Nowadays, we all buy our PC games online. That means we will have to go through some sort of online “shop” to buy it. Over the years, it has mostly been Steam – but more and more online stores have been popping up. Then, a few questions always pop out – “why not Steam?” and also piracy.

It seems like companies are now fueling fundamentally different types of games based on their  developer studio’s size. We have giant multi-million corporations versus the indie developers. Let us take a look at how this happened and how it affects us all.

The number of online game stores

First, we should start with a little bit of introduction to how many online PC game stores we have now. You know what – the store is so long that I rather do it in a list:

  • Valve’s Steam
  • Ubisoft’s Uplay
  • EA’s Origin
  • Activision-Blizzard’s
  • Good Old Games’s Galaxy
  • Epic Games Store
  • Discord Store
  • … and many more

These stores and their services had coexisted for a long time. Only recently that Epic Games launched their Epic Games Store. Same goes for Discord Store. And that is where things get a little interesting.

Epic Games Store Fortnite
Fortnite – PC players will need to go through Epic Games Store.

Epic Games Store is owned by Epic Games. If you haven’t already realized, Epic Games is the creator of the massively popular game – Fortnite. To play Fortnite on PC, you wil need Epic Games Store – which means you will see all of Epic Games Store exclusives at the storefront.

Epic Games Store storefront

With that many people daily, there is a significant amount of people looking at the storefront. From the amount of eyes comes sales, and from sales comes market share in terms of users in this PC game stores industry.

Of course, what better way it is to gain market share than to have exclusive titles?

Exclusive titles

From what we have seen so far, both new players – Epic Games Store and Discord Store – are aggressive in getting exclusivity for a few game titles. The former has gotten the full exclusive rights to quite a lot of games – and one of them is Hades.

Epic Games Store Hades
Hades by Supergiant Games. Exclusively on Epic Games Store as of now.

Supergiant Games, the makers of Bastion, Transistor, and Pyre, has a partnership with Epic Games Store. Their highly-anticipated upcoming game, Hades, will be available exclusively in Epic Games Store in early access stage – which means everyone who wants to play Hades will have to go through the Epic Games Store. In their Discord server, it is stated that Hades might come to Steam after early access, but does not promise anything.

How long will Early Access last? We expect Early Access to last more than a year from our initial launch on Dec. 6, 2018.

Will Hades ever come to Steam or other platforms? We expect to bring Hades to a variety of other platforms once Early Access is complete, including Steam. That’s not for a while so we can’t make any promises here yet.

Epic Games Store Ashen
Ashen, by A44. Only on Epic Games Store – for now, at least.

Another exclusive title here is Ashen, an indie souls-like game – I hate that word, honestly. It is an Xbox and on the Epic Games Store as of now, but there is already a Steam product page for Ashen, which you can click here to see.

So far, there are a total of 9 confirmed indie game titles that will be exclusively available only at Epic Games Store – and one of them is Super Meat Boy Forever. Epic Games Store will receive a year’s exclusivity, as stated on Team Meat’s website.

We are shooting for April 2019 for Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Playstation 4 and Epic Games Store and April 2020 for Steam.

There are some triple-A games which will exclusively be available on Epic Games Store as well. Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 will be skipping Steam entirely and Ubisoft is not stopping there just yet. In the announcement page, it is  also stated that:

The Division 2 on PC also will be available for purchase online from the Epic Games store and the Ubisoft Store following the release of the game.

Ubisoft and Epic will work to integrate key components of Ubisoft’s Uplay and Epic’s online services to provide gamers from both ecosystems with more seamless social features and interoperability.

Ubisoft and Epic Games store will also partner on additional select titles to be announced during the coming year.

Epic Games Store Tom Clancy's The Division 2

But the question here is – why not stick with Steam? It has achievements, gift system, and many social aspects too.

Why not Steam?

In many ways, people are against the monopoly that Steam has in digital distribution. So much so that game distributors either choose Steam, or go for their own distribution channel instead – like EA, Ubisoft, and Activision-Blizzard. There is no other Steam-like digital store for indie developers to publish their games for sale – and Epic Games Store is going to change that.

Then comes money. Indie developers have to worry about revenue split between the developers and the distributor. Epic Games Store came out with a bang by announcing that their revenue split is 88%/12% – which is drastically more developer-friendly than Steam.

Epic Games Store revenue split
Consistent 88%/12% split for Epic Games Store. Source.

Then, Valve made a readjustment to Steam’s revenue split. In short, the higher the sales of your game, the less Steam will tax. For sales exceeding USD $50 million on Steam, the revenue split will be adjusted to 80%/20%. Valve’s decision raised more eyebrows and questions, though.

Discord Store on the other hand, is even more aggressive. Discord Store is allowing all developers to self-publish their games. Not only that, their revenue split is 90%/10% as stated on the official Discord blog. And Discord Store already banked on a few exclusive indie games, too.

Then comes the variety

The relatively new Steam Direct program for indie developers to publish their games on Steam has been rather controversial as it needs money to make money – not just submitting to the now-defunct Greenlight. Also, with Steam’s new revenue split – it is obvious that Steam is catering towards the big, multi-million studios instead of indie developers.

In contrast, Epic Games Store already is looking to be better for indie developers since it has an 88%/12% revenue split. Yet in a way, we did see 2018 as a year that indie developers flourish.

Remember great indie games like The Spectrum Retreat, Dead Cells, Hollow Knight, and also Celeste – all of them came out in 2018. That shines a spotlight on the potential that indie developers can bring to the table. Epic Games Store’s focus on indie games will only attract even more upcoming indie developers to that platform.

Celeste splash screen
Celeste – the winner of Best Independent Game from The Game Award.

Heck, even Valve’s very own Portal was – in a way – started off by a bunch of indie developers who happened to be a group of students from DigiPen.

Then we have big studios release games that flopped instantly – like Fallout 76, Metal Gear Survive, and Battlefield V – only tells the tale of how a big studio investing big amounts of money on developing does not equate to a great game.

With Epic Games Store focused on indie developers and Steam seemingly focused towards big studios, we as gamers get more variety in the overall landscape of games.

Increase in piracy?

To link between the multiple online game stores with piracy is a bit of a stretch, but hear me out first. Let’s be honest – we all want an easy one-stop solution for getting what we want and what we need. That is why Apple iTunes was created.

But now, we have more stores – which in turn creates a problem. I personally want to play Hades but I don’t want to download yet another game launcher to my PC. I already have 5 of them installed already. I don’t want to wait until Hades goes out of early access then just to say it will not be available on Steam – that will be a supergiant waste of time.

More Online PC Game Stores
There are more beyond these 6 online game stores…

Piracy has also been on the rise when it comes to exclusive contents on streaming services. Motherboard has quoted that Netflix, Amazon, and HBO are the main causes of the increase in piracy because their exclusive content are only available on their platform – and it has a paywall. Once again, it is a length stretch to connect streaming services with game stores.

And many people are concerned with security as well. For each online PC game store, you will have to provide your information to create an account. That only opens up to more avenues for your data to be stolen since your information is on the hands of these online PC game stores instead. EA has a lot of security breaches by the way, and even my own personal account was compromised a few times.

To enjoy the game means they will need to go through Steam or Epic Games Store or Uplay or whatever. That means passing your personal information to these corporations and up to them to protect your information. If they have a security breach, then we cannot do anything at all. That is just sad, to be honest.

Any way to fix this?

Unfortunately, no. It is entirely up to how the publishers like Discord Store, Steam, and Epic Games Store entice developers to have their games exclusively available at certain stores only. Heck, the developers can go entirely DRM-free and sell it at GOG.

With different game stores focusing on different scales of game developments means more variety for us gamers. But that also means more game stores where we will only purchase a few games annually. Also, it will suffer from the dilution of social activity since the gaming community will be split into a few game stores and game launchers.

However, to mitigate piracy, DRM technology, like Denuvo, can be implemented. It has been getting tougher to crack by the day. However, if pirates are reluctant to pay, then might as well wait for the crack – even though it might arrive a year later like Rise of the Tomb Raider. The game might never be cracked at all – like Valkyria Chronicles 4 – then pirates will probably skip it and move on to other games instead.

Though, an EU study found out that piracy may actually help with increasing sales. Paraphrasing Ars Technica, it helps by increasing sales by enticing pirates to then pay to play the game legitimately. Of course, that means the game itself will need to be of high quality first – not some trash like Fallout 76.

Key takeaway points

We made a few points here. These are the summary:

  • We have lots of online game stores, with Epic Games Store and Discord Store being the latest addition
  • Epic Games Store has a lot of highly-anticipated games as exclusives
  • Epic Games Store focuses more on indie games
  • Epic Games Store has a better revenue split for indie developers in contrast to Steam’s new tiered revenue split
  • 2018 was the year of indie games, and few triple-A titles flopped hard
  • We in a gamer community is forced to split up to different gaming platforms because of game exclusivity (e.g. Hades on Epic Games Store; CSGO on Steam)
  • Game pirates might be on the rise because of this community divide
  • Security is an issue as personal information is passed to more corporations which are susceptible to hacks

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