Today Epic Games announced its own self-publishing program which enters closed beta. The program will allow developers to publish games on the Epic Store without the assistance of Epic employees so long as it meets several requirements, such as not being porn.
To qualify for self-publishing, a game just needs to meet a few requirements. For example, it has to install and run properly. Its content has to match its product-page description. And if it’s multiplayer, it has to play nice with Steam, Itch.io, or any other PC versions of the game. And yeah, no pornography, “illegal content,” hateful or discriminatory stuff, IP-infringing material, or literal scams. Damn, such a high bar.
Normally, I would pass on this story. However, this decision represents an interesting shift in the relationship between the Epic Store and Valve’s Steam platform, its primary competitor. When the Epic Store launched, it did so promising a more rigorous quality control process than Steam, which has seen an onslaught of messy, unfinished, and outright malicious games through its own self publishing system. This, along with normal business bullshit, is what started the ridiculous console wars-esque beef between two websites where you can buy video games.
The introduction of a self publishing system doesn’t directly contradict previous claims around curation, but it does suggest Epic is planning on moving in a more hands-off direction going forward. The Epic Store’s content standards seem slightly more stringent, or at least better enforced, than Steam’s, which supposedly serves as a meaningful differentiator between the two stores. But let’s be real, that’s just been a marketing line from Epic, and isn’t actually viable long-term.
The other complicating factor in this story is Itch.io’s presence on the Epic Store. If you’re unfamiliar, Itch.io is an independent digital storefront which allows for smaller developers and creators to publish basically whatever they want. This includes video games, development assets, PDFs of tabletop role-playing games, browser-based games, and a whole slew of other shit that the English language has yet to find a name for.
Itch.io has been the home to thousands of self-published games, many of which would definitely violate the Epic Store’s self publishing guidelines. Okay, fine: I’m saying that there’s a lot of wicked horny shit on Itch.io. Having a second storefront hidden inside your own, where all the horny shit that you reject goes, is certainly…a workaround for moderating the content on your store, and one that makes me increasingly interested to see how the odd Epic Store / Itch.io relationship develops over the next few years.
Kotaku reached out to Epic Games for comment but did not receive an immediate reply.
If you haven’t checked out Itch.io, you should! Its revenue split is the most favorable to developers of any digital storefront, and you can find some incredibly weird and cool shit there. Honestly if you want a game and it’s available on multiple platforms, I’d recommend Itch. It also frequently runs incredible charity bundles, which allow you to support good causes while leaving you with hundreds of new video games to play.
Unlike Itch.io, the Epic Store has lacked any real identity and this most recent decision doesn’t help. The Epic Store’s continued relevance was bought with the breakout success of Fortnite, and right now it feels hard to imagine the platform ever being known for much more than that and the occasional free games.