Derek Smart Profile picture
Feb 1, 2019 60 tweets 15 min read

Here we go again.

While I agree with some points that @robfahey makes in his take on this brewing showdown, I can't help but wonder why, all of a sudden, some people are willing to deride @steam_games just because there's a shiny new toy in the play pen. It's bs.

@robfahey @steam_games There are so many issues with this opening paragraph, that as a gamer and game dev, I don't even know where to begin.

Let me try and break this down as best I can.

"Epic promised a more equitable revenue share system"

That's FALSE.

This is what they offered, in their own words:

The implication that Epic offering 88% royalties somehow makes Steam's 70% "inequitable" would require you to actually ponder on what that term actually means - in context.

I can help:

"fair and impartial"

As a game dev who has been on the Steam platform long before it was this behemoth, I can safely say that most of us find Steam's royalty share to be quite fair and equitable.

Why? Because Steam is a LOT more than just a storefront.

As I mentioned in my lengthy thread (link below), a typical layman or gamer wouldn't understand what it is that Steam offers without fully knowing | understanding what Steam actually is.


Yesterday I posted a graphic which another dev made. As accurate as it is, it doesn't even go far (e.g. territorial pricing for one) enough to articulate just what Steam offers and why their 30% royalty rate is fully justified.

I also pointed out another issue that's mostly ignored.


With Steam, you're giving up 30% for a suite of tools, all designed to help you succeed on the platform.

That also comes with two very big issues.

1) discovery (not Steam's problem; you're not paying them for marketing)

2) store page toxicity (more on this later)

With EGS, as it is now, you're giving up 12% for the ability to sell your game on a store, without the store page toxicity or discovery (fewer selections are easy to find)

To wit:


Nothing about these three core differences rises to the level of inequity.

There probably isn't a single game that you want on Steam, that you can't find on GoG, GamersGate, GreenManGaming etc. And a very large number of them are just Steam key resellers.

The difference between buying a game on Steam versus on another service, is price.

e.g the recently released highly anticipated Ace Combat 7, is currently $59.99 on Steam…

You can find that same game on @GreenManGaming for $50.99, a whopping 15% discount.…

BOTH games use Steam keys, as well as its SteamWorks suite of tools.

You can also find the game sold (again Steam keys) on several key selling farms around the world.

You won't find it on publisher sites such as Origin or UPlay; and certainly not on EGS.

If these third-party sites weren't able to compete on pricing, they wouldn't be in business. Why? Because they have very little to offer. For example, we used to have several similar sites (e.g. Direct2Drive, Impulse etc).

If Steam decided to disable the ability for devs and publishers to generate Steam keys to sell on external sites, it would completely disrupt the business model of these third-party sites, forcing most - of not all - of them out of business.

And if that were to happen, then it means we all would have to resort to once again using third-party apps for content protection (e.g. Armadillo, Denuvo), installers (e.g. Installshield, NSIS, Wise) etc and even handle our own delivery systems if the third-party has none.

Steam gives you ALL of this and you can literally build a game for delivery in under 15 mins - tops. So when you provide a Steam key to a third-party, all they have to do is redeem the key, and Steam handles EVERYTHING else. The third-party does NOTHING except collect money.

Steam not only provides the ability for these third-parties (they ALL still regard Steam as a threat) to exist, but it also allows gamers to afford more games by taking advantage of these third-party discounts. e.g. buy 4 games on GMG and you can buy a 5th for $0

As content creators, each game we sell on Steam, nets $0.70c on the $1. If we sell 10 copies @ $19 on Steam, we make more money than if we sold 10 copies @ $15 on GMG. So why sell on a third-party site in the first place? Discovery, exposure, derivative income

Selling games on third-party sites is no different from buying any other form of goods on various sites. You could see a new item on Amazon for $100, and find the same item on eBay for $85. When consumers have a choice, it breeds prosperity for all

Steam makes this possible

Concluding this "equitable" nonsense, I hope you can see now why those who are suddenly lambasting Steam are pissing in the wind, biting the hand that feeds, and are being completely and utterly disingenuous.

It's pure bullshit that should be discarded out of hand.

Rob also says "gave every impression of having listened to developers' complaints about Steam's ill-conceived and poorly handled community features"

That is FALSE.

I should point out that articles you read from Epic about this alludes to NO SUCH THING. Even if some devs were saying this, you can safely assume that they're likely to have also participate in the alarming poll I pointed out.

We all know that the "ill-conceived" and "poorly handled" community features on Steam are purely about the ability for some bad actors to use the game's store page as a stomping ground for malcontent. aka "review bombing"

As part of its features, Steam offers the ability to review titles on the store page. It's no different than Yelp, Amazon etc. As with all such systems, since some people are broken and simply cannot be trusted, they obviously abused it.

Of course it didn't take long for some people to start confusing "reviews" with "review bombing". They are not interchangeable. When you give a bad review of anything, including a game, true or false, it's a matter of personal opinion about content - nothing else.

Reviewing a game as bad because it's buggy, has a stupid story etc, are all valid & contextual criticisms. But reviewing a game as bad because you have a gripe with the creators for some reason that has ZERO relevance to the content, is review bombing.

This is review bombing. These guys are upset about the latest Metro game being exclusive to EGS. So they go back to previous Steam reviews, and alter them to express their discontent about that action. NOTHING to do with the merits of the game.

Despite the lede, this is NOT review bombing. The game's serious bugs which include broken (in a flight combat game!) HOTAS support, buggy 4K resolution etc are ALL valid criticisms as they ARE within the context of the game.

Steam community is no more toxic than the shit-heap dumps you would find on Reddit (most popular online community). The massive scale of Steam makes it nigh impossible to moderate to any reasonable level. And most of the volunteer mods cannot be trusted to be impartial

As with all things related to subjective reviews, if you want to rely on someone else's opinions on a medium, you want it to be in context. You want to read about why a game is good or bad, long or short etc. Not about whether or not the creators are into Anime or furries.

This is where Steam store page fails. And it's that way because 1) it's impossible to moderate due to the sheer scale of content 2) Valve doesn't seem to give a shit 3) there is no way that devs have any control of their OWN store page abuse like we do the discussion pages

How do you think EGS solves that problem? They're going to make it an opt-in system for devs. I don't know about you, but that's just putting the onus on the devs because guess what happens when you go to a dev's page and cannot review the game on it

EGS is NOT "solving" the problem. They're avoiding it altogether. The ONLY way to solve that problem, while allowing reviews, is to actively moderate it. You'd think that EGS could hire one of many third-party companies to do that job, then offer lower royalties. win-win

Steam can solve that problem by either 1) disable reviews entirely, so that gamers can take their ire to the discussion pages where they belong 2) hire a third-party to handle store page moderation 3) prevent modification of reviews 4) remove reviews for refunded games

This isn't a new problem. Companies like Yelp, Amazon etc have staff and third-party corps handling that. You can flag a complaint, and someone will review. Others disable it entirely. On Steam, good luck with that. And THAT is the problem with THAT aspect of the community.

This part of Rob's missive is also nonsense: "pledging to create a store that wouldn't become a vector for abuse or attacks on creators' livelihoods."

You're not creating a store like that to "solve" a problem that simply does NOT exist on it. It's called AVOIDING it.

The ability to objectively review a game is part and parcel of gaming. And the vast majority of gamers are quite passionate about their ability to express their love, admiration, ire, and discontent for the games that they buy and play. It's who we are. It's what we do.

To the extent that it's why you can go to any popular Steam page and find massive amounts of reviews, but you would be hard-pressed to find a similar volume on a popular Netflix (fyi they've removed movie reviews) movie page. Gamers are an exceptionally passionate caste.

Of course ANY system open to abuse will definitely be abused by bad actors. But that "vector for abuse" isn't solved by removing reviews entirely, as that's just throwing out the baby with the bathwater. They will go vent elsewhere, thus making it someone else's problem.

Most gamers interested in a game, are likely to go by the first impressions on the store page, rather than clicking on the Steam "Community Hub" to wade through unfiltered and irrelevant tripe. And that's why the store page integrity is the first line of abuse defense.

So EGS allowing an opt-in system (which is a WASTE of resources btw because my guess is EVERY creator will likely opt-out) is simply pandering to devs who are sick and tired of PLEADING with Steam to do something - anything - about that damn store page.

Know what's going to happen? Some buying a game on EGS are going to go on the game's Steam page or on Reddit - and vent there. Think I'm kidding? It already happened when a game which debut on EGS was having technical issues. They flocked to the Steam page. It was hilarious

Then this: "Epic's challenge was a broadside assault of the kind that Steam hasn't experienced in a long time...not that a rival would emerge targeting the whole spectrum of developers and games featured on Steam."

Yeah, not really:

First of all, EGS is an invite-only system; just like how Steam started out. It's also the same way that GoG, GMG and others operate. Which is why the volume (it's primary bane) of games on Steam remains unmatched across ALL third-party stores - combined.

To any reasonable person who is paying attention, what EGS brings to the table has more to do with devs, than it does to gamers (who, as we've now seen, don't give a shit either way).

More money, better discovery, no review bombing.

What do you think would happen if Steam decided to match royalties and fix their store page issues?

That's why there are EGS exclusives.

ps: Steam is never going to solve discovery issues; and it's not for them to solve. Market your game!

To devs, the ability to earn extra money (higher royalties, exclusives), while not having to deal with discovery issues, let alone review bombing, is a MAJOR draw. Let's not pretend that EGS is here to "save" devs. It's an INVITE-ONLY system that's JUST A STORE.

Unless they're all your mom, very few gamers are going to go buy a game on EGS because of the benefits that it offers dev. That's just laughable. They will buy it if it's the only place that sells it, or if, like other third-party sites, they are cheaper there.

Let me re-iterate again. Competition is good for everyone on both sides of the equation. Most of us devs will go where we can make money via higher royalties, exclusives, or whatever. Gamers will go where they can buy a game they want, and/or if it's cheaper.

Those lamenting the issue of exclusives on EGS aren't paying attention, nor thinking outside the box. If EGS continues to sign exclusives as an incentive, while offering higher royalties, if nothing else, eventually Steam will have NO choice but to take action.

How are they going to take action? By looking at all the reasons WHY a creator would even want to abandon a lucrative ecosystem and platform, to jump to a competing and technologically inferior* store. Then adapt to those gripes accordingly.

*I say this because EGS never promised any technology (no, UE4 doesn't count) that's remotely competitive to Steam. And they've been pretty clear about this. Selling on EGS is the equivalent of a party's BYOB policy.

The same comparison is why though UE4 engine is technologically superior to practically every engine in use today, there are still devs who use CryEngine and Unity because they're free of royalties, are easier to learn and adopt etc. When you have a choice, it's a win-win

So this brewing Steam v EGS is tribal nonsense. Don't buy into it. Both are able to co-exist & compete because they offer different things. If one offers games you can't buy elsewhere, while unfortunate, that's capitalism for you, and EGS didn't invent exclusives.

As an old school dev who has been around the block a few times, I'm notorious for being outspoken, incredibly loyal, forthright, and eccentric (fine - barking mad then). So with as many friends & peers as I have across the industry, I don't take these discussions lightly.

So the risk of unintentionally rubbing someone the wrong way (see thread below) exists. Through a lot of hard work and personal sacrifices, I helped build this industry, and invested a lot of myself and my work it. But all speech has consequences.


If we can't speak up, not only in defense of our works, but also to objectively opine on issues affecting our industry, not to mention gamers who keep us making games, then what's the damn point? If we don't, the media will do it for us. And they WILL fuck it up.



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