Saturday, January 21, 2023

The Epic Games Store and the past 4 years


In late 2018 Epic Games launched The Epic Games Store (EGS). While publishers opening their own stores was certainly nothing new with Blizzard, EA, Ubisoft for example all having their own stores, Epic had it sights on competing with Steam in so far as offering developers and publishers to sell their non-Epic related games on their store just as Valve sell non-Valve games. While competition is healthy especially as games, especially the more popular AAA titles aren't cheap, the store was laughable at launch and didn't make much of an impact. It wasn't long however before the Epic Games Store became rather famous - and not for the right reasons. 

The platform was crap, and still is

When you compared it to Steam or GOG, both with years of development naturally any new platform is going to look and inferior by comparison but eventually it gets up to an acceptable standard with a good user experience and all the bells and whistles. That's at least the theory; the reality for the EGS was that development has been slow with features like a shopping cart only added within the last year. Community interaction is absent, so visibility on game performance, issues, workarounds etc. is non existent. 

Additionally reviews aren't implemented at all which means that you have to go off-site to discover if a game would be worth buying. There is also no way to view your library online when logged in via the store. I visit the Epic store page once a week to examine their free game. I have to refresh the page at least once every single time because it never loads on the first try. I visit no other site that has this perpetual behaviour. The Epic Store Launcher app doesn't load things as fast as Steam or GOG either. I'm thinking there's only one developer assigned to both.

Epic offered a greater cut of the profits

Valve takes about 20-30% of all monies made from steam sales depending on how many units are sold. Epic came in and started offering to take just 12% of all revenue. According to CEO Tim Sweeney, this would have the knock on effect of Epic being able to later begin to offer games at lower prices. A cursory check of Steam prices vs Epic's right now will prove that this is horseshit. Who this may benefit to a degree however are indie developers for whom a 30% tithe to Steam may be too steep but then one must take exclusivity into account.

Epic introduced the "Exclusivity" concept to PC gaming

Exclusivity is something that has plagued consoles for years but the PC is one platform, a PC game works on every PC that's specced to run the game (bar technical issuers of course). Epic have made moves to hurt PC gamers by effectively holding games to ransom - the ransom price: You can only buy the game on EGS. Some high-profile publishers like 2K Games and IO Interactive sadly have fallen for this abhorrent anti-consumer practice with Borderlands 3 and Hitman 3 respectively, as have Quantic Dream with their recent PC ports of their PlayStation games (effectively double-dipping exclusivity). All such games have only been exclusive to Epic for a period of 6 months or 1 year. 

Indie developers are also held to ransom but even worse, as they are offered to have their games released on the EGS on the condition they agree to exclusivity! There is absolutely no benefit to the consumer as the games are now tied to an inferior platform and even worse, the consumer has no choice as to where to purchase the game from.

Epic Game Store, Spyware, Tracking, and You! 

This was the title of a Reddit post that embroiled the EGS in serious controversy when users questioned some of the background information Epic Games was collecting and transmitting. The most egregious accusation was that the EGS was sharing data with Tencent, one of Epic's major shareholders and is often mentioned elsewhere in the press as being associated with the Chinese government. While the spyware/malware aspect was later mostly debunked and may have been little more than anti-Chinese sentiment, the damage was done because those with an anti-Epic agenda made well sure it spread.

So there was no Spyware?

Not exactly. There is a function in EGS which collects and stores some of your Steam user data, such as games you own and names of your friends, however this is done when you specifically authorise Epic to do so via the app. In the version that was originally released - the EGS launcher did this BEFORE you specifically authorised it. Tim Sweeney admitted to this, issued an apology and had it promptly fixed. Spyware? No. Data-miner? Not anymore. Dodgy as fuck? Perhaps. 

Epic is dodgy?

Yes, this is an understatement to be fair, especially as seen in recent times where they brazenly breached a contract with Apple, then had the audacity to sue Apple in the attempt to use the courts to negotiate a better deal for selling their games on the Apple and Google app stores! They were unsuccessful and the judges threw 9 of the 10 ridiculous charges made by Epic out.

In December, the FTC fined Epic $520m for violating laws concerning the collecting of data of minors playing Fortnight and subsequently misleading them into making unnecessary purchases within the game. When you combine this with the notion that Epic "say" they don't share data with Tencent (and likely therefore the CCP) it's not actually outside the realm of possibility, and seems sinister.

Look at all the free stuff on Epic isn't it great? 

When you have such a crap platform, the only real way to get people to notice you is to give them free stuff and for many, it's the only reason to even EGS. The Epic Games Store give away free games every week, far more then Steam or GOG combined! Now the overwhelming majority of the free stuff is absolute shit but occasionally you do find a AAA game or something worth playing that you might not have in your collection on any of the other superior platforms. It's free, the only drawback is having to use the godawful Epic Games launcher app.


1. I do think the Epic Store is safe to use and is not Chinese spyware. I do believe however that your usage data of the platform may be used for other purposes. But that's something that you have to accept with everything from Facebook to your fitness app, the EGS is no different in that regard.

2. I do believe Tencent is an extremely "problematic" entity. However they are so ubiquitous now that it's not feasible to avoid products and services with which they have some level of involvement and maintain one's present video-game and/or social media lifestyle without severe disruption.

3. I do not agree with Epic's generally questionable ethics or its heavy-handed anti-consumer business practices, specifically exclusivity in the PC Gaming marketplace. Because of these, the fact you can get Steam games cheaper in many cases and the conclusion that there is not a single advantage for me to do so, I will never actually associate a payment method or make a digital purchase from the EGS and or otherwise promote the use of EGS in any way.

If at some point, Epic begins to offer a worthwhile product and/or alters their business practices significantly, I will revisit my conclusions.

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