Last night, Epic Games boss Tim Sweeney tweeted that his company would end its controversial exclusivity agreements if Steam raised its revenue cut for developers. It’s a strong statement, even if there are reasons to be skeptical of Sweeney’s position.
“If Steam committed to a permanent 88% revenue share for all developers and publishers without major strings attached,” Sweeney wrote, “Epic would hastily organize a retreat from exclusives (while honoring our partner commitments) and consider putting our own games on Steam.”
Since the Epic Game Store launched in December, the company behind Fortnite and the Unreal Engine has struck several exclusivity deals with high-profile games like Borderlands 3 and The Division 2, preventing those games from appearing on Steam. The practice has been contentious, drawing a lot of ire from PC gamers, especially considering the Epic Game Store lacks many of the features that make Steam so enticing for players. For developers, however, being on the Epic Store is a boon, as it gives 88% of revenue earned from games to the people who make them. PC megalith Steam, on the other hand, gives developers between 70-80% depending on sales.
Yup, exclusivity deals are a great way to differentiate yourself from the competition. No one is forcing anyone to go with the Epic store, if they don’t like it. But there is a clear victor in monopoly breaking: the developers. And happier developers should lead to better products, so eventually the customer will win too. And with any luck, the Steam game player will be a different kind of player than the Epic game player, which means that the stores will have different popularity scores, leading to more diversity and recognition of different products in the gaming ecosphere. Again, the customer wins.