The Epic Games Store has a surprising amount of exclusives coming over to their platform that used to be on the default one-stop shop on PC: Steam. And everyone lived happily ever after. Oh wait, actually, it led to Steam users “review-bombing” games like Borderlands 3 and Metro Exodus after they went to the Epic store. The bigger concern here is the whole idea of games that are exclusive to just one platform, and whether our game libraries really belong to us or not.
Epic has faced harsh criticism from Steam users for snatching up games that some of them had already pre-ordered on Steam. Add in the lack of features that Steam users have come to expect, like cloud saves, on top of the already giant game library on Steam, and it’s a lot harder for users to just up and leave one platform for another. I sat down with Kotaku’s Ethan Gach to talk about why the Epic Games Store, and the idea of platform exclusivity, can create issues down the road.
Watch the discussion unfold in the video or read a small excerpt here:
Paul: I think about it the same I think about Spotify or iTunes. Like it’s a thing I use because that’s just where everything is. Or if Netflix has a Netflix Original— I could probably go to the theater and watch it, but I can’t watch Our Planet because it just doesn’t exist anywhere else.
So I’m curious to what the solution is moving forward, especially because everyone is trying to build their walled gardens and we’re just slowly becoming okay with that. And that’s alarming. We talked about it before on a previous episode, about Google Stadia, where once they have exclusives that can only be played on Stadia because they have those beefy machines and their “Cyberdyne neural networks,” how do we move forward? Or is it just hopeless?
Ethan: It’s not like “I just bought a bunch of VHS tapes and now I don’t have a VCR anymore.” It’s “I licensed a bunch of games from Steam or from Epic Games Store, and now all of a sudden, if I don’t like something that they’re doing, my only choice is to just leave all of that behind.” There’s a website where you can check how much money you’ve spent on Steam over your lifetime, and it’s a lot for me, and for a lot of people.
Even Facebook is easy. I can delete my profile, download all of my pictures, and I can get out of there. But with these game services, it’s not like Netflix where they’re just streaming it to you. I’ve invested in this. I have a financial stake here, and if Valve ever goes belly up, and now I can no longer re-download those games— that’s the scarier thing, long term, when you’re creating stores that want to be your one-stop shop.
Paul: I’m curious if there is a solution... [like] a Trent Reznor or Radiohead version of this moving forward, where there is a different platform altogether. One that is transparent. Maybe the pendulum is swinging the other way, where people are becoming aware of what it does to the developer side and the player side, and maybe they can come to an agreement. A goodwill agreement! Is that even possible?
Ethan: I guess I’m going to be pretty pessimistic about this. Similar to the way that Steam started as a tool for Valve to push out updates. It’s weird to think about [BioWare] releasing a game out into the wild like Anthem that requires constant updates and a feedback loop between developers and players, and not having an infrastructure like Steam or Epic Games Store to do all of that.