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, 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.

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Companies: epic, valve

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Comments on “Steam Responds To Epic's Competition By Weaponizing The Steam Community”

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Anon E Mouse says:

Re: Re: Re:

Steam’s pretty damn stable, unlike all of its competition I’ve bothered give a try. Uplay and Origin both have fairly common outages during which you can’t even play single player games. Also Steam keeps games separate, as in a ban in a game is only a ban in that specific game, unlike the competition where swearing in an online game can find you locked out of your legally bought single player games.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

  1. Origin is very sable now. Same with Microsoft client. Ditto for Ubisoft since you are effectively using their client if you play a Ubisoft game with steam.
    They all are viable competition. All as stable as Steam nowadays.
  2. You should be encouraging healthy competition. Competition forces prices down and encourages innovation. Steam is amazing to use. The competition will make it better.
  3. No game company bans you for swearing. They will ban you for racist, homophobic, and sexist remarks. Even those that discourage swearing only do so when used in a way that abuses other players. So I’m cool with a company banning on an account level for abusive practices like that. If you choose what services to use based on what trolling behavior you can get away with, i’m actually happy you are selectively siloing yourself to one game service. Stay away from everyone else.
Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Origin

Origin continues to have an untenable extremely-privacy-invasive TOS. As I understand it, though, Origin doesn’t poke around as much on end-user systems as it did when it was first released. (Much like Compuserve in the 90s, Origin used to send home snapshots of directory trees, and upload files as requested by EA HQ.)

Still, EA’s love for lootbox marketing, microtransactions and persistent online mandates have kept me away from even their single-player offerings, so I’ve not had the need to install Origin.

I’ve also seen enough incidents in which users have lost entire libraries due to comments on their forums, often ones neither vulgar nor bigoted. Criticism of EA, of Origin or of given games were particularly prone to permabans, and as such many Origin users create separate accounts for each game they own.

Our corporate overlords can often be cruel mistresses.

Anon E Mouse says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

  1. It hasn’t even been a week since Origin’s last "unscheduled maintenance". Pretty much every time there’s a new release or a beta test something goes wrong over there. Calling it as stable as Steam isn’t really accurate.
    Uplay on the other hand used to be down more often than not but I haven’t had any trouble with it lately so I guess you could be right on that part.
  2. Competition is good, yes. But Uplay, Origin, and their like aren’t Steam’s competitors. They’re first party services. Epic is actively avoiding competition with exclusivity deals. This leaves us with what? GOG, Itch, and maybe DLsite? A proper Steam but not run by Valve would be very welcome, but Epic isn’t it.
  3. Anonymous, meet video game companies. EA, and particularly Bioware, are very trigger happy with their bans. I wrote a lot of words here but realised it’s far more effective to just let you google things like "bioware ban", "ea ban no reason" or "stanley woo" on your own.
Kevlar says:

Re: Re:

"it would undoubtedly be a good thing for games to have multiple venues for release, all competing for their business."

A good thing for the developers. But deceiving or misleading your customers by promising them availability on one platform and then going exclusive on a different platform isn’t an ethical or logical way to go about business. And Epic is shady for taking them up on it. One of the great things about the PC gaming platform is how widely available games are and Epics continuing emphasis on grabbing up all the AAA exclusives is annoying and seems to be patterned after the restrictive console market, in which games are overpriced hot-garbage.

passing lurker says:

competition: good

pulling your game off a storefront into 12 months of exclusivity after it already went up for sale: bad

The game market is essentially saturated right now there is no reason to tolerate these sorts of anti-consumer shenanigans as there is always a competing game to put your money down on instead. Also valve for all its problems at least doesn’t try to lock you in.

Patrick says:

All 3rd party exclusives do is annoy people, but at least it’s far less anti-consumer on PC as it’s just a free download for whatever platform you want to buy from and not expensive hardware like with consoles. More and more publishers seem to want their own launcher/store fronts, Bethesda being the latest. My worry is it will just get out of hand and it kind of already is IMO.

The driving force for the decision was Epic giving DeepSilver and Koch Media a wad of cash upfront for a timed exclusive cause they know given the choice people are going to go where they’ve always gone, Steam. Even with a $10 discount. If I don’t completely forget about it I’ll buy it in an year or 2 or 3 and probably at stepper discount.

My main objection is all the extraneous software that has to be installed and logged into just to play some stupid video games. I currently have Steam, GOG, Twitch, Origin, UPlay, and Battle Net installed cause I’ve bought(in the case of Twitch free games with prime and UPlay is forced on you regardless of where you buy an Ubisoft game) games from each and that’s enough, more than enough actually.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Not competition


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.

I use Steam. Though I also have a GoG account and probably an Epic account, maybe others, I don’t bother with their platforms. I even "own" some games on a couple of those non-Steam platforms but I ignore them for two simple reasons:

  1. Every client consumes computer resources. Running more than one at a time is a bad idea if you’re into twitch games that will punish you for running too much software apart from the game.
  2. Switching between clients clients sucks. They’re not lightweight or quick. Similar to switching streaming providers on your Roku or other device but at least twice as cumbersome.

I’ve never found pricing on Steam to be too high with the possible exception of some indie studios who overvalue their product. Their customer service is excellent and their trial refund policy has saved me a lot of money while also allowing me to try out some games I might not otherwise have taken the risk on. There’s just no motivation to switch platforms.

All Deep Silver’s move has done, for me at least, is ensure I’ll never play their game. /shrug

Also, Epic can go piss up a rope.

James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: Re: Not competition

One advantage to GOG is that the client is optional. If I want to run a steam game, I have to run the steam client. If I want to run a GOG game, i just run the game directly. That said, it might not be a reason to switch if you are happy with valve. but after a time where steam forgot that I had enabled offline mode, I find myself less desirous of a platform that requires a client middleman.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Not competition

I love steam, but I also love the free market.
Steam will find a way to compete with Epic and the result will be lower prices for everyone. Steam may not like it, but it will be a good kick in the butt for the Steam team who have become fat and happy and very complacent and it will be good for us customers too.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Not competition

Companies acquiring exclusive products to sell either by creating said products themselves or entering into deals to acquire exclusivity for said products is, in fact, competition. One company using exclusivity to gain the edge against its peers in a market is a valid move.

Steam has exclusives too. Not just Valve’s own games, but third-party games both AAA and indie that you can only activate via Steam keys and play with the Steam client. They weren’t paid for by Valve, but the function is the same: it gives Steam an edge against its competitors.

So yeah, exclusivity isn’t anti-consumer. It’s a key tactic through which peers in a market compete and in the end we all benefit. Let’s look at this situation with Exodus: For all intents and purposes the game was going to be exclusive to Steam. Then Epic came along. And now, after this period of timed exclusivity on Epic’s storefront, it’ll be available on both stores. And by then Epic will have built out more features to compete with Steam on other merits. Gee, looks like a huge win for competition and consumers to me.

Ben S (profile) says:

Re: Re: Not competition

There was a video I saw on YouTube that pointed out why exclusivity as a form of competition is bad, and explained it very effectively. Paying for exclusivity isn’t paying to make your product better, it’s paying to make every one else’s product worse.

The anime streaming market does exclusive licenses a lot, here is what happened. More and more money is spent acquiring enough exclusive licenses to keep people coming to the streaming services of each competitor, which means less is available to spend on innovation, in fact, innovation is a wasted expenditure because the exclusive license is a better way to get more people to your service. It gets worse. The price of these services has gone up in order to fund the purchasing of these exclusive licenses, meanwhile the number of anime available on any given service went down. On top of this, since the price of buying these exclusive license drove up the cost of entering the market, it made it impossible for new entrants, without some serious cash backing them, to even enter the market.

It gets worse still. These services no longer even really compete with each other, because each of them has products the others aren’t allowed to sell. You can’t go and buy a generic brand of what ever the hot new anime of the season is, and get similar quality at a better price, or with a better service. You have no choice but to go to the competitor that carries the anime you want.

When this happens, it’s no longer a healthy competitive marketplace. A Valve monopoly is by far preferable to the gaming scene becoming comparable to the above. If we are to have competition in this space, it should not be by means of exclusive licenses. That just makes things worse for everybody.

Anonymous Coward says:

Tim, how can you truly call that competition with what Epic has done.

There would have been no issues if the game developers had just left the game for sale in both Steam and Epic’s, with the Epic store being cheaper due to the revenue split.

Instead they decided to use this bullshit of a strategy in being a timed exclusive game title. For all the issues that Steam has, I don’t recall them forcing and locking other games to their own platform like Epic has done.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

For all the issues that Steam has, I don’t recall them forcing and locking other games to their own platform like Epic has done.

This is actually modus operandi for Steam. Kinda like the almost-identical products you’ll find in a Costco, Steam games are all exclusive to the Steam platform. Most of those games, however, are available elsewhere with a different "edition" subtitle and some subtle difference in the game.

Still, a big difference from Epic locking in the whole game for a year. Bad move by Epic and Deep Silver.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

It's become exactly the predicted nightmare...

PC gamers are now being forced to have half a dozen clients on their systems to play games that are exclusive to those clients, each one carrying its own DRM and prerequisites. It’s exactly opposite the promised notion that one could choose a content provider and have access to all the games. And I won’t go near EA for its shitty invasive ToS.

Personally I get things on GOG or direct download from Humble when I can, but I already resent Uplay’s necessity for some games given it’s clunky.

I don’t resent the Epic client yet as all my games on Epic have all been free, and I expect this trend to continue to do so. But if a game I want is released exclusively on Epic, it’s pathetic download rate and fussy operation conditions are going to make for a huge reduction of my price point.

To be fair, Steam worked poorly in its early years, and only got good with much revision. Uplay, I assume, just doesn’t care about the issues that bother me, and that affects my price point for Ubisoft games.

As for Steam’s ability to call out the trolls, I’m less outraged by Steam than I am ashamed of the trolls that will instant-army for Steam. Ours is a pathetic species, indeed.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: It's become exactly the predicted nightmare...

I strongly believe that Valve knows that it has a personal army it can use for situations like these. A personal army built up of people who have a tribalist loyalty to Steam based on how Valve used to act in the past, rather than how they act today, as well as loyalty built up based on an absurd number of games in their Steam libraries, number of cards and badges and achievements they have, etc. All it takes is some dog-whistling, like their response to Epic nabbing Exodus, to get them going.

What has modern Valve done with Steam to justify the 30% cut it takes from developers, and this tribalistic loyalty? Nothing. Their store is a garbage fire of asset flips, hentai puzzle sliders, and "games" that lack executables. Discovery on Steam is entirely dependent on algorithms and individual users taking on the role of Curator to help people find games they may want. Valve has given up entirely on basic quality control and is using its userbase as a form of free labor. The algorithms they use can break, too, like what happened with a bug last October, causing some games to just not show up like they were supposed to.

Valve is the company that gave rise to concept of loot boxes in the West thanks to the success of its crates and keys in TF2. Everyone was busy making "Lol, Gaben sure does love hats!" memes while gambling and helping to normalize these microtransactions. Speaking of gambling, Valve turned a blind eye to all the CS:GO skin gambling that was taking place until regulators were breathing down their necks. They only took action when fines and regulation were inevitable. They’re no better than EA on this front. Oh, and there’s also the Steam Marketplace, Valve’s experiment in setting up an infinite revenue stream based on people buying and selling digital trinkets. Valve gets a cut of each transaction. They created the Steam Trading Cards to give people something to potentially get hooked on buying and selling on the marketplace even if they weren’t interacting with the games that had Marketplace support. That in particular is sketchy as hell.

Of course, now it’s clear that the Steam Marketplace was only the prelude to what Valve really wanted: A game entirely based around content purchased on the Steam Marketplace. That’s where Artifact, the first new game that Valve’s made in years, comes in. The game would have all its players trading its cards (separate from the Steam Trading Cards mentioned before) on the Steam Marketplace. It was pay-to-win in its most ludicrous form. After the game’s launch period, its player population cratered and shows no signs of recovering. The approach to the design of Artifact epitomizes modern Valve. That, and the fact that the next "Valve game" set to release is a game that was mid-development when they bought Camp Santo. They get to slap a Valve logo on In The Valley Of Gods so they can say "Look! we can still make games!".

Modern-day Valve has done nothing to deserve the 30% cut of all game sales on its store and the slavish devotion that leads people to engage in brigading and review-bombing on their behalf. This is why I’m glad Epic is playing hardball like it is. People may turn their nose up at tactics like the one Epic pulled with Exodus, but given Steam’s size and people’s irrational level of attachment/loyalty to the platform, Epic merely competing and innovating via non-game features simply isn’t going to be enough.

Nick-B says:

Too many clients

The biggest issue, and the only reason I am rooting for Steam to succeed, is that change is annoying. I have an established ecosystem that my games are under. I have my own established friends list, with the ability to view the game they are playing and even (at times) click to instantly join. I have a large catalog of games all in one place, one I am proud to own.

Steam has gotten really lazy lately, with poor quality client that still has some glaring bugs that haven’t been fixed for years. Their refund policy, while better than it has been in the past, is still pretty inflexible. Their support is down to sending an email and praying for a non-canned response within the week.

I’d have no objection to a competing marketplace, but I am not going to simply abandon Steam for another just because the developers get a bigger cut (which I agree with, but not enough to change everything for).

My preference is still for each storefront to open up their API systems to allow third party clients to serve the content.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

It absolutely is. Especially the way it’s portrayed in the article and its title…
And you know where so-called "review bombing" can’t happen? That’s right, the Epic Store.
The fact is this wasn’t a fair trade for anyone, exclusivity or not. Deep Silver gets more money, the customers get a lower price. But then there’s the entirety of features that Steam has built over the years that’s missing on pretty much all other platforms.
And the truth is, those cost money too. Maybe Valve can take less and still have enough for them, but it’s not wrong on the customer’s part to demand a similar level of service. And that’s where the exclusivity really bites.
All other things being equal, I suspect a lot of people would still buy on Steam. And I’m sure I’m not the only one coming to that conclusion, or it wouldn’t be an exclusive for so long.
Similar things have happened in the past, particularly with EA. But they didn’t pull the rug from under their customers at the last minute, and that’s why I think Valve spoke out this time and why so many people are angry about this move.
In the end, pretending customers voicing their discontent is somehow Valve’s fault is at best myopic.

Anonymous Coward says:


Deep Silver won’t be making more money, they’re actually losing $2 per unit sale. Traditionally the series has sold very well(millions) on Steam, so it’s a safe bet to assume that this would have hit the %20 tier.

Secondly, I’m surprised at your glaring omission of what tactics Epic are pursuing – namely paying up publishers to restrict their games to Epics store arbitrarily – in the case of Metro, the game was advertised for a good year and accumulated pre-pre-orders and attention through Valves platform, only to be yanked away at the last minute. Not a very consumer friendly move.

Some of the media have portrayed Valve as weaponizing this, but as a service provider, it’s their DUTY to inform their customer base why a highly sought product offering suddenly up and disappeared.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: omissions

they’re actually losing $2 per unit sale.

That makes no sense in the electronically distributed software industry. The per-copy cost is nil. All of their costs are paid up front and they hope to sell enough no-cost copies to recover their investment and, with luck, show a profit.

Without knowing what the total sales numbers are there’s no way to calculate the actual losses (or profits). But just after a release your statement above is nonsense.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: omissions

If they sell in the region of 850k units (their previous entry sold over 1.4 million) with the tiered pricing model thats on Steam.


On Steam, $60 sale 0.8 cut = $48 for the dev
On Epic $50
0.88 cut = $44 for the dev

There’s a difference in what they potentially earn.This contrasts Tim’s statement:

"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"

Anonymous Grande and Cox says:

Just a taste of Valve’s own medicine, what’s with requiring DRM clients just to play games. I hope they get more of it, although I wish it wasn’t Epic giving them the run.

I am geniunely curious though.

I use Windows’ start menu to play games. If I need to uninstall one, Control Panel is my friend. A well designed game has achievements baked into an interface for them, leaderboards implemented by the developer, mod support APIs with or without a one stop interface for them, all in-game. Auto-updates can be baked into the game seemlessly, or in the case of Linux, the system already takes care of that.

Why would I need a client, other than artificial necessity?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Why would I need a client, other than artificial necessity?

You don’t. However, the game publishers get a lot back for integrating with Steam. Steam gives the publisher access to vast numbers of gamers without which their sales totals would often be pretty abysmal, particularly the smaller studios.

When was the last time you bought a game in a box from a brick & mortar store? Do you get many of your games as downloads direct from the studio/publisher web site? How do you usually hear about new games from non-AAA studios? Or even from AAA studios for that matter?

Throw in the community (reviews, chat, market, workshop, etc) and everything else Steam offers and it’s a pretty sweet deal for the publishers even if Steam does take a probably-too-generous cut.

Anonymous Grande and Cox says:

Re: Re: Re:

Steam gives the publisher access to vast numbers of gamers without which their sales totals would often be pretty abysmal, particularly the smaller studios.

Doesn’t really matter. It’s all about the marketing. Market it well and it’ll sell. Don’t, and we’ll have something like Handball 17; it’s only popular as a joke in piracy circles because of only Denuvo. And that’s on steam.

When was the last time you bought a game in a box from a brick & mortar store?

For PC, back when they weren’t digital downloads in a box. For consoles, very recently.

Do you get many of your games as downloads direct from the studio/publisher web site?

I’d love to, but I have GOG as the closest thing to offer direct downloads

How do you usually hear about new games from non-AAA studios? Or even from AAA studios for that matter?

Friends, chat, news publications, at least for indies. For GOG, I’m a close watcher of their news section and RSS feed. For AAA, I don’t care enough.

Overall, as you have said, I don’t need a client. There is indeed barely any reason to use them if I want to go straight to the game and don’t want the community stuff in the first place. I see the community stuff as basically just a feature to justify using an unnecessary program – unless the necessity is mandatory DRM, of course.

Anonymous Coward says:

Article Quality

Did Epic pay a sweetener to Deep Silver for the one year exclusivity?

This is a key piece of information to set up the article and its not there. If ‘yes’ then this is a market attack by Epic. There’s nothing wrong with that, but then you know what is happening. You can then point fingers at Deep Silver for doing a pretty shady thing. Leaving the game on both platforms at the different prices lets the market choose. People may like to stay with Steam and pay the extra $10, or not. They decide.

But, with exclusivity there is no choice, and thats the shitty thing that Deep Silver have done, encouraged by deeper profits and a sweetner.

Killercool (profile) says:

Re: Article Quality

I don’t see how there wasn’t a sweetener of some kind. I don’t care if you see the whole situation with glasses so rose-colored that your eyes bleed, basic math says that, exclusivity or no, removing your product from a platform loses money.

There are people who will buy the game no matter where it’s sold. There are people who hate Steam and will buy anything as long long as it’s a competitor’s. There are also people who only care about how cheap the game is (sensible, but not my cup of tea).

Then there’s the other 50% of the market: people who DON’T follow game news, people who DON’T have the time to look up new stuff and sort through shit for diamonds, and people who only find out about new games by getting "now available" notices from the download platforms they already have.

That’s a lot of potential market-share lost. If they did it without some sort of cash incentive, Deep Silver will likely go belly-up soon. That sort of stupidity is often fatal to a business.

I have GOG, because I found out about it in college (when it was Good Old Games, and not nearly so compatible) when I had free time. I have Origin because it forced itself down my throat when I installed one of the Assassin’s Creed games. I have the Bethesda Launcher because it malwared it’s way onto my system when I updated Fallout 4. I don’t have the time or desire to install another launcher.

JoeCool (profile) says:

Re: Re: Article Quality

I only have the Bethesda launcher installed because it’s the only way to get the CreationKit for modding. Their client is really crappy – it doesn’t even work in WINE; you have to run it in Windows. At least Steam works fine in WINE, and many Windows games work great in Steam under WINE (like Doom 2016).

JoeCool (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Article Quality

I got the CreationKit for Skyrim from a separate download that was widely available. Too bad that’s not the case with FO4 CK. I’ve only got the Beth launcher on my laptop, and I’ve left it in case I need it for something else (not likely). I’ve moved the FO4 CK over to my main PC as it doesn’t need the launcher, which is why it’s so stupid that the only way to get it is through the launcher. Copy the files into you FO4 directory and run from the desktop (or from MO2) and you’re good.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Article Quality

I choose to make no assumptions about whether a sweetener was there or not, but was pointing out that for me this is a critical piece of information that was not in the article.

If I was the author I would want to know, so that I could add that information to see where I thought the "this is not so good" finger should point.

But, you make a nice point how some large percentage of the market will just look for what games are available via the platform that they are already on, and thus, this is an automatic loss for Deep Silver. And that suggests that a sweetener is almost certainly involved. Not evidence, but a good argument.


And, the "eyes are bleeding" thing does your credibility no good.

Anon E Mouse says:

Doesn't matter what your thoughts on Valve are

Displaying a product in a storefront, advertising it, and accepting preorders, only to yoink the product and make it an exclusive of a different store is pretty damn unfair. On that I agree with Valve. Now, making a callout blogpost might not be the nicest nor smartest thing to do. And taking that post as a rallying cry to do something as pointless as review bomb isn’t nice nor smart either. But calling an unfair thing unfair really isn’t something TD should be protesting against.

That One Guy (profile) says:

'Look at the little people's objections, aren't they quaint?'

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.

Uh, no, Steam got it exactly right here, this is unfair to customers, and buying the idea that it’s Steam’s fault that said customers got angry is the sort of thing I’d expect from writers that TD regularly calls out.

The game was up for pre-orders for Steam for a good while, and then almost at the last minute the switch to another service was announced with no warning as far as I know. Had they made it clear that it was going to be an Epic exclusive from the get-go there would have been objections(from what I’ve seen the Epic platform is missing a lot of features that Steam has) but it wouldn’t have been that bad, rather it was the last minute change that’s causing the problem.

Moreover, the severity of the backlash against the company and games may have had something to do with one of the developers basically acting like a condescending jackass, claiming that people objecting to the last minute change didn’t really care about the game(s), wouldn’t really have bought them, and were just looking for an excuse to rag on the developer, essentially dismissing out of hand anyone who voiced an objection. With a response like that fanning the flames it’s no wonder the objections and protests went into overdrive.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 'Look at the little people's objections, aren't they quaint?

I loved Unreal Tournament. I was never really interested enough to play Gears of War. I’ve heard of Infinity Blade but not sure what it’s about. I’ve never even heard of any of Epic’s other titles apart from Fortnite. Kudos for the Unreal Engine though.

Fortnite was a failing game until they jumped on the Battle Royale bandwagon and offered their game for free, complete with a cash shop driven by social pressure. The game itself isn’t that great but "free" plus "cash shop lock-in" has driven it to the top of the BR segment partly due to a lack of competitors with the same offerings.

Suddenly Epic thinks they’re going to take over Steam’s dominant position as a gaming platform. I’m betting they’re going to fail at that goal and drop back into semi-obscurity (again) for several more years of layoffs as soon as the shiny wears off of Fortnite:BY.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: 'Look at the little people's objections, aren't they qua

You might be correct that Epic is going to fail to unseat Valve, but they have sent a message that Epic’s dominant position is ready for challenge.

I take the article as a message about how Valve is responding to that pressure.

I expect more challengers, as this is a huge market. And I’m all for that.

What would be really nice is some sort of industry based standard API that allows a single client to access the capabilities of the different distributors so that the individual can have one client which accesses Steam, Epic and all of the rest. Maybe that’s wishful thinking, but hey, one can dream.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: 'Look at the little people's objections, aren't they

What would be really nice is some sort of industry based standard API that allows a single client to access the capabilities of the different distributors so that the individual can have one client which accesses Steam, Epic and all of the rest. Maybe that’s wishful thinking, but hey, one can dream.

That’s a wonderful dream you have there. Can we have the same for streamed video, please?

Zgaidin (profile) says:

I’ve long been a vocal opponent of console exclusives, but it’s hitting me especially hard the last few years since my household made the considered decision not to buy a PS4 (this is the first gen of consoles where we made such a decision). So, no RDR2, no KH3, no Last of Us 2, etc. I think console exclusives whether they’re exclusive to only PS4 or XB1 or exclusive only to consoles, no PCs allowed, are bad for the gaming industry for a host of reasons – it either fragments the player base or forces everyone to purchase multiple expensive pieces of hardware that will be obsolete in 4-5 years, it cuts down on total sales for any given game, and most importantly, since consoles are usually behind the curve on hardware, it hinders the art as a whole because wisely most large publishers don’t release games on PC that won’t run on consoles (again, lost sales). On the plus side, that means I haven’t had to update my gaming PC in over 6 years, because consoles still haven’t caught up.

My last complaint is that it no longer makes sense. Building a lasting gaming PC used to be expensive. The value in getting a console was that you didn’t have to shell out nearly the same money to be able to play those games as you would have for a comparable PC and most households didn’t have any need for the added functionality of a full PC. After about 1995, that slowly but surely stopped being the case. Most homes (at least homes with disposable income for video games) have a PC to browse the web, stream video, etc. The cost of upgrading their existing PC or building a new, sturdy gaming PC is $600-$1K, which is, strangely enough, about the same as the cost of buying an XB1 & PS4 depending on where in their life-cycle you got them (and yes, many homes have both platforms – because of game exclusivity). The original reason for these consoles to even exist has been nullified.

This isn’t quite as bad, but it still tastes similarly to me. While I don’t think UPlay runs very well, I don’t resent it the way most people do because the only thing on UPlay (at least for me) are Ubisoft games. If a developer/publisher/studio wants to use their own launcher for things, fine, but in an age where digital download is the primary way to purchase and acquire new games (even on consoles), the idea that we need to falsely silo these games is absurd. Sure, if Epic or whoever, wants to take a run at Steam and see if they can’t build a better platform, I’m all for it, but do it in a way that doesn’t punish your audience. Compete on price, compete on features, or functionality of your platform, but don’t compete on game availability. That’s a bullshit tactic that PC gamers already hate. A business tactic that harms, hinders, or pisses off your primary audience isn’t a good tactic.

Candescence (profile) says:

Unfortunately, Epic's idea of "competition" is hot garbage.

Steam’s popularity isn’t just because of the games, but also because of the myriad features Valve has added to the storefront and client over the years to the point where there are numerous useful features you won’t find on other clients. A small list, shall we?

  • One of the most feature-rich and open gaming storefronts. It has issues, but there are many more other storefronts on PC, console and mobile that are significantly worse.
  • A truckload of community features, including community forums for games, guides, sharing screenshots and videos, etc. (Did I mention it’s a feature so useful that people playing games like Subnautica via the Epic client have to go to the Steam forums for support for their games?)
  • The Steam Workshop, which can act as an in-client mod library and as a means of allowing players to create in-game items that they can make money from.
  • Steam Big Picture, an alternative interface mainly for TV gaming.
  • Steam Input, first created for the Steam Controller, but now supports the Xbox 360/Xbox One controller, PS4 controller, Nintendo Switch Pro controller, and any generic xinput or directinput controller, allowing a jaw-dropping amount of control customizability, with a sheer number of features and versatility that makes it possible for control schemes that you simply can’t achieve on any other platform.
  • And most recently, Valve investing in and developing a WINE-like compatibility layer for Linux that enables even the newest Windows-only games to run with minimal performance loss, which is an enormous feat for smashing Microsoft’s effective monopoly over PC gaming, along with contributing to multi-platform technologies like Vulkan.

By contrast, Epic’s storefront is basically just a bare-bones client with just a crappy storefront, a friends list and a chat client, like almost every other "competing" store outside of Good Old Games, which made its own niche by focusing on making old games available and playable digitally on modern hardware and operating systems.

Is Epic meaningfully competing in ways other than moneyhatting exclusives and the occasional free game? No – there’s almost no interesting features to actually provide value and differentiation compared to Valve’s client, for both the customer and developers. A bigger cut for developers isn’t going to matter if people who would’ve bought a game on Steam won’t buy it on Epic’s storefront, and there is a big contingent of PC gamers who are only interested in what Steam has to offer.

Epic are gambling on the possibility of leveraging the Fortnite playerbase – a playerbase that, for the most part, only cares about Fortnite and absolutely nothing else. It’s also arguable that the ‘curated’ storefront is also a bad idea, as it significantly limits the number of indie games that can be published on the store, and there are a LOT of good indie games out there. Steam got rid of curation because they realized that they would rather let people decide what they want to buy rather than make assumptions about their customers, and focus on trying to make it easier for people to find stuff they might enjoy.

In many ways, it can be argued that Epic are actually harming the PC space rather than enriching it by trying to take games away from Steam instead of competing in terms of actual value and features.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Unfortunately, Epic's idea of "competition" is hot

Did I mention it’s a feature so useful that people playing games like Subnautica via the Epic client have to go to the Steam forums for support for their games?

At which point, quite frankly, I’m happy the games that are exclusive to Epic have no such features on Steam, since they don’t exist there. That way Epic isn’t getting a free ride at Valve’s expense. And I’m not a fanboy for Valve or anything. It’s just that fair’s fair! Steam’s development, maintenance and features cost money. Money that Epic is willing to, or can right now, go without. But the fact remains the platforms aren’t equal, and I don’t think Epic really wants them to be. Otherwise they were in the perfect position to come out with a platform as good as Steam, but they didn’t. And I 100% believe it was a calculated choice.

crippknottick says:

Re: Unfortunately, Epic's idea of "competition" is hot garbage.

"Epic are gambling on the possibility of leveraging the Fortnite playerbase – a playerbase that, for the most part, only cares about Fortnite and absolutely nothing else."

Precisely. That player base only cares about that game because it is popular with their school friends and such. More importantly, that young Fortnite player base plays the game on either console or mobile phones, NOT on a Desktop or Laptop Windows-based PC. Most of them don’t even own a Windows-based PC of any kind.

More importantly, to all the Epic supporters, the argument that Fortnite player base is larger than Steam’s player base, so "Valve should watch out….", fail to realize that the LEAST amount of the player base play the game on a Windows-based PC. So to them, the EPIC games store does not even exist, only the PS4 store, or Xbox store, or Nintendo eShop, or AppStore, or GooglePlay.

Ted the IT Guy (profile) says:

Game Client Roundup

After more than 10 years of online gaming, I have the following:

  • Steam : 1,895 Games Owned, 25 Installed
  • GOG Galaxy : 153 Games Owned, 7 Installed
  • Twitch (Amazon) : 85 Games Owned, None installed
  • EA Origin : 48 Games Owned, None Installed
  • UbiSoft UPlay : 23 Games Owned, None Installed
  • Epic Games Launcher : 6 Games Owned, 1 Installed
  • Bethesda.Net Launcher : 4 Games Owned, 1 Installed
  • Blizzard : 5 Games Owned, None Installed
  • ARC (Perfectworld) : 10 Games Owned, None Installed
  • : 10 Games Owned, None Installed
  • Xbox Live : 43 Games Owned, 7 Installed (On Xbox)
  • PSN : 22 Games Owned, None installed

That’s not even all of the ‘ecosystems’ I’m part of! Some have merged, Some are just gone, taking my games with them.

I don’t even maintain a friends list in anything outside of Steam.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

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."

Valve knows this, but it decided to coyly unleash the trolls instead.

So what you’re saying (or at least heavily implying) is that when a big, powerful organization puts out some communication to a large audience, which they know full well will cause some number among that audience to try and go out and harm somebody, that they should be held responsible for it?


Qwertygiy says:

Re: Re:

I completely agree. Valve didn’t say "they deserve to be raided because this event was not good" or "someone should raid them because this event was not good." All they said "we’re disappointed in this."

That’s like trying to argue that saying "I’m disappointed in YouTube over their removal of dislikes" is a statement urging people to cover their headquarters in spray-paint.

Anonymous Coward says:

I love how this article is summed up as "competition", when it’s clearly an ideology never going to happen.

The $10 price reduction was there to lure people to Epic games. Epic is paying for the loss, which, on top of the deal, means the pub gets more money.

Want to see what competition looks like between game store? Just check out the PlayStation and XBox stores.

Same prices, and they get exclusives too!

That’s the real issue here: exclusives. Despite publishers being too damn stupid for their own good by closing down additional revenue streams, the up-front exclusive deal ensures they get quick cash.

After the exclusivity ends, they couldn’t care less if the game tanks because this is when most start falling to the $20 price point.

Anonymous Coward says:

Valve knows this, but it decided to coyly unleash the trolls instead.

Don’t be fucking ridiculous. People aren’t pissed off because Valve told them this is unfair. People are pissed off because this is unfair to customers and they would be outraged and calling it unfair whether or not Valve itself did. Placing a game for pre-order on one store only to pull it at essentially the last minute is for all intents and purposes bait and switch. They spent a long time advertising it’s availability on one platform, let you put money down for it on that platform, only to tell people just before launch "just kidding, it’ll only be available on this other platform that many of you likely consider objectively inferior". People are rightfully angry at the deception and Deep Silver absolutely deserves to be raked over the coals for this.

Valve didn’t unleash anything, much less trolls. Deep Silver is the one who unleashed a whirlwind of angry consumers on itself with it’s decisions.

Anonymous Coward says:

I’m not sure I agree Steam’s statement is ‘leveraging’ or ‘weaponizing’.

A bunch of disorganized players were going to have opinions anyway. I certainly have issues about giving Tencent extensive user info or Chinese companies a greater share of my media producers. But Steam’s statement seems flat and on the face and certainly no call to action.

Anonymous Coward says:

Ignoring the outrage of the preorder bait and switch for a moment…

What happens to the people that made those pre orders on steam. Are they given a free copy on epic’s platform? Are they refunded? Or did that money just ‘disappear’ and they are told to buy the game again on another platform?

I see all three options as insulting.

Option one means they they tricked the users, as they thought they would be able to access the steam-inherent features they had grown comfortable with and they would likely have to go through the irritation of a new client (which likely has its own technical problems) to get their game.

Option two is basically telling them "I’m sorry you bought the game here but you have to buy the game on this platform I created instead. So have your money back for the game you’re not getting."

Option three is insulting for obvious reasons.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

They’re just the only people on Steam who will have the game.

This is potentially very important. Some games can cross-play so that a Steam user can play with a GOG user (or possibly an Epic user, if Epic’s setup permits this). Others cannot, and you can only play the game with other people on the same platform. If this game is in the latter category, the people who pre-ordered on Steam get hurt in another way: anyone who didn’t preorder it will be playing on a non-Steam platform and will be unavailable for multiplayer with a Steam user, unless the Steam user repurchases the game on that other platform.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Getting games late

I heard the same approximate thing about other games that specifically utilize the zeitgeist, such as the Dark Souls series (players can leave notes to other players along the level). Dunno if Metro is going to be super enhanced by playing it first.

As a veteran poor person who has to buy games at a well-after-release discount, the advantage to getting old games is having all the bugs patched out, and being forewarned of ugly news about the game. Far Cry 5’s horrid ending comes to mind. Also, frustrating play elements might be modded out (again, Far Cry 5’s resistance points >> abduction >> content lockout loop comes to mind. There are mods for that now.)

So, yeah, there are advantages to day-one purchases. There are also advantages to waiting a while.

Anonymous Coward says:


I for one am disgusted by all this ‘exclusive’ non-sense… be it from a streaming platform or an online video game store.
I believe (but have no evidence, not even anecdotal) that it would be better for the consumers and companies if exclusives were ended and replaced with something else… like get it ‘two weeks sooner’ or ‘binge it first here’…
As for me, it looks like I won’t be playing the latest Metro until it’s on all the online game stores and at a deeeeep discount.

By the way the folks at Good Old Games are the only one’s doing the whole online game store the right way (without game breaking DRM). If they go away, I can still keep playing my games… unlike those I got from Stardock Impulse and Desura.

Anonymous Coward says:

Yes, exists, but the two game stores generally cater to different audiences and for different reasons.

GOG exists, but they’ve been trying pretty hard the last few months to alienate their users with some sweeping site design changes.

  • It’s now much harder to find what’s on sale and when the sale will end.
  • The news feed is harder to use. Fewer entries are visible. Less history is retained, so if you want to avoid missing anything, you must check it much more often. It only works if you allow the script that powers annoying site features you probably want suppressed. It scrolls sideways, not vertically.
  • They went for a while with annoying auto-play videos in lots of places, though they finally caved and cleaned that up.
  • The site redesign made it harder to browse the catalog of games sold through the site, and is especially frustrating when dealing with games that have expansion packs or separate standard versus deluxe editions. Kingdom Come: Deliverance demonstrates this problem very well due to all its separate sub-offerings.
  • Many non-Chrome browsers no longer render the frontpage correctly. Some users report seeing every game as simultaneously on-sale and "Free" due to site bugs.
  • Other users report the site randomly geolocating them to the wrong locale (e.g. offering Canadian users store pages written in German and priced in Euros).
  • GOG removed a long time feature called "GOG mixes", which was a mechanism where a user could create a list of games, title the list, and make the list publicly readable. This was used to advise other users of various interesting properties: "Games that follow D&D 3e rules"; "Games that run well under Wine"; "Games with source ports"; etc. When viewing a game that was part of a mix, the store page showed you the mixes that contained it. This was a good way to find games in the same genre as one you already liked.

It’s gotten to the point that people argue that the forums need to be neglected, because everything that gets attention gets worse.

Thad (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I used to love GOG, but since I quit dual-booting Windows and went Linux full-time, GOG just isn’t a viable option anymore. Valve’s done more than anybody else to make Linux gaming a real thing; GOG has done the absolute bare minimum (if GOG has a game, and there’s a Linux version of it, you might be able to get the Linux version on GOG, maybe).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

They’re doing a good job of it too.

  • GOG pages used to load in a few seconds, now they take minutes to display
  • Autoplaying videos if you hover over any thumbnail for more than half a second
  • News doesn’t even load for me at all on most browsers
  • Big chunk of front page space taken by this "Curated Collections" that no-one asked for or wants
  • Expansion packs / extras are handled very poorly. Stellaris has at least 14 entries in the store because it has a crapload of expansions / extras. These really should all be tied up in one page.

Very disappointing, as I was an avid GOG user. It’s clear my purchases, wishlisting and visits have dropped since the site changes. The simple design of the site was something that I liked.

Anonymous Coward says:

Bad timny

Now that is a completely misleading title. Valve did not weaponize the community. They made a statement that advertising for a long time, and switching at the last minute was bad for people that like using steam. This is true, no where did valve say that people should review bomb, or hate on deep silver. Even before valve’s views were expressed, people were annoyed with deep silver.

Now competition is good, fragmenting availability is bad. Eventually, i do think epic’s launcher will be decent but what epic, and the devs they have catered to are not the same as the player base.

I know a number of devs that are happy that the epic launcher doesn’t have reviews, a forum, pretty much all of steams user features. The devs like that, the players don’t, and such there is a huge disconnect between the two groups.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Bad timny

I know a number of devs that are happy that the epic launcher doesn’t have reviews, a forum, pretty much all of steams user features.

Okay, I’ve just got to ask, ‘Why?’ I can think of one reason(terrible games that would be exposed by those features), but in the interest of being fair, and just in case I’m missing something, why would any dev be against stuff like that?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Bad timny

Some people are really thin skinned and can’t accept any criticism. Others want a simple marketplace without a community around it.

And all creators with a long life of creativity welcome constructive criticism, learn to ignore the trolls, and build communities that will support them. Those are the realities of doing business in a connected world.

Anonymous Coward says:

Your story is missing a couple of important bits;

The Price reduction on the Epic store only applies to the US the rest of the world gets to pay at least the same as on Steam, and some areas get to pay more due to a lack of regional pricing on the Epic store, whilst Epic also pass on the payment processing fees to end-users for certain payment methods (as their cut isn’t enough to cover those fees).

And technically everyone gets to pay more, as previously the game could be pre-ordered from dozens of third-party stores (gmg, humblebundle, amazon for example) with some of these stores offering pre-order discounts that made the game cheaper than the US Epic Store price, however when the Epic store paid for exclusive rights the game was removed from all of these stores. (People who pre-ordered will still get the game but it’s not clear if they’ll be Steam or Epic keys).

So whilst previously the game was exclusive to the Steam Client you could purchase the game from any number of sites with them competing on price where they could (publishers largely control the prices which is what limits price competition) which gave the consumer plenty of choice but now with Epic offering ‘competition’ the only place you can get the game from for the next year is the Epic Store, so for consumers you have gone from a dozen options to just the one. Further to that if you purchased from a third party Valve didn’t get a penny as they allow publishers to generate keys for free, so there is nothing stopping publishers from opening their own store and selling steam keys with a 100% cut if they are unhappy with the 30% steam takes.

And whilst Steam may have it’s problems the Epic store doesn’t solve any of them – Indies may complain about visibility on Steam but at least they can get on Steam you don’t see any small or unkown indies on the Epic Store?

Similar issue with discoverability, the Epic store doesn’t even have a search function, meaning the second a game disappears off their front page it’s invisible. Instead they are relying on ‘Influencers’ to push the games, with them being paid a referral fee which comes out of the games cut and long-term they expect Indie games to offer influencers a 10-20% cut which means long-term they may actually earn less than on Steam.

Also the way the referral program is set means there is a good chance indies will end up paying popular streamers even if they don’t generate any sales – You manually enter the name of the Streamer you want to support on the purchase page, so you can easily imagine people entering the id of their favourite streamer to support them even if they had nothing to do with bringing you to the page and without realising the cut comes from the game instead of the store.

The whole problem with Steam Curation was brought about when new indie developers complained they couldn’t get onto steam, so valve opened up the platform for them and they then complained that there was too much competition on Steam, as what the indies wanted was for their game to be let in but not the competitions, and the exact same thing will happen to Epic going forward.

If Epic continue to purchase exclusives to kill Steam, they’ll likely destroy the market long before they destroy Steam, as the first casualties will the third party sites such as gmg, humblebundle (and possibly GOG as they have a hard enough time getting new games due to their drm free stance) which will struggle to survive if Epic buy up all the major titles due this year, and will likely see more publishers pull their games from third party stores/clients and instead sell them directly only like EA do.

There is also hardly any chance that this new ‘competition’ will see prices go down – we were promised prices would go down with the switch to digital as digital’s 30% cut is a lot less than the 50-75% cut that retailers took on physical goods, instead the prices went up as publishers now had control over the price and had no reason to offer games for below the RRP (and in the UK at least we ended up with the silly situation where a boxed copy which is now just a code in a box is a lot cheaper on release than the digital copy). Similarly when EA pulled their games from Steam and sold them direct so they got a 100% cut did those savings get passed on to the customer, no instead they upped the prices by ~£20 so we now pay the same price as the console versions.

There are a lot better ways for Epic to compete with Steam instead of buying up exclusives – They could have launched with a client that is better than Steam or offers users a reason to switch the only benefit to users so far are the free games they are offering this year. There also didn’t seem to be anything to stop them from just undercutting Steams prices to attract customers, but that would have upset the publishers and their store just seems to be designed around what publishers want in a store/client rather than want the users or market actually want.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

My most recent grievance

Yesterday, Uplay decided to download a 678MB patch to my current installment of Far Cry 4. Curiously, there was no news. No warning. No release notes. On the Uplay FC4 page there was nowhere to look for the game version, what it was before or what it was updating to.

A web search didn’t produce any answers, but I did find other end-users wondering what takes a 678MB download to update but isn’t worth the bother of a release announcement.

It was very telling that their isn’t even any pretense regarding the purpose of a launch client. They’re really just there to occupy space on my taskbar and serve as a platform for resell control, DRM and spyware.

Anonymous Coward says:

Surprised Techdirt didn’t compare this to exclusives on streaming video services. Or to regional movie release windows. They’re basically the same – you’re locking out some of your potential customers and they may well delve to less legitimate sources.

If you want to make as much money as possible from your game, you release it to as many storefronts as you can. No crying "Waah we made it Epic only and all the Steam users pirated it!" Don’t shoot yourself in the foot.

The whole PC exclusivity thing needs to end. There’s no excuse for it. Consoles at least have the excuse of first-party IP and differing hardware. But the PC is an open ecosystem.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

cue the response that there is no subscription fee for a different game storefront like video streaming services

i’ve noticed most journalists and game pundits being dismissive about it in their hype for Epic

they don’t seem to recognize or care about the benefits of individual platforms and see this new development as a Good Thing® despite offering zero or negative value to the existing customer bases.

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