In an unsurprising move, Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney is defending the practice of recruiting developers for paid exclusives. In an effort to cut into the PC gaming pie that Valve’s Steam store and launcher has dominated for years, Epic has started securing exclusive games for the Epic Games store. A conversation taking place on Twitter included Sweeney breaking down the reasoning for this approach.
GOG Galaxy is a PC game launcher with its own storefront that was created by CD Projekt Red, the studio behind the Witcher franchise and upcoming RPG Cyberpunk 2077. The 2.0 version of GOG Galaxy aims to make game libraries from all launchers, including Steam and Epic, manageable from one place, and Sweeney tweeted an article about the platform update with the words “Connect ALL the launchers.” A specific question about the reasoning for exclusive games that Epic Games has secured for its own store and launcher catapulted Sweeney into a series of lengthy tweets. Sweeney was pretty frank in his response.
“This question gets to the core of Epic’s strategy for competing with dominant storefronts,” he said. “We believe exclusives are the only strategy that will change the 70/30 status quo at a large enough scale to permanently affect the whole game industry.”
He pointed to other independent PC gaming stores and their failure to achieve the scale Steam has reached as another reason for exclusivity. Sweeney points out that nearly all of those platforms have more features than Epic as well.
“This leads to the strategy of exclusives, which, though unpopular with dedicated Steam gamers, do work, as established by the major publisher storefronts and by the key Epic Games store releases compared to their former Steam revenue projections and their actual console sales,” Sweeney saidd.
With any platform that has as significant foothold as Steam does, there’s going to be pushback when a new platform enters the space. Epic’s strategy is especially polarizing because it focuses directly on the main objective: Gaming. Unfortunately, how those exclusives are handled is less straightforward because of the sudden about-face for games that were already promised for Steam releases.
Epic Games store exclusive games like Phoenix Point, Metro Exodus, Ashen, Borderlands 3, and Dauntless are still coming to Steam but well after launch. This will be less of an issue as Epic shifts its focus to unreleased games or games where the developers haven’t already established launch platforms, but crowdfunded games will still have a PR nightmare on their hands if they don’t find a way to communicate the platform change earlier and clearly.