A familiar stranglehold

Yesterday over at The Ancient Gaming Noob, Wilhelm posted a great blog entry about platforms challenging Steam, I really encourage you to go and give it a read as my post bounces off alot of the same themes and topics. https://tagn.wordpress.com/2018/12/06/challenging-steam/.

I did starting writing a comment on that post but found that I was rambling a bit so I though I’d type it up here instead.

Kicking things off

Valve got lucky, their game distribution service was never really a store front, it evolved into a platform that other games wanted to be released on.
By reducing the difficultly of online distribution for other non-valve products, it grew into something that now dominates the gaming landscape. 

Many platforms started off like Steam being a delivery solution for one publishers titles, we see that with Origin, BattleNet, Glyph, UPlay, Station and Arc.
This works for their needs but there is very little in the form of other games and titles, the branching out was never a direction that lasted any length of time.

That isn’t to say that new blood isn’t wanted, but any new contender has to fight a battle on two fronts, firstly getting the developers to want to use their platform, secondly convincing users that it’s a platform they should move to and invest in.

Drawing in Devs/Publishers

Epic has outlined how they hope to make their platform different enough to attract developers, with a lower revenue cut of 12% on sales which is a huge reduction compared to the 30% that Valve take via Steam.
That 18% revenue increase maybe enough to encourage more games to give the Epic Store a shot, most likely alongside other digital stores to still feed the player bases established on those platforms.

As a final perk for developers, games that use the Unreal Engine will have the licence charge waive by Epic for using the platform.

Interestingly Epic have suggested that there will be a 14 day 
no-questions-asked refund policy, which sounds great however when you consider the number of smaller titles where the full game can be completed in timescales smaller than 14 days (8 to 10 hours) there maybe some reasons for smaller game developers to avoid the platform.

Drawing in Users

New users with very few game purchases under their belt aren’t going to have any issues trying out a new platform. A percentage of their game are possibly Free to Play titles and they aren’t financially invested to heavily in a single platform.

As Wilhelm mentions, for some time Twitch has been dishing out monthly free games (for prime members) to encourage users to download their Twitch Desktop App.
Epic seem to be chasing a similar model to encourage users to adopt the platform as there digital home with one free game every fortnight.

However the biggest hurdle is that I, like many other gamers, have a huge investment in Steam, not only in my game library but in the auxiliary elements that have grown around it over the years.
These include such things as : Communities, Friends, Workshop items, Guides, Achievements,Wishlist and finally the ability to purchase real world store cards.

It terms of moving away from steam I enjoy Gog and have purchased a number of games on that platform when I don’t want to have to deal with steam, usually for modding reasons.
GoG connect has also allowed me to claim some of my titles on the DRM Free platform, additionally some of my Purchases via humble bundle have also included a DRM free copy of the game.
However none of these things go far enough to draw me away from Steam for long.

Swap Shop

Competition is healthy and anything to give players more choice is a good thing. It could help to drive down the revenue cut that other platforms are taking and result in a better landscape for developers and players.

There are so many additional launchers sitting on my hard drive until such a time as I need to use them, they aren’t loading on start up, they usually take an age to patch when I have to interact with them.
This is the reality of a gamers PC, we load those most important regularly but the others just gather dust as they were the chosen platform for that one game you really wanted.

On the Epic store that game is likely to be Rebel Galaxy Outlaw for me, as I really enjoyed the first game and I’d like to try and support the developers.

Only time is going to tell what impact Epic will have on the the gaming store scene, hopefully if nothing else it will shake things up a bit.