Microsoft have announced plans to decrease the cut they take from sales of PC games on the Microsoft Store, with devs soon to get 88% instead of the industry standard 70%. That will bring them exactly in line with the Epic Games Store. While the Microsoft Store is undeniably rubbish as a store, this can only increase pressure on Valve to offer devs a bigger share of sales through Steam.
"Starting on August 1, the developer share of Microsoft Store PC games sales revenue will increase to 88%, from 70%," said Sarah Bond, Microsoft's head of game creator experience & ecosystem. "Having a clear, no-strings-attached revenue share means developers can bring more games to more players and find greater commercial success from doing so."
It is very interesting to see Microsoft happen to land on the same 88/12 split as the Epic Games Store. Epic have publicly agitated for more stores to join them in offering better cuts. While that's obviously motivated in part by self-interest, trying to make Valve look bad to big up their own business, I can't say I disagree with giving devs more cash.
The organisers of the Game Developers Conference asked devs about store cuts in their latest annual survey. Of the "over 3000" respondents, who are mostly making PC games, only 6% of them thought 30% or more was "a justifiable amount" for a store to take. 73% of respondents went for one of the lower options. 3000-odd people isn't a huge sample size, mind, and almost a quarter said they weren't sure or straight didn't know. I don't think all stores are equal either.
The Microsoft Store is straight garbage in every way, while the Epic Games Store is a clunky storefront with a slow client that still lacks many features Steam has had for years. The only reason to hop on the Microsoft Store today is Xbox Game Pass, while Epic are having to buy users by spending hundreds of millions of dollars on exclusives and paying for giveaways. Steam can offer access to more customers, a better client, and many great features like Remote Play Together. Devs will not be fleeing Steam for the MS Store. While Steam undeniably has problems, Valve do more for their cut than most - though I have no idea what precise percentage I'd value that at.
However, Valve aren't set on a 70/30 split. They do take smaller cuts from hit games, going down to 25% after $10 million in sales then 20% after $50 million. That only benefits big publishers and the occasional breakout hit, which sure looks an effort to keep the biggest games from jumping ship rather than Valve trying to do right by folks. The vast majority of devs will have Valve taking 30%. Yeah go on Valve, the least you can do is extend this 80/20 split to everyone. Sure, you don't need to, but don't just help the rich get richer.
Matt Booty, the head of Xbox Game Studios, did say elsewhere today that Microsoft are "bringing more quality-of-life improvements to PC gamers, including improved install reliability and faster download speeds over the next few months". The MS Store's shortcomings go far beyond that, but I guess it'll be faster junk? And with a better deal for developers.
Microsoft have stood alongside Epic in their industry-defining battles before. When Epic picked legal fights with Apple and Google over app store cuts, Microsoft piped up with a declaration of "app store principles" that sure seemed to be jabbing at the two phonelords. While I'd like to say we're seeing companies set aside differences to fight for what's right, I think it's more likely a lot of opportune unspoken alliances as they jostle to secure better positions against bigger rivals. But if any of it does change things for the better, that would certainly still be nice.
On that subject, the Epic Games Store recently added the Itch.io launcher, putting the indie-focused games store inside their own store. Most curious. Maybe it's them trying to shore up their case in their app store battles by showing they actually are totally cool with people selling things inside their store without giving them a cut. Maybe it's them trying to come at Steam from another angle by giving access to the unusual indie games which their store lacks. But hey, if it gets more people looking at Itch, I'm up for it. Lovely store, Itch. It lets devs set the store cut themselves, you know. Could teach everyone a thing or two.