Something emerging more recently seems to be AAA games going for self-publishing, and then the self-publishers deciding that they want a handout. By accepting this handout, they have to be exclusive to one store. I feel like they’re just trading one publisher for another at that point. Immediately selling out upon going “indie” is the least “indie” thing to do. Not that these games were even going to be held up to “indie” standards anyway given their AAA history. Nothing has really changed, even down to how they seem to want to alienate more fans, particularly those who have their reasons for not supporting certain stores that buy exclusives almost constantly.
It really goes without saying that I am talking about a certain store, again. If the Epic store was willing to stick to the idea of something that would pass on the savings to the customer, those prices would be lower by default. Setting those prices is probably up to the publisher, but they certainly don’t seem to be under any pressure to lower them for competitive reasons. People shop Wal-Mart for lower prices, unless it’s just because it’s the only store in the neighborhood. I’d think if they actually stuck to that word from the initial concept, that’s how the store landscape would look, people would buy games from Epic because they’re cheaper. But they’re not. They do have sales, and they seem to be trying to justify their lack of cart by having a recurring coupon thing per purchase, so possibly those discounts combined could work, but those are just sales. While the purchase of PC games is often determined by either launch or sale anyway, having their prices lower by default anyway would be enough of an edge to make them viable even during sale periods, and they wouldn’t need to buy out a bunch of sellouts instead.
They’re taking a console approach to an open platform, which makes no sense in the wider scale of things. Sony pays for exclusive content because they sell hardware, and that hardware accepts only games that they sell through their channels. That goes for any console, just that Sony seems to be pushing more for exclusive content now, and that there may be a possible partnership emerging between Sony and Epic just raises more concerns. Plus, given that the Epic store by default excludes Linux, they’re just preferring more technically closed platforms. If they narrowed that down further by excluding Apple, they’re in the same vein as what Psyonix did, probably under Epic’s instruction. At that point, it’s definitely not helping the PC market diversify.
They also seem to be throwing money around as if it’s infinite. They’re not a government, they can’t just make money from nothing, unless they’re somehow planning to become one, on top of the monopoly they want to become by calling everyone else one. If this really was about getting the best cut possible, there are stores that allow publishers and developers to set the store’s cut themselves. Namely itch.io for an example. They have a slider that can be set to whatever amount, so someone could even take all the money, but a courtesy would be to at least let the site maintain hosting costs. The intent of the cut is to cover operating costs, whatever those may be. If a big publisher was putting their games on there, that would certainly draw some traffic. Go figure the likes of Devolver has a handful of games there, but from a standpoint that admittedly doesn’t have many details at all, they seem to be an open publisher that more follows the request of whoever’s putting the game together. Therefore, they’ve had a small number of games be exclusive to Epic, but it means nothing for where all the other games end up. Most still end up on Steam of course, and other stores at times.
Personally, I’d prefer that a game releases on as many platforms as it possibly can. Given the PC space, there are so many stores that it doesn’t make sense to just pick one, provided the game’s not a specific property of the company running one of the stores. Valve has Half-Life, Portal, and Dota 2 among others, regardless of how often those are actually used. Epic has… I guess just the one meme royale game at this point since they fully dropped the likes of Unreal aside from it being their engine. CD Projekt Red doesn’t even keep their games exclusive to GOG, which is quite interesting and aligns with a mission statement of openness, but if I was interested in anything from them I’d consider getting it there anyway. I’ve recently seen a game I’m looking at, Spiritfarer, launch on five PC stores, in addition to all three current consoles, as well as that Stadia thing that seems to go between being a console or a PC thing, depending on who you ask or where they have a wired connection. There are a lot of PC stores. It can be done, and it can be an effort to get everything synchronized for all those platforms, especially ones with different program formats or whatever, and I’m not saying all games have to launch on five PC stores, but ideally more than one.
For the record, I also don’t like the idea of a third-party game only being on Steam, either, but if a game’s only going to be on two stores, and those stores are Steam and Epic, then I’m probably looking at the Steam version. However, I also like the option of going DRM-free entirely, so I look for that option if I can, and there’s a few stores that offer that. Stores like GOG, itch.io, and Humble on occasion, though the latter at this point is mostly a seller of keys that activate on whatever chosen platform. I just like the idea of having more effective ownership of a copy of something, being old-fashioned I guess, given how music streaming is taking over the aspect of digital music for an example, and I still have the desire to track down CDs, or at least the digital albums if that’s proving to be weirdly complicated or expensive. The only caveat is if they remember to keep the DRM-free version of a game up to date with all the others, and some publishers are notorious for skipping out on that, but I’d only accept the delays if they’re actually trying to be absolutely certain a version of a game will work before sending it to those platforms, and it doesn’t get indefinitely delayed even though it’s definitely been proven to work fine.
Trying to come back from going on a tangent as I do, I’ll just say that publishers can be terrible, but some are better than others, and ideally most games could self-publish. However, accepting money to, in turn, be stuck to any kind of specifics on where games can show up, that’s not self-publishing, that’s accepting a publisher. Business decisions are made to try to make the most money, typically, so the likes of those two recent AAA games seem to be open to taking a gamble with selling out again.
As a footnote, apparently Epic did try for special treatment from Apple before throwing a fit and suing everyone. Apple shouldn’t be handing out special treatment anyway, but of course Epic would want in on it. And if they did get it, maybe they’d only be suing Google, unless they also got it from them too. But at least Android has easier sideloading. Taking an aggressive stance against closed platforms only has teeth without begging for exemptions or doing nothing about other closed platforms.