I actually had a post drafted on the Epic Store going back to the Metro: Exodus debacle. I ultimately decided to let it go and delete the post. I can (I suppose) live a little longer without Satisfactory, Hades, Metro, etc in my life if I need to.
Today’s announcement comes in the form of Phoenix Point — a game from Julian Gollop, designer of the original X-COM games — announcing the increasingly typical year-long exclusivity deal with the Epic Store.
Metro caught a lot of heat for their last minute switch-out after being available on Steam for preorder for quite some time. They at least honoured the preorders of those who had dropped money on the Steam edition, though.
Phoenix Point while not carrying with it the same proximity to launch is a worse situation in my view. It is a crowd-funded project that literally would not exist, or would at least not be as far along as it is today, without the money it took from its backers. Money taken with the explicit promise of supporting: Good Old Games, Steam, and via Steam Play — Linux.1
Why Be Mad About This?
A legitimate question. There are some things to like about Epic. Not least of all an introduction of an additional competitor for Steam. This should be a good thing for Developers and Consumers both.
But it isn’t — not yet. There has been zero expressed interest in winning the battlefield for consumer consideration or loyalty. No desire to bring people over by carrot — by fostering goodwill through a better service that treats their favourite developers more fairly as a point of differentiation.
That would be compelling for a goodly number of people. But not enough? OK, I can see that. How about providing more competitive pricing than Steam, yet still seeing a larger sum in developer pockets?
Those are some examples of good ways to compete which would have seen an organic user-base growth and positive word of mouth. Instead of trying this first, the stick was brought out immediately.
The stick of third-party exclusives being introduced to the PC-realm. Want to play this title you’re reeeally excited about? Excellent. Buy it from us because you have no choice. We offered more Fortnite-money than any right-minded developer could say no to, and bought their exclusivity.
Steam isn’t blameless here, the impression I’m getting from their relative silence on the matter is one of overwhelming confidence that Epic is a fad that warrants no response and will just sort of go back to playing with toys in the corner shortly.
I probably prefer this over starting an all out exclusivity war. Steam for all it’s many faults, including the handling (or rather, lack of handling) the curation of content on its service, has been a relatively benevolent digital storefront in its position of monopoly. Developers were free to sell anywhere else they chose alongside Steam, even allowing generation of Steam keys for the purpose of selling elsewhere.
If Steam’s ‘response’ ends up being a harsh curtailing of these options due to having to participate in the buying-exclusivity game? Well, there aren’t really any potential good outcomes for a Consumer in this scenario.2
Hopefully Tomorrow Brings Better News
Because the email with this news was certainly not a great start to this one!
Still, there are some silver linings. For me only the first — ability to refund — matters. I just can’t get my head around supporting the introduction of third-party exclusives to PC, no matter how much I otherwise want the title in question.
For you (if you were also a Phoenix Point backer), some of the others might be of interest:
- Refunds are available for the next 28 or so days, via this link.
- If you accept the new terms and stick with it, you’ll get Year 1 DLC on Epic.
- You will also get a choice of Steam/GoG key when they release a year post-Epic-release.