Tales From The Platform Wars: Steam Dev Says Calling 'Metro Exodus' Epic Exclusive Unfair Wasn't Intended To Incite

from the riiiiiiight dept

With us now getting on into nearly a year of the new PC gaming platform war between Valve’s Steam platform and the Epic Store, you might have forgotten how this all got kicked off. Before Epic pulled a Healthcare.gov with its platform release, and before crowdfunding efforts to fund PC games began taking a hit, and even before this whole thing transformed into mostly a PR war being fought with the PC gaming fanbase, there was Metro Exodus. The game was the first major title to announce an Epic Store exclusive deal for 6 months and that announcement came shortly after the game also became available for pre-order on Steam. This, understandably, pissed off a great many people. Including, it seems, the folks at Steam, who put out a statement on the game’s page. The results were as predictable as the sun rising in the East.

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-bombing kicked off almost immediately and continued for days. And not just on that game’s page, but on game pages for other Metro titles. Then, as other games went Epic exclusive, the review bombing continued, even after Steam put some tepid efforts in place to remove such review-bombs that were not relevant to the game itself.

Again, this was entirely predictable. Valve isn’t made up of stupid people and this was widely seen as an effort to weaponize the Steam community to punish game publishers that chose to go with Epic. It’s difficult to see it as anything else. That hasn’t stopped some folks at Steam from trying to pretend otherwise, however.

Speaking to Kotaku during a Valve event in Seattle last week, Steam business developer and designer Nathaniel Blue said the company did not intend to legitimize the outsized backlash to Metro Exodus’ Epic store exclusivity when it put a comment on that Steam page. The use of the word “unfair,” he said, was meant to reference the timing of the announcement rather than the entire concept of exclusivity.

“I don’t think that was our intent to upset people,” Blue said. “It wasn’t the intent of the message. It was more about the timing. The game was about to launch, and then it was [exclusive to the Epic store]. So that was the only goal of that. What came out of that was not what we expected. It wasn’t meant to be this lightning rod.”

The integrity of this specific developer aside, this is flatly unbelievable. The best that could be said here is that the entirety of the Valve team that had any hand in posting the message to the Metro Exodus was laughably out of touch with the gaming community. Frankly, that’s not something I would want to be admitting to if I were Valve. More likely is that Valve knew exactly what it was doing, but perhaps didn’t expect the backlash to be quite so severe. So severe, in fact, that it created problems for Steam devs themselves, who suddenly had to figure out how to combat these review-bombs to save face with the gaming industry as a whole.

It is worth noting here that Valve has refrained from commenting similarly on any other Epic exclusives.

“I don’t know that we’d go back in time and change it necessarily, but I can say that in the future we didn’t say anything,” he said. “In the future we didn’t continue to do that because our goal is not to upset the community or light anyone’s hair on fire. Our goal is to get developers close to customers, have a really valuable place for people to play games, and stay focused on that.”

There is plenty of room for disagreement on what Epic’s entry into the marketplace, and its specific tactics, means for the gaming industry as a whole. That being said, this claim by Valve doesn’t ring true.

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Companies: epic, valve

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Comments on “Tales From The Platform Wars: Steam Dev Says Calling 'Metro Exodus' Epic Exclusive Unfair Wasn't Intended To Incite”

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77 Comments
Samuel Abram (profile) says:

Oh please

Valve didn’t need to do jack shit. Despite Valve getting most the market share in the PC gaming arena, they didn’t strong-arm anybody to gain it. They didn’t threaten GOG or itch.io by saying "if you put your games on their platform you can’t put your games on ours." That’s what Nintendo did in the 1980’s when they had the NES, and that’s what Epic is doing with their bullshit monopolistic tactics despite having nowhere near as much market share as Valve.

You know what Dark Helmet? You’re being extremely and obnoxiously hypocritical and inconsistent. If Nintendo did exactly the same thing as Epic did, You’d write "Nintendo Hates You!" but since it’s Epic you give them a free passbook and yet you blame Valve for saying "Sorry guys, this game is on the Epic Store!" which they had no fucking control over!!

At least Nintendo made a more attractive and innovative option for playing games with the Nintendo Switch rather than try to bully people who play games into using their platform with timed exclusives. Granted, Nintendo has these, but the attractiveness of the Nintendo Switch is its hybrid nature which I and many, many others would buy even without Nintendo Exclusives. The Epic Games Store has nothing, NOTHING going for it without their timed exclusives. Exclusivity is all they have, and I thought Techdirt was against that! Why is the Epic Games Store the exception to the rule at Techdirt?

Samuel Abram (profile) says:

Re: For the record

I don’t hate you, Dark Helmet. I just can’t fathom why you’re treating Epic with kid gloves whilst excoriating Nintendo with a hot poker. Sometimes, Nintendo truly does deserve it (especially in regards to their legal bullying), but Epic has proven that they deserve it far more with their anti-consumer tactics.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Oh please

Epic has one thing going for it, but its for the developers: 12% (or whatever it is) instead of 30%.

Doing the "exclusives" thing is a tactic to build a user base. Its a pretty shitty tactic, and I think it may well fail, but that’s what they’re doing.

Personally, I sorta hope they succeed in building the ecosystem services which Valve has so that their user base can be happy. For now, the Epic setup is truly terrible. But, if they can fix that, then there will be some more competition in the commercial game distribution market which I think is a good thing.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Oh please

But, if they can fix that, then there will be some more competition in the commercial game distribution market which I think is a good thing.

About that… right now I’d say the biggest stumbling block to competition is them, as they have demonstrated no interest in allowing competition for the developers who would benefit the most by having more platforms to sell on(smaller indies), and are instead presenting an ‘all or nothing, you either sign exclusivity with us or you don’t sell on our platform’ deal.

By their treatment of smaller devs it seems pretty clear that Epic does not want to compete with Steam, Epic wants to replace Steam.

Samuel Abram (profile) says:

Re: Re: Oh please

Valve didn’t have anybody to strong arm. They already had already cemented their position long before GOG, itch.io and any real competition even existed.

That is true. But riddle me this: Is Valve making the same kind of exclusive deals to prevent other services from getting off the ground? Are or all the Steam games exclusives by nature of Steam’s natural monopoly?

Agammamon says:

. . . figure out how to combat these review-bombs to save face with the gaming industry as a whole.

Here’s the thing – in the actual game COMMUNITY, and that’s gamers not publishers, they don’t need to do this. We know what review bombing is, we already take its effects into consideration.

Its publishers, afraid for their profits if clueless newcomers come in and don’t know what the current kerfluffle is and see a low rating that are complaining.

No offense, but a lot of your reporting on this seems to come from someone not familiar with gaming culture at all and that takes what publishers are saying about each other as the ‘community’. You certainly get the facts correct – I’ll give you props for that as tons of reporters don’t bother – and I don’t see you pushing a narrative, just that your conclusions as to why this stuff is happening don’t jibe with my own experience talking to others in the community.

And I do not understand what your point is – is it that Steam should have just shut up and stood by?

Actual gamers don’t care one whit that a Steam dev said ‘oh, this is unfair’. Because they already agreed or disagreed separately from Steam. Steam’s comments didn’t trigger review bombing, Epic buying up exclusivity and the developer/publisher selling it did.

Ultimately, this isn’t a Steam thing. Its an Epic preventing other stores from selling thing. Its all on the Epic side.

Anonymous Coward says:

Steam said it was unfair to Steam customers. That was accurate. Fuck Epic and the developers it cons into exclusive deals.

They’re driving people back to piracy. I don’t need Steam, Origin, Bethesda, Battle.net, Uplay, and now Epic, among others.

The game developers could have come together and made a mutually beneficial singular platform but they got selfish. Scapegoating for Epic’s anti-consumer move isn’t helping.

Samuel Abram (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The game developers could have come together and made a mutually beneficial singular platform but they got selfish.

Or better yet, sold all their games DRM-free so we wouldn’t have to deal with platforms. That’s partially why I converted to GOG and itch.io. It’s also why I’m really happy to see Toby Fox distribute Deltarune DRM-free over browsers instead of through a launcher platform. If only more people did what he did. Then again, as Toby himself has said, "success is rare" and not many people would agree or know to go to a website like with Toby Fox.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Well past time to take those silk gloves off

Valve isn’t made up of stupid people and this was widely seen as an effort to weaponize the Steam community to punish game publishers that chose to go with Epic.

Yes, how dare that dastardly Steam make an accurate statement, clearly no-one was upset with Epic making a last-minute exclusivity deal for a game that had been advertised as coming to the platform until just weeks before it actually launched until Steam pointed out that people being forced to use a demonstrably inferior platform if they wanted to play a game was unfair to the buyers.

It’s difficult to see it as anything else.

Only if you’re dedicated to slamming Steam and giving Epic a pass on behavior that is regularly called out on TD. Without that filter in place you’ve got Steam making a factual statement on a subject that was already a huge sore spot with a good many people, and those people using it as an excuse to rip the dev for making a last minute deal with an inferior platform, taking choice away from would-be buyers.

If YouTube released a statement that they were looking into possible restrictions of certain viewpoints for whatever reason(anti-harassment, anti-bigotry, whatever) and users decided to go spam the hell out of accounts of people they felt held/promoted those viewpoints, I’d expect criticism of YouTube for potential collateral damage due to realistic filters being imprecise, but I wouldn’t expect an article blaming YouTube for that harassment and claiming that they were ‘weaponizing’ their users to go harass people by releasing such a statement.

If Google decided to respond to the latest attempt by a politician to blame them for ‘not doing enough’ on some subject by pointing out that the demands made of them weren’t realistic or fair, and people went out and harassed the politician in question you wouldn’t blame Google and argue that they employ smart people, they knew that would happen when they made their statement.

If you wouldn’t give any other company a pass on something, then apply those same standards to Epic and don’t give them a pass on it.

If you wouldn’t blame any other company for something, then apply those same standards to Steam and don’t blame them for it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Well past time to take those silk gloves off

Valve isn’t made up of stupid people and this was widely seen as an effort to weaponize the Steam community to punish game publishers that chose to go with Epic.

Honestly.
Remember that Canadian climate change nonprofit that was told talking about global warming could get their nonprofit status revoked because it was taking sides in a political issue? Despite the fact that global warming exists being a matter of patent fact?

What else was steam supposed to call it?

Thad (profile) says:

Re: Well past time to take those silk gloves off

Yes, how dare that dastardly Steam make an accurate statement, clearly no-one was upset with Epic making a last-minute exclusivity deal for a game that had been advertised as coming to the platform until just weeks before it actually launched until Steam pointed out that people being forced to use a demonstrably inferior platform if they wanted to play a game was unfair to the buyers.

I…don’t think that’s what the article is saying at all.

I don’t see Timothy disagreeing with Valve’s statement, merely calling bullshit on Valve’s claim that they had no idea anyone would read that as an endorsement of review-bombing.

bhull242 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Well past time to take those silk gloves off

That’s not what That One Guy was saying. I read Valve’s statement, and I don’t see how it could be read as an endorsement of review-bombing. Valve often makes BS claims, but I don’t believe this is one of them. Furthermore, I don’t believe Valve’s statement had a significant causal relationship with the review-bombing that ensued, per se. That is, it wasn’t a necessary condition for the review bombing. It would’ve probably happened anyway, and it has happened with other Epic-exclusives, which Valve did not make a statement about.

Plus, you should remember that people like Charles Carrion exist: people who claim expertise in how the internet and/or PR works and yet fail to foresee the should-be-obvious consequences of their actions from the online community. I lack faith in humanity’s common sense to say that the person(s) responsible for the statement definitely had prior knowledge that it would likely lead to review-bombing.

Anonymous Coward says:

The integrity of this specific developer aside, this is flatly unbelievable.

I believe him. While the team at Valve may have been talking a lot of trash around the water cooler they are smart enough not to actively and intentionally incite their userbase. I believe the comment was mostly innocent with a hint of "what a bunch of assholes". I also believe that it could have been written better to achieve the desired effect rather than the misinterpretation or weaponization by gamers at large.

Valve may (rightly) have been very annoyed with Epic and Metro Exodus’ developers but I don’t buy any of this article. Gamers were and still are really pissed off. Pissed off gamers will make a big mess on the internet every time something like this happens. They didn’t need any help from Valve and really weren’t given any.

Cho Seung Hui says:

Remember when...

Call of Duty titles was an Steam exclusive by years and no one did a shit as you do with Epic? Is exactly the same problem, exclusivity.

And a loss, because i am partially banned from Steam thanks to esports crap and this means i cannot buy in Steam anymore, because this is a no chance to see classic titles at GoG and similar sites.

Solution, piracy. Also the only option when i have Wine to touch those games.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Remember when...

"Is exactly the same problem, exclusivity."

No, there’s several major differences in context.

"I am partially banned from Steam thanks to esports crap"

Details on this would be nice. What does "partially banned" mean, and why would esports cause you to get barred from buying new games? That makes zero sense without context.

"Solution, piracy"

No, that’s a great way for them to use exclusivity more, since some publishers think that locking themselves into DRM and keeping away from consumer-friendly outlets is necessary.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Remember when... there were a bunch of game stores?

I remember seeing Warcraft at Frye’s Electronics and thinking "I wonder if they’re selling it for the same price out at Best Buy." In those days, if I was banned from one store, I could go to the next. And certainly the makers of Abe’s Oddysee don’t care what I did in Warcraft to get banned.

But now? What are your alternatives, if you get banned from Steam? Steam is store front and distributor both. Can’t blame developers if they choose a distributor and stick with it, can you? But then it’s the distributor you’ve ticked off.

Replace, if you like, Epic, GoG, etc for Steam. The power still exists, if varying in cover.

It’s not the monopoly over sales of "a" game. It’s the monopoly over all those other games as well, all linked through the one distributor.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Remember when... there were a bunch of game stores?

"In those days, if I was banned from one store, I could go to the next"

The first question I’d ask is not where else can you buy the product, but why you keep getting banned from stores.

"Can’t blame developers if they choose a distributor and stick with it, can you? "

If they do it fairly, no. If they choose one because they were bribed, despite knowing that the store they’ve chosen provides an inferior experience for their customers and removes any choice for the end user, then yes.

Anonymous Coward says:

Not sure why the press continue to claim Valve made this statement to weaponize the community against Epic, well unless you are trying to push the narrative that Valve is bad Epic is good. (I really do want to know what Valve did to turn the entire press against it?)

Valve had to make a statement as it was an unprecedented situation – the game had been advertised as coming to Steam for months and was in it’s pre-order stage and then two weeks before release Valve were told the game was being pulled from the store in a couple of hours time.

People rightly expected if you put something onto a store and allow Pre-orders it would be available right up to release and after release (and it’s not like it’s a physical product where they could run out of stock).

This is what Valve meant by it being unfair – it wasn’t unfair to Valve, but unfair to the customers who were waiting for the game to get closer to release (you know for reviews to see if the game was any good) before purchasing it who now had just had a couple of hours to make the decision.

They also put up a similar message on Anno when they did the same thing later on (even though Epic ‘promised’ they wouldn’t do this again) though at least Ubisoft left the game up until release.

It’s also hilarious if you think the outrage would have been less if Valve hadn’t warned people that Metro would be removed from the store before release, what do you think peoples reactions would be like if the game just disappeared from pre-order with no reason? But no doubt the press would blame Valve for not warning people.

Anonymous Coward says:

Here we go, Epic shill yet again

Where to start? First the exclusivity is for 12 months, not 6.

Are you clairvoyant? Can you read minds? You seem to have the ability to know and ‘read between the lines’ on what any one says. I hope you can read between the lines on what I’m typing right now. I love how you can interpret what steam PR says to fit your Epic good/Steam bad narrative. Even though this is not what he’s saying, it’s just your obvious one sided interpretation to fit your narrative. This is not a neutral objective article.

Epic is not good for PC gaming right now. They’ve taken PC gaming sales back 10 or more years with their dumb business practices.

People seem to forget just a few short yeas back when consoles were all the rage the narrative was "Is pc gaming dead?" mostly written by shills like this author seems to be or directly by console makers. It was Steam with their stats page that helped make people realize that PC game is not dead and is a force to be reckoned with. Yet authors like you with the Steam bad/Epic good narrative continue to forget Steam helped keep PC gaming alive and well with their store and ability to buy from said store. Going to a brick and mortar store you were met with console titles with a little tiny section left for PC games if you were lucky.

Epic with their current business practices is NOT competition for Steam. Competition is when I/ME the consumer can CHOOSE where to buy said game. Not be forced into a situation where one has to use an inferior, questionable personal data mining launcher in order to play a game.

This will be the last time I read a shill piece from this author on this site. Unless better objective reporting is done. Got to give you one thing, you’re getting the clicks, but at what cost. Integrity should still be a thing in reporting. Something the Main Stream Media seems to have forgotten. This is why I started coming to this site. Click baits and shills authors should be left at the door.

Solidus says:

OK, this is a good time to remember Techdirt has more than one writer, and more than one perspective- because if this were Mike Masnick, we’d be getting an earful of how we cannot truly know what Steam’s employee had in mind when posting this, that they have a right to freedom of speech, that they could not predict they’d be throwing petrol on the backlash, that they’re not known for harassing people- that we cannot put the actions of the community on them for not crafting their message to discourage an event that hadn’t happened yet.
That if we choose to allow consequences on this, it could be made this toxic to anyone by the same token, so long as we allow a hundred randos to decide what you can and cannot say by harassing people whose harassment you never called for.

It’s interesting, I guess.

crade (profile) says:

I agree it was totally predictable. Epic isn’t made up of stupid people, they would have known full well that it was a massive intentional slap in the face to their customers on steam. Surprise surprise, people didn’t like it. All valve did with their little message was let people know that they were broadsided in case anyone thought they were complicit so they wouldn’t be blaming valve for it.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Now there’s an interesting angle. If Steam is responsible for the backlash for simply telling people about the last minute exclusivity deal, then it would seem Epic is likewise(if not more) responsible for grabbing the game in the final stretch and removing choice like that, when it should have been clear to anyone that people would be upset by such a late switch.

If backlash against companies signing exclusivity deals late in development like that can be laid at the feet of the platforms in question, then I’d say you’re right and Epic has much more responsibility for continually sniping games so late and putting people in the position where it’s either Epic or nothing for half a year if not a year, no matter what the developer may have said or promised before that point.

Anonymous Coward says:

True Statement by Valve

What Valve said was 100% accurate about Metro being pulled. Your article is just some type of fairy tale where we are supposed to believe that had Valve not made that statement that every gamer who pre-ordered Metro or not was just going to roll over and be happy with exclusive deals. I personally have never played a Metro game, but I was pissed as fuck about this because I knew it was just the start. My point is that even without the Valve statement, gamers were going to react and show their displeasure.

Epic is fracturing the gaming market. I have no problem with Epic creating their own storefront, but not at MY expense nor by forcing people to use it. Fuck Epic.

Anonymous Coward says:

Valve isn’t made up of stupid people and this was widely seen as an effort to weaponize the Steam community to punish game publishers that chose to go with Epic. It’s difficult to see it as anything else.

Nonsense. It quite easy to see it as exactly what it was. Valve accurately describing the situation while apologizing to it’s customers for the bait and switch that Metro Exodus and Epic pulled. The backlash would have existed just the same without Valve’s statement. The only thing their statement did was keep people from wrongfully blaming Valve for something they had no knowledge about ahead of time. The only people who ‘widely saw’ it as an effort to weaponize the Steam community were a bunch of journalists looking to drag Valve for something.

It’s especially a ridiculous claim when you consider that the Metro devs appear to be in breach of contract for the Steam distribution agreement and Valve has made no noise about that.

While we’re at it I’ll point out that [last October] shortly before the Epic store’s December launch(https://steamcommunity.com/groups/steamworks#announcements/detail/1697191267930157838) Steam created tiers for it’s revenue sharing that give more successful games a larger cut of revenue. That’s what decent competition looks, not buying off devs with large cash advances.

Samuel Abram (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Well, lookie what we have here! The first troll of the comment thread! Only took 58 comments to reach that point!

And if you are not a troll but impolite, I can’t speak for all the other commenters, but I did indeed say that I didn’t hate Timothy Geigner, that I immediately forgave him when he apologized, and "Fair enough" when he made what I thought was a mostly valid argument.
If you’re including me, it’s incredible that you think I’m a "manbab[y]"!

bhull242 (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I don’t believe he’s a shill. I do believe he’s incompetent and/or biased on this particular subject. I believe this based on factual inaccuracies in his articles that are never addressed or corrected, faulty logic that seems to only appear when writing about Epic exclusives, and a clear slant that is more evident in these articles than in other articles by Techdirt.

I’m still waiting for a correction on the developer who received massive backlash last month. Other articles get corrections within days. There’s no excuse.

bhull242 (profile) says:

Look, Dark Helmet, I know you can do good work. However, this particular subject of Epic-exclusivity deals seems to be a major blindspot for you. Did you know that you still have a major error in the article about how Epic is losing the PR battle? The dev team you named that got the backlash wasn’t the dev team for the new Oddworld game. At least, not according to the sources you provided. It was a completely different dev team, one who presented the news in a far worse manner than the Oddworld team did.

Could you at least add a note to that article about the mistake. It’s frankly embarrassing. It doesn’t help that the one article that doesn’t seem particularly slanted on this topic is the only one with such a massive, unacknowledged error.

Nic (profile) says:

What the hell did I just read?

Why is this article blaming a Steam developer for saying something entirely accurate? This was unfair to Steam customers. People had pre-ordered the game and then suddenly, it changes that at the last minute. Of course it’s unfair to them. It’s an awful way to treat your customers.

And let’s not pretend the backslash was lit by Steam, it was going to happen either way, as it has for many others companies who did the same thing, except without the pre-order shenanigans. And that’s entirely on Epic for offering bribes to strong-arm competition and the game devs for selling out.

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