Hey, Epic, If you're Going To Boldly Give Away A Historically Popular Game For Free, Make Sure You Can Handle The Demand
from the free-as-in-advice dept
The Epic Store is still around, still rocking its exclusivity deals with game publishers, and is still trying really hard to unseat Valve’s Steam as the dominant PC gaming platform of choice. Truthfully, the news about the ongoing battle between Steam and Epic has sort of quieted down. That ultimately is probably not a good sign for Epic. If there is unseating to be done, it’s going to have to be done loudly, publicly, and with much coverage in the press.
Which is perhaps why Epic recently decided to strike a deal with Rockstar to give away Grand Theft Auto 5 for free. Yes, free as in you pay no money and yet own the game forever. Rockstar’s reasoning behind this is quite easy to understand: the company already made a hilarious sum of money selling the game for nearly a decade and the game’s ecosystem and players have since moved into the online MMO realm where the game now makes hilarious sums of money via microtransactions. More players means more revenue for Rockstar.
And for the Epic Store, this is sort of free game is a great way to entice gamers to your store, gin up a chunk of new user adoption, and really show the public how great your PC games store performs–, oh son of a bitch.
The Epic Games Store went offline on Thursday morning as users anticipating the launch of Rockstar Games’ Grand Theft Auto 5 for free on the platform overloaded its servers. News of the game’s free release leaked early on Wednesday on the Epic Games Store Twitter account.
The website and launcher both went down just before 11 a.m. EDT, when the Premium Edition of the game for Windows PC was scheduled to go live. “We are currently experiencing high traffic on the Epic Games Store,” Epic Games said on Twitter.
On the one hand: yay, the strategy worked and tons of people flocked to the Epic Store to get the free game. On the other hand: crap, the strategy also backfired, because now a whole bunch of people’s first impression of the store is that it’s unstable and cannot support the public demand. Whoops.
This seems to be something of a trend for Epic. Great on the marketing and PR messaging, much less great on the execution. And quite frankly, it’s not as though Epic shouldn’t have known it was going to have a stampede on its hands.
Despite being six and a half years old, GTA 5 is clearly still popular. It goes beyond just the game being available for free, too: 2019 was one of Rockstar Games’ best sales years for GTA 5. GTA 5 was initially released in September 2013 on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, and again in 2014 on Xbox One and PlayStation 4. In 2015, it came to Windows PC. With the PC launch, the game found a new audience with the modding scene and in Grand Theft Auto Online. The game’s popularity on Twitch ballooned in the past year with role-playing servers in GTA Online.
Now, as of the time of this writing, 2pm CST, the problems seem to have been fixed. I know this because I went and got the game for free myself, even though I already own it on my console. And, while this was my first time on the Epic Store myself, you’ll have to go elsewhere for my take on how good or bad the store itself is.
But as for this marketing strategy by Epic? I give it a meh.