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{thread} About the @EpicGames store and the misplaced outrage by some people in gaming.

Back in Dec, though some of us knew about it beforehand, Epic unveiled their own digital store.

It set the stage for a showdown (of sorts) with Steam…

Amid the fanfare, even though Epic clearly outlined why they decided to do this, how they were going to make it different etc, a lot of people simply glossed over the implications and the motivation for doing this.

As I wrote in a 2009 blog on Gamastura (legacy game dev watering hole), Steam was precisely at the risk-taking cusp when they created Steam as a means to distribute their own games. Then they decided to curate other games, thus changing the landscape

Steam gathered steam (see what I did there?) due to the half-backed, half-assed approach that many took in terms of getting on the digital distribution bandwagon. And with the exception of one or two who tried to compete back then, they have ALL failed and are gone.

The appeal of Steam, aside from the fact that as gamers and game devs we all love Valve and their games, goes beyond their ability to sell games. They created an ecosystem where gamers could buy and play games in one place. Then a massive community grew up around it.

This was a time when we had ICQ, Trillian, AOL Messenger, Skype, and similar social media tools which allowed gamers to meet, play, discuss games. Steam literally destroyed (wrt gaming) all of them when the community around the games they were selling, grew around it.

Though Steam was curating specific games through an approval process, it's popularity as well as the massive numbers of games being developed due to the advent of cheaper game engines & tools, grew out of control. There were even popular games you couldn't find on Steam.

There were also indie devs with innovative projects who couldn't get on Steam. As Steam listened to their gamers, realizing the problem, they eventually introduced Greenlight at the end of 2012.

This allowed community voted indie projects to be featured and sold on Steam. It was an immediate hit. To the extent that, for a time, most of the most popular discussions on Steam, were on Greenlight game pages.

That lasted 5 years.

As with all the challenges on the road to democracy, as long as Anime remains a thing, eventually the wheels will fall off.

So as complaints grew, it came as no surprise when in mid-2017, Steam started an orderly shutdown of Greenlight.

The announcement, a classic ode to, and respect for gamers and content creators, is another example of why Valve, @steam_games aside, is one of the most revered outfits in all of gaming. Read all of it.…

Even before the dust settled on that furor, about a week later Steam Direct, the Greenlight replacement, was launched.

Now, for $100, even hobo Harry could publish media (games, barely-soft-porn, Anime fetish, furry bullshit etc) on Steam.

While all this was going down, publishers who, as I wrote back in 2009, still viewed Steam as a threat they couldn't do squat about, came up with what they thought was a brilliant (it's not) idea.

I need all 280 chars to express the hilarity of it all...

Despite the fact that they had the leverage to negotiate royalty rates on Steam, that wasn't enough. Instead, EA, Activision, Ubisoft et al, decided to do EXACTLY what Valve started out doing:

Build their own delivery system and curate it with their own popular games.

The end result is that, after their usual completely inconsequential outrage (which we all just collectively laughed at - like we tend to do) gamers ended up buying those games via those different launchers (Origin, Uplay etc) anyway.

I told you it was hilarious.

Suddenly some popular games were no longer on Steam. And if you wanted to buy and play them, you had to go directly to the publishers own system.

And there are those who were actually upset about this. I'm not even joking.

Of course, as with all misplaced angst that tends to permeate gaming, you'd be hard-pressed to find ANY reasonable person coherent enough to articulate what exactly it is they're upset about.

Eventually the furor died down, and having multiple game launchers became normal

All this time, competing services like GoG, GreenManGaming, GamersGate etc sprouted up.

Funny twist: Because Steam allows it, over 95% of the games on those competing services, sell Steam keys; thus keeping Steam games WITHIN the Steam ecosystem. LOL!!

Steam is more than just a storefront. Over time, what Valve did was build a massive suite of developer and marketing tools which are geared toward helping their content creators succeed on the platform.

And as long as you publish on Steam, it's all free to use.

This suite, called SteamWorks, has proven to be invaluable to most of us devs because otherwise we would have to build them for our games. I am not going to describe all of them, but here is an overview.

As an example, over years of developing my upcoming game, I made use of quite a few tools from the Suite. In fact, I made a list of them.…

You give Valve a 30% royalty cut for the store + tools. If you're smart enough to consider all the time and resources it would save you, then it should be a no-brainer.

They've done the work, whether or not you use all of them, publishing on Steam uses one of those tools.

So imagine my shock + surprise when this recent GD survey showed that some devs don't feel that Steam earns its 30% royalty cut.

Though it's a small sampling, it was still alarming to me.…

I quote:

"largest share (32 percent) saying Steam currently does not justify Valve’s revenue share. 27 percent said such a large cut probably isn’t justified, and 17 percent said they just didn’t know."

Welcome to the ludicrous side of our games biz. Enjoy the fish.

That particular ludicrousness overshadows the furor that came before it.

And that was just last month.…

Here's the thing, Steam isn't perfect, and it has bigger problems (e.g. the toxic parts of the community, review bombing of games on the store page etc) which eclipse challenges to your ability to make money on the platform.

When Steam used gamers to curate games via Greenlight, everything was good in these lands.

When Steam allowed creators to make money during development via their Early Access (2013 debut), all rejoiced.…

When Steam introduced the curators system so that gamers and content creators could help with discovery on the platform, we almost declared a national holiday because the glut of games had made it on tough nut to crack.…

When Steam, realizing the looming threat from Epic revised their royalty split, most of us just collectively laughed out loud....and kept on scrolling.

I mean, just read it and see for yourself.

With all that background, we segue to the best part of this thread.

Since it's inception, some games which made their debut on Steam, are now exclusive (some are timed) to Epic.

Similarly, others (curated by Epic) are bringing their titles over.

Since the dawn of time, the idea of exclusive gaming content has been about one thing, and one thing only: money.

Even an exclusive in exchange for marketing, still has someone forking out [marketing] cash for the benefit of another.

While I can only speak for myself, and to a certain extent, other indie devs such as myself, I can tell you - without reservation - that any motivation behind such exclusives, is primarily (and I daresay solely) about money.

I have done some exclusives over the years. e.g. one game was exclusive to GameStop, another was exclusive to GameTap etc. And they were all financially lucrative enough that I made more money than I otherwise would have made one multiple stores.

Steam's popularity is also the reason why it's easy to fail there. When you create a product and try to sell it in Best Buy, they're not going to do your marketing for you. If you do co-op marketing with their involvement, it still costs you money. That's how end caps work

You pay Steam 30% to sell your game and to use their tools. You're not paying them to market your game and they do NOT owe you that obligation. You have to market your game, and treat Steam as you would any other store - but which comes with some added benefits.

The discovery problem on Steam is never - ever - going to be solved. Not because the algorithms aren't good enough, but because you can't use algorithms to influence choice. You could see a page full of games and the possibility of clicking on one is very low.

Steam's approach to this problem is no different from how online ads work. It's a hit|miss blitz to see who clicks and what sticks.

That's not Steam's problem.

When Steam decided to be the curator of PC gaming, by first curating what their people believed were games worth having, they created a path to failure by transitioning it from a private club, to a flea market.

And this happened because gamers ASKED for it.

If a game by a popular dev or publisher is coming out, you can bet on there being a massive marketing and social push behind it. You don't need artificial discovery to show it to you. Don't take my word for it; on any given day, go look at the Steam charts.

Those same games can be found on GoG, GreenManGaming, GamersGate etc. What do you think makes a gamer buy a game on Steam, as opposed to those other sites? Aside from the discounts which tend to be very low anyway.

When you look at what Epic is offering, compared to Steam and other sites, it's easy to draw a conclusion that, on the face of it, that's all about one thing: money…

If Epic is going to do what Steam started out doing, by curating a select slate of games, while offering higher royalties, how many games do you think you are ever going to find there. And what other incentive do you think devs and publishers have for going there?

So if you think about it, assuming you get the nod from Epic, this is what you end up with:

1) More money (higher royalties)

2) Better discovery of your game

3) No toxic community bs to deal with

That's basically it. All of it.

And when it comes to exclusives, recall how Valve built Steam by exclusively selling their own games, even when EA was their publishing partner?

How about Sony and Microsoft locking down exclusives as a way to sell more console units?

Same thing.

But then you see alarmist headlines such as this one over the Metro game exclusive. And then you end up in arguments with some gamers who are complaining because they have one more launcher to install, their "choice" being taken away etc.

While Epic is being attacked for basically doing what has ALWAYS been the norm as to how exclusives work, how business is built etc, those same people haven't stopped to think - for one minute - about how cause & effect works.

What's happening with Epic store curating exclusives is neither new, nor outside the norm. It's just business as usual and especially what @TimSweeneyEpic stated yesterday, is why Epic set out on this path.

It was barely two months ago where they also bypassed an app store to sell Fortnite direct.

At various times in our industry biz history, we've been here before.

If a game shows up as an exclusive on a platform, and you're mad about it, don't buy it. If enough people feel the same way, the title will most likely flop. That's the only way you are EVER going to make a difference as you walk along that path to a hollow victory.

I was an avid hardcore gamer long before I became a game dev. So I know a thing or two about being on both sides of this equation. Still, 30+ yrs of making games hasn't changed the gamer in me. We tend to buy games we WANT to play, regardless of who makes or sells them.

As a game dev in a very challenging industry, if I see an opportunity to make a little bit more money, so that I can afford the ability to continue making games for the people who buy them, show me where to sign - and I probably won't even read the paperwork.

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