Steam Responds To Epic's Competition By Weaponizing The Steam Community
from the use-and-abuse dept
Despite the occasional criticism over how it communicates to the public, I’ve generally been a fan of Valve’s Steam platform. Valve’s not perfect, of course, but the company has generally tried to make Steam a place that is friendly to both major publishers and indies, all while taking steps that have been quite good for the average gamer as well, especially when it comes to policing games and reviews to ensure everything is on the up and up. It’s probably for this reason that Steam hasn’t had to endure much in the way of competition for some time. Yes, GOG.com exists, but the two game stores generally cater to different audiences and for different reasons.
Well, if you’re someone who pays attention to the games industry, you will already know that Epic Games has made a great deal of noise by pushing its own online marketplace to compete with Steam. Coverage of Epic’s platform peaked this past week, when Epic managed to lure the latest iteration of the Metro game franchise to being an Epic exclusive for a year, even after pre-orders were available for the game on Steam’s store for the past several weeks.
Yesterday’s news that Deep Silver’s Metro Exodus is moving from Steam to Epic’s Games Store was notable for what it says about Valve’s position running PC gaming’s dominant online storefront. But for consumers, it was perhaps more notable for the impact it had on the game’s pricing.
If you pre-ordered Metro Exodus though Steam before yesterday, you paid $60 (and will still receive that preorder on Steam). If you preorder the game today on the Epic Games Store or buy it there after its February 15 launch, you’ll pay just $50.
The driving force for the price difference is the more generous split Epic is offering publishers on its site compared with Steam’s. In fact, despite the price reduction, Deep Silver will actually make more money per copy sold on Epic’s site compared with what it would make on Steam. Pre-orders that had already been made on Steam will still be fulfilled, but that has to be plenty annoying for gamers who are suddenly finding the game $10 cheaper on another site. Still, platforms competing for publisher business is going to drive down prices and increase the revenue splits for creators. This, it should be said, is a benefit of competition that Steam has avoided for far too long.
And perhaps Valve doesn’t really know how to handle it, because it sure seems like the totality of its response to the Metro story is to try to weaponize its community against the publisher.
On Monday, the latest game in the series, Metro Exodus, became an Epic Games Store exclusive, prompting Valve to call the sudden departure “unfair to Steam customers.” For some Steam users, that’s served as a rallying cry. This has led to sustained outcry in the form of everything from review bombs of previous series entries Metro 2033 and Metro: Last Light to irate comments on every possible social media post associated with the game.
The review bombs don’t make any bones about what they’re trying to do. Many of them mention that the games being “reviewed” are actually great, but the review still has a low score as a way to protest Deep Silver’s having shoved off to Epic for a year. And, while Valve didn’t specifically ask Steam users to do this, it knew what would happen when it decried Deep Silver’s business decision as “unfair to Steam customers.”
Which is stupid. Gamers railing against Steam having competition is ultimately working against their own interests. The more competition out there, the better. And while I certainly wouldn’t want to see the kind of fragmentation in game marketplace platforms that we’ve seen in, say, video streaming services, it would undoubtedly be a good thing for games to have multiple venues for release, all competing for their business.
Valve knows this, but it decided to coyly unleash the trolls instead.