The battle of digital video game stores

At the end of 2018, EPIC announced the launch of a digital store, using the platform which has been growing slowly but surely with the distribution of Fortnite and other projects in development, like the sadly cancelled Unreal Tournament, as a base.

Everyone is watching with curiosity and precaution as it faces a battle with the heavyweight in digital distribution on PC, STEAM, and enters a battlefield with other stores such as GOG (its most direct competitor) or Humble Bundle who have spent some time fighting for first place in the market.

The launch was announced unexpectedly at the Game Awards, surprising all with the news that they would gift games every few weeks with interesting exclusives, such as taking Journey to PC or the new team game of Supergiant Games, the creators of Bastion, Transistor or Pyre.

These claims about exclusives and gifts caught the attention of players, but EPIC kept the best cards to their chest for another target market, developers. Digital stores retain a percentage of the sales they produce, varying the distribution of profits between available platforms.

STEAM, who almost has a monopoly over digital video game sales on PC, has a well-established approach on this, keeping 30% of the money until 10 million dollars of sales have been made, then dropping to 25% and then 20% after 50 million dollars of profit.

This is a significant problem for indy developers given that they are unlikely to reach 10 million dollars of sales and, even if it is the case, losing 25% or 30% is a huge blow for them. Other smaller stores such as ITCH.IO keep just 10% whilst Humble Bundle retain 15%, making them the most popular with developers.

EPIC made a real statement as they announced that they would only retain 12% of sales, slightly more than ITCH.IO but being much more popular and well known. Beyond the economic factors, EPIC has the advantage of being able to offer developers Unreal Engine, offering an ecosystem which involves development through to distribution.

Such succulent conditions, in addition to the popularity of the growing EPIC Game Store, have made various developers begin to leave STEAM to move to the new platform. We’re not only talking about small groups, the major news was that Ubisoft took pre-orders for The Division 2 off STEAM (although those who have already bought it can download it there), to sell exclusively on EPIC.

What’s more, Tim Sweeney announced that it would not be Ubisoft’s only exclusive on the store. Everything suggests that upcoming games like Assassin’s Creed or maybe the rumoured Splinter Cell will surely not be launched on STEAM.

Without any doubt, all of the decisions and actions of EPIC are possible thanks to the money earned by the good moves they made with Fortnite. This comfort zone provided by those profits is what has allowed them to pay for exclusivity of games like The Division 2 or gift games like Super Meat Boy or Subnautica.

For users, it’s all good news, given that STEAM has controlled the digital market for so long that it led to highly controlled prices. To add to that, all platforms will have to renew their offer with new ideas and content for the world of sales and distribution on PC. Who knows, maybe they’d even reconsider games development and finish off Half Life 3.

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