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Cracks Showing In Epic Store's PR War As Developers Have To Plead With Public To Not Harass Them

from the the-developer's-front dept

We've been discussing the new PC gaming platform wars that kicked off with Epic releasing their own Epic Store to rival Valve's Steam and attempting to power it with game exclusives built on a more generous split with publishers. There has obviously been a lot to talk about in this new rivalry, from Steam's response, to Epic's flubbing of its store's main purpose, to the effect Epic's exclusivity deals are hampering the use of crowdfunding to get more games made. But one of the most interesting aspects of this whole ordeal is how clearly Epic's leadership has attempted to frame this all as a PR war above all else. Essentially, Epic is combating the public's natural distaste for exclusivity deals by pointing the finger back at Steam, stating that none of this would be an issue and the exclusive deals could go away tomorrow if Steam mirrored Epic's revenue splits. The argument is that what Epic is really after is a better gaming industry that makes more and better games, something that should benefit the very fans now complaining about the company's tactics.

So, how's that PR battle plan working? Not terribly well, judging by some of the peripherals. For instance, when part of the announcement for a game publisher releasing exclusively on Epic includes the company begging gamers not to hurl vitriol at it in response, that's an indication the gaming public hasn't been swayed.

One of the easiest bits of news to miss on Monday’s Gamescom Opening Night Live show was tucked away in an ad for the Epic Games Store. A simple sizzle reel that showcased a number of games exclusive to the controversial digital PC game storefront included an upcoming indie that previously wasn’t in Epic’s roster: Oddworld Soulstorm. Shortly after, Oddworld creator Lorne Lanning posted a message via the Oddworld Twitter account.

If that all reads to you as a thinly veiled attempt to plead with the public not to harass the Oddworld folks over the exclusivity deal, that's because that's exactly what it is. And, as you may have guessed, it didn't work. In fact, not only did the anger at the exclusive Epic Store release come through anyway, Glumberland, the company behind the game, was taken to task for attempting to head off the storm with the above message.

It proved to be a futile effort, as post from Ben Wasser—one of Glumberland’s two members—detailed the deluge of harassment he received for choosing to sell his game in the way that he wished. Among the usual complaints was a new one: Wasser was rude for calling the mob of harassers toxic and entitled, and that the glibness of his initial post was disrespectful.

A couple of things are worth noting here. First, most of the harassment thrown at gamemakers over their business practices is way, way out of hand. It's the kind of toxic overreaction and entitlement that gives gamers everywhere a bad name. Second, there is no real indication as to whether this is a vocal minority or majority, only that it is indeed vocal.

Still, we're at a place in all of this where publishers are proactively sending out these messages to reason with that vocal group and to attempt to head off the shitstorm of backlash over exclusive deals with the Epic Store. Whatever that is, it is most certainly not an indication that Epic is winning the PR war it chose to start.

Filed Under: distribution channels, epic game store, platforms, silos, soulstorm, stores, video games
Companies: epic, oddworld


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Aug 2019 @ 9:04pm

    Re: Re:

    Yeah, no. The Ooblets devs wrote their blog post about Epic exclusivity for their Patrons on Patreon and other community members, who were used to the tongue-in-cheek manner in which they wrote their updates. From what I’ve seen and read, most of the community was fine with their decision. It was only when the Gamers™ caught wind of the blog post, with a lot of help from “consumer advocate” signal boosters like Jim Sterling, that the hate campaign started. The devs were by and large responding to Gamers™ who were probably never interested in the game which joined their Discord server en masse to stir shit up after catching wind of their exclusivity announcement.

    In response to the hate mob, Ben Wasser has this to say:

    “While some of what I’ve said was definitely bad for PR, I stand behind it. A portion of the gaming community is indeed horrendously toxic, entitled, immature, irrationally-angry, and prone to joining hate mobs over any inconsequential issue they can cook up. That was proven again through this entire experience. It was never my intention to alienate or antagonize anyone in our community who does not fit that description, and I hope that you can see my tone and pointed comments were not directed at you.”

    To quote a commenter on the first Kotaku article I linked (and I strongly urge you to read both of the articles that I’ve linked), this is a perfectly reasonable comment from him because I know part of the gaming community acts like that, and I’m not offended by his description because I know he’s not talking about me.


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