Ooblets Is Epic Exclusive, Developer Puts Expected Backlash In Perspective

Illustration for article titled iOoblets /iIs Epic Exclusive, Developer Puts Expected Backlash In Perspectivei/i

Ooblets is one of those games that just oozes effortless charm. It’s not even out yet, but the gooey, chewy mash up of Animal Crossing, Harvest Moon, and Pokémon has already earned its fair share of salivating admirers. Today, the game’s developers announced that, on PC, Ooblets will be an Epic Games Store exclusive. In an attempt to meet the inevitable backlash head on, they explained their rationale in exhaustive detail.

Developer Glumberland’s exclusivity announcement post is a mixture of frank and tongue-in-cheek. “This is exactly what Marx warned us about!” designer Ben Wasser wrote to kick it off. “Just imagine if other companies got it in their head to offer funding in exchange for exclusives. What’d be next? Game consoles paying for games to be exclusive on their consoles? Netflix paying for exclusive shows? Newspapers paying for exclusive articles? It’d be some sort of late capitalist dystopia.”

Wasser then settled into a more serious discussion, explaining that Epic offered the studio a minimum guarantee on sales “that would match what we’d be wanting to earn if we were just selling Ooblets across all the stores,” which takes the looming existential uncertainty associated with modern game development off the table. This also means the game’s two-person development team can hire an additional programmer and “ramp up our development resources,” but it might delay Ooblets’ early access launch because “it takes some time to ramp things up and because we won’t have as much financial pressure to prematurely shove something we’re not happy with out the door.”


Wasser then moved on to the elephant—or most elephant-like Ooblet—in the room: the volcano of vitriol that erupts on every studio that signs an exclusivity deal with Epic. He prefaced it by saying that he doesn’t “expect much of our uniquely-lovely community to fit into this weird anti-Epic contingent,” but went on to use that as a launchpad for a discussion of common complaints against the Epic Games Store. First up, he addressed the store’s well-documented lack of features like social tools, achievements, wishlists, and user reviews, saying that software development takes time, and that Steam, in particular, took 15 years to get where it is today. “I’m sure there’s a team of folks working on launcher features for EGS, but their work depends on the platform being worthwhile from a market-share perspective to keep going,” Wasser wrote.

He also took aim at the commonly-held belief that it’s “anti-consumer” to have exclusives, reiterating what many have pointed out before: Epic’s client is free to download, as opposed to a subscription-based platform like HBO, Netflix, Hulu, or anything else along those lines. “It’s more like just having to press a button on your remote to change between free TV channels,” he said.

People, he noted, sometimes even go so far as to threaten piracy in reaction to Epic exclusivity shifts. Wasser is not a fan of that approach. “Feeling like you’re owed the product of other people’s work on your terms or else you’ll steal it is the epitome of that word ‘entitlement’ that people use to discuss immature, toxic gamers,” he said.

He closed things out with an attempt at putting it all in perspective, saying that while seeking out reasons to be angry and venting anger is “cathartic and natural,” there are other things in the world that might be “just a tad more worthwhile to be upset about.” He specifically pointed to climate change, human rights abuses, the new Twitter desktop UI, and the last season of Game of Thrones before clarifying—because this is the internet—that the last two things were of course jokes.


“So let’s remember that this is all low-stakes video game stuff we’re dealing with here,” he said. “Nothing to get worked up about.”

Naturally, people commenting on the post have gotten very worked up about it, accusing the Ooblets team of being “condescending,” failing to address the Epic store’s alleged security issues (something Steam has also struggled with over the years) and other admittedly concerning gaffes, and saying they no longer intend to buy the game—not just because it’s on Epic, but because of the tone of the announcement post.


A relative minority of people, however, have piped up to say that they understand where the Ooblets team is coming from.

“Screw folks who get mad here,” one person wrote in response to the announcement. “Get paid, don’t shut down as a studio. You make good games, and the folks that are mad would be madder if you shut down tomorrow. They can handle having to buy from another store.” 

Kotaku senior reporter. Beats: Twitch, streaming, PC gaming. Writing a book about streamers tentatively titled "STREAMERS" to be published by Atria/Simon & Schuster in the future.

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While I support their decision to do what makes sense for their company, especially financially, it felt like their counterarguments were mixed between easy lob shots and fraught fallacies:

1. Yes, Steam took 15 years to get where it is today. That doesn’t mean consumers should be happy with the technology or security of 15 years ago. What does the store offer that’s better than what’s out now? Why is the store valuable to consumers now? Yes, we know developers get a better cut; what about end-users?

2. The low hurdle to the platform (free) is a better argument. It doesn’t answer the increasing mess of determining where we own our games, or of keeping yet another platform active on a computer, but then that’s an industry-wide issue.

3. Yeah, piracy is a bad take. Someone doing something I don’t like doesn’t justify me pirating their game.

4. One can care about both climate change and where they buy their games. This smacks of assigning motives to people who dislike Epic, and suggesting they are too impassioned and don’t care about other issues. That certainly doesn’t fit many people who dislike the platform.

Frankly, I’m tired of being lumped in with a so-called fringe when, on a personal level, I’m just not interested in Epic as a platform, and on a larger level I hold a lot of skepticism about both Steam AND Epic. I appreciate that the developers tried to explain why they did what they did, but they did too much assuming about motive to persuade me to get off the fence and grab their game.