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Epic Store would end exclusives if Steam gave devs larger cut, CEO claims

Epic Games would halt their plan of paying for games to launch exclusively on their Store if Valve committed to taking a smaller cut of Steam sales, Epic CEO Tim Sweeney has claimed. That’s quite a remarkable claim – and one he can probably make feeling confident he won’t be called on it any time soon. I’d like the public record to show that if someone paid me £6 million, I would chop off one of my own fingers. CALL MY BLUFF, I DARE YOU.

Epic launched their shop in December with a lineup of mid-sized indie exclusives but since they have swayed several big publishers, paying for games including Borderlands 3, The Division 2, Metro Exodus, and Anno 1800 to skip Steam.

One of the main benefits of the Epic Games Store for developers and publishers is that Epic only take 12% of proceeds from each sale, versus Steam’s starting cut of 30% (scaling down to 20% for really big games). The other is that, y’know, Epic are apparently spaffing huge amounts of cash to buy up exclusives and keep games off Steam and other stores. That contentious practice, Sweeney seems to be claiming now, is altruistic – they simply want Valve to match their deal.

“If Steam committed to a permanent 88% revenue share for all developers and publishers without major strings attached, Epic would hastily organise a retreat from exclusives (while honouring our partner commitments) and consider putting our own games on Steam,” Sweeney said on Twitter overnight amidst a big long thread about the store.

“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,” he continued. “Then stores could go back to just being nice places to buy stuff, rather than the Game Developer IRS.”

Which… is a nice idea, but I can’t say I believe him. A clear intent of Epic paying megabucks for exclusives is to bootstrap their own Store, to try to become a profitable rival to Steam by securing big games from big developers and publishers. They’re burning huge amounts of cash now to gain users and make even more in the future. Sweeney’s implication that they’re only doing it to pressure Steam into treating developers better is laughable. Their store, as a store for customers to use, is worse than most of its rivals – scloosies are its saving grace.

I certainly support Valve giving developers a larger cut of Steam sales, to be clear. I’d love for my scepticism to be proven misplaced. I’ll also point out that Epic going on about caring for developers while reportedly massively overworking their own employees is iffy at best.

Epic’s longing to be seen as saviours of PC gaming is frustrating. Their pretence that they’re not trying to straight-up buy a share of PC gaming is daft. The over-enthusiastic (and disingenuous-feeling) hyperbole from Sweeney and other connected industry figures makes me feel they think we’re rubes. God, don’t even get me started on Gearbox boss Randy Pitchford saying their next boring game being Epic-exclusive will end Steam’s supposed monopoly. I know that you’re running businesses and that businesses both need and want money. Please abandon this television evangelist act.

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Alice O'Connor

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When not writing news, Alice may be found in the sea.

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