for a world where the Epic Games Store is the only PC games distributer. It is my hope that these two companies learn from one another, and we gamers have an option to influence the market based on how we support these stores.