On December 4, Epic Games announced the Epic Games store for PC and Mac. You might be forgiven for meeting your face with your palm at the news of yet another storefront and a client to download on your PC. Epic joins Ubisoft’s Uplay, EA’s Origin, Activision-Blizzard’s Battle.net, Bethesda’s ‘Bethesda.net’ launcher, the ‘Discord store’ among others. But most importantly, this reminds us, indisputably, the biggest of them all, Steam, and it’s Valve, Steam’s owner, who may be sweating the most.
Once upon a time, Steam reigned supreme, with titles big and small, from triple-A to indie. Eventually, EA moved their games off the platform to their own, Origin, and now, many others have followed suit. Activision pulled their recent megahit Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, a series long-present on Steam, and made it exclusively available on their own service. Bethesda recently pulled a similar move with the latest installment in the Fallout franchise, Fallout 76. If we had ever wondered if these actions made Valve think, we seemed to receive an answer this last Friday when Valve announced a new revenue model for those top-tier games. Breaking from the traditional split of 70:30 for game revenue, Valve announced that games which made between $10 million and $50 million would see Steam’s cut dropped to 25%, and every sale after the $50 million mark would only have a 20% tax.
This move could be mistaken for little else than a reaction to the biggest publishers deciding they no longer needed Steam and attempting to keep them on the platform. This shows Valve may not be as cool as we’ve often thought. However, this move was met with criticism as Valve was accused of ignoring the indies who relied so much on their platform.
Valve statement, paraphrased: "don't worry, big game productions, we'll happily subsidize your increased income with the broken dreams of aspiring devs that fell just short of making it because they have no leverage and we don't care.
Just please don't launch your own store"
— Rami Ismail (رامي) (@tha_rami) December 1, 2018
Earlier this year, Discord announced a new storefront, a somewhat unique addition to the line-up of game store clients. Discord would be able to leverage a massive userbase, already offering the consumer-friendly ability of being able to collate your games from all the various platforms into one, easy launcher. If Discord was represented a threat to Steam on the user-front, Epic Games just went for the jugular, in what could represent a big blow to Valve.
Possibly the biggest game on the planet, Fortnite, is exclusive to the ‘Epic Games Launcher’, meaning a significant number of people are invested in the platform and use it regularly. The newly announced Epic Games store will see the revenue split deviate from the standard 70:30 to 88:12, in favor of creators. There are no restrictions on putting games made without Epic’s ‘Unreal Engine 4’, meaning the highly popular and accessible tool ‘Unity’ can also be used to create games and launch them on the platform.
Steam’s recent move to prioritize big publishers who seemingly don’t need them anymore may have soured the smaller, independent developers. Epic’s recent announcement gives them ample reason to jump on the new platform, leaving Valve with a potential exodus of big and small-name talent. If they don’t want to lose further ground, they may need to innovate, and quickly. If Fortnite has taught us anything, it’s that Epic understands its audience and can adapt quickly, making them a big threat to an already weakened Steam.