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, 22 Aug 2019 @ 2:27am

    Re: Re: Re:

    They may have intended for their blog post to be tongue-in-cheek but the problem with the internet (and the written word) it is hard to read intent and they should really have made it more obvious it was tongue-in-cheek especially as it was directed to the public and not just a private part of their community.

    It also didn't help that they used trolling language ("it's just another launcher") to dismiss people who have legitimate complaints with what Epic are doing and dismissed anyone who had concerns as Toxic Gamers and not part of their community.

    Then when things got out of hand (also people didn't invade there Discord server the blog post told them to go their which may not have been a great idea as small niche communities don't deal well with an influx of people even when they aren't angry) they doubled down and to make matters worse Sweeney jumped in and fanned the flames (I really find it hard to believe he didn't know what he was doing).

    The other problem with the Epic mess is that there isn't any way to actually raise your concerns - you cannot vote with your wallet as Epic have already paid them for their expected first year sales (and no doubt if the games don't sell on Steam/GOG later on this will be used as proof that they were right to take the money making a self-fulfilling prophecy).

    Whilst the game press appear to be 100% on Epic's side (really don't know what Valve did to anger them all?) and right from the start they dismissed any complaints about Epic and demeaned gamers as 'Entitled' for wanting choice on where they can buy games or even just modern features in their stores, hell Kotaku even managed to blame Valve for the Ooblets mess even though they weren't even involved (as I don't think the game ever even announced it was coming to steam) and of course they now get to dismiss any future complaints as the entitled rants of toxic gamers...

    Also not sure where Jim Sterling comes into this, like the rest of the press he's been on Epic's side so unless he's changed his tune he'd have been on the Ooblet devs side.

    That said none of this condones the harassment and death threats the Ooblet devs got over this and if anything they just made things worse as anyone with legitimate complaints of Epic and criticism of how the devs handled this just get lumped in with the Toxic Gamers.

    Also this isn't really unique to gaming, if anything it's a toxic humanity problem and similar things happen when people get invested in something - Movie/TV/Book fans can be just as toxic and sports fans are even worse. It's not even an internet/social media thing (that just makes it easier to see) as sports fans have been toxic for decades before the internet existed, whilst history has shown it's easy to get communities riled up (witch trials, lynching etc...)

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