Gearbox Software’s announcement last week that “Borderlands 3” is releasing to PC players with six month exclusivity on the Epic Games Store has sent gamers into a frenzy as their favorite online services are finally facing competition.
While some people brought up valid arguments regarding the Epic Store’s lack of features, a good portion of its detractors seem to hate it just because it’s different.
Steam, the dominant game launcher for PC games, was first introduced in 2002, and it wasn’t until the release of “Half-Life 2” in 2004 that games sold on Steam required an internet connection to validate the game’s legitimacy before playing. Since then, Steam has had a massive influence in online gaming, with most major titles either having titles directly sold through the service or tying their own launchers to Steam’s.
However, for a service with 47 million daily users, it leaves much to be desired. Frequent updates, sluggish performance, poor content curation, and an easily abused review system have put Steam’s long-term viability under constant scrutiny.
On top of this, Steam offers developers one of the worst revenue cuts in the business. Valve, the company that owns Steam, takes 30 percent of a game’s sales up until it reaches $10 million in revenue. Then their take is reduced to 25 percent, finally cut down to 20 percent once $50 million has been reached.
The Epic Store, on the other hand, only takes 12 percent of all purchases made on its platform. Furthermore, Epic – who owns the Unreal Engine 4 (UE4), a toolkit commonly used to develop games – usually takes 5 percent of sales from any game using UE4, but will waive this royalty for all games sold on the Epic Store.
Some have argued that these lower rates are Epic’s way of muscling their way into the distribution business, attracting publishers away from Steam with the offer of more money. And yeah, that’s probably what they’re doing, but it’s completely fine to do so. Developers are making more money with Epic (something everyone should be happy about), and these rates may signal the games industry to bargain for better distributor cuts in the future.
Epic’s rates are obviously much more attractive for publishers and developers, but they come with a non-monetary cost. While Steam has a plethora of useless features that impede a user’s experience more than enhance it, the Epic Games Store has a complete lack of features. There are no user reviews, forums, curation options, friend groups (although there is a friends list), and minor security issues that have people less than happy to try out a new launcher.
Although these complaints are valid, they are not a death sentence for the Epic Store. Games publications and Reddit will always provide more than enough information for curious players, and, considering that Epic only began distributing third-party games this past December, there is still time for them to incorporate in-launcher content. Regarding their security, Epic has an opt-in for two-factor authentication, which is arguably the most secure form of verification digital services can provide a client.
Outside of the software itself, many have taken the limited exclusivity as an attack on their accessibility to “Borderlands 3.” This is not a new industry practice, however, with consoles subjecting some first-party titles to permanent exclusivity for decades. Downloading a launcher to play a game is much more manageable than buying a completely new console, although Steam’s dominance among PC gamers has made even this small step out of their comfort zones seem monumental. Regardless of which launcher is linking you to your friend with the instant kill rocket launcher, “Borderlands 3” will be the same game.
If people took a step back to look at the positives the Epic Store is bringing to the table, this outrage and review-bombing would never have started. The inability to accept change in an industry that constantly does will continue to make sensitive gamers the laughingstock they deserve to be, and the sales figures for “Borderlands 3” this September will definitely show the community how pointless this arguing was.
Isaac Espinosa is a fourth-year electrical engineering major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.