If Epic Vs Steam Is To Be A PR War, Epic's Boss Just Issued A Brilliant Retaliatory Strike
from the your-move,-steam dept
Things are getting interesting. For the past few months, we’ve been discussing the emergence of a new player in the digital games distribution business, in which Valve’s Steam platform has been dominant for roughly a decade. Epic Games’ platform has begun gobbling up new AAA game releases, signing them to 6 month exclusivity deals. Those deals have generally angered the majority of gamers, leading to the kind of review-bombing of already-released titles on Steam that Valve has previously pledged to prevent.
It has appeared for all the world that a new era of game exclusivity has begun in the PC gaming space. This is not a development that gamers like. Nobody wants to find out that a PC game that by nature cannot be hardware exclusive has suddenly become distributor exclusive. But even as the outrage has grown, most have seen this as a business model competition, with Epic trying to ramp up its user numbers by signing these deals, which themselves are signed by offering developers a flat 88% of the revenue generated, whereas Steam only offers anywhere from 70%-80%.
The majority of reports are somewhat slanted to make Epic the bad guy in all of this. After all, it is the one introducing exclusivity into the industry. In that light, this is as much a PR battle as a business battle. And if that’s true, then Epic boss Tim Sweeney just fired off one of the great PR counterattacks the gaming industry has ever seen.
Last night, Epic Games boss Tim Sweeney tweeted that his company would end its controversial exclusivity agreements if Steam raised its revenue cut for developers. It’s a strong statement, even if there are reasons to be skeptical of Sweeney’s position.
“If Steam committed to a permanent 88% revenue share for all developers and publishers without major strings attached,” Sweeney wrote, “Epic would hastily organize a retreat from exclusives (while honoring our partner commitments) and consider putting our own games on Steam.”
It’s brilliant messaging for a number of reasons. First, it further solidifies Epic’s position as the more pro-developer distribution partner. After all, the message here is that Epic isn’t only looking out for developers on its platform, but it’s trying to better the take for developers on Steam as well. That isn’t a message that will be lost on game companies. Second, it’s a direct response to the gamer community. It says, “Hey, you love games, we love games, and we all need the people who make them to do well. All we’re trying to do is make the gaming industry such that there is more incentive to release more games.” That too is a powerful message, even if all of this is a bluff, with Epic assuming Valve is never going to bow to its demands.
And it’s worth pointing out one other thing in all of this as well. While many in the gaming industry scream about how too many gamers just want everything for free and that piracy is ruining the industry, this message only works if there is a healthy ecosystem of gamers willing to pay for games. Were piracy to be the death-threat to the industry as we so often hear, these platform wars would be entirely irrelevant.
Again, this could be all a bluff designed to make Epic look good. But if it is, Sweeney is a particularly skilled poker player.
In a followup tweet, Sweeney wrote, “Such a move would be a glorious moment in the history of PC gaming, and would have a sweeping impact on other platforms for generations to come. Then stores could go back to just being nice places to buy stuff, rather than the Game Developer IRS.”
Again, this is fairly brilliant, and it’s going to be interesting to see how Valve responds. Your move, Steam.