Metro Exodus has become the latest game to launch exclusively on the Epic Games Store, following The Division 2 and TellTales’s ill-fated The Walking Dead: Final Season onto the platform, which was released in December 2018.
Whilst those who pre-purchased Metro Exodus on Steam will still be able to download it from the platform, the move comes with a bonus for consumers — at least those based in the U.S. — in the form of a $10 price drop. There is not yet any indication that this will apply elsewhere.
Presumably, this price drop has been ushered in by Epic’s more generous terms and conditions for developers. Where Steam give 70% of profit to developers and publishers, Epic give a significantly higher 88%.
And, for the first time, Valve, the owners of Steam have responded, writing: “We think the decision to remove the game is unfair to Steam customers, especially after a long pre-sale period. We apologise to Steam customers that were expecting it to be available for sale through the February 15th release date, but we were only recently informed of the decision and given limited time to let everyone know.”
Whilst Steam may be unhappy that another major title has spurned them, the launch of the Epic Games Store was preceded by (or perhaps even precipitated by) a series of ongoing complaints about Steam, in particular Valve’s apathy regarding the platform.
Concerns were raised in 2017 when a perception arose that the storefront was becoming oversaturated. Indeed, a staggering 7672 games were released that year, a number accounting for 40% of Steam’s total library at that point.
These concerns around Valve’s curation – done almost exclusively through algorithms – have only continued to grow. Steam GreenLight attracted plenty of criticism, seeing the amount of games released in a week from 5 to 70, and was criticised for its role in allowing an influx of games based on memes, cheap publicity stunts and clickbait onto the store.
Valve’s decision to scrap Greenlight and replace it with Steam Direct has seen this worsen, with a reported average of 180 weekly releases in mid 2018 and almost no curation whatsoever.
Finally, Valve announced in June 2018 that they planned to “allow everything” onto Steam that wasn’t illegal or “straight up trolling.” Steam has continued to occasionally dip its toes in to remove games that sparked mass controversy (such Active Shooter, which saw you play as a school shooter), but has generally opened its gates to every developer willing to pay its modest entrance fee.
The perceived problem here is not in allowing game designers easier access to the world’s biggest PC platform, but that many lovingly crafted indies were getting buried under mounds of cynical, exploitative games, and that, for consumers, the steam store was becoming exceedingly unwieldy as a discovery tool.
In light of this, Epic’s admittedly aggressive move into the PC platform market seems a fairly calculated move, especially as Fortnite’s timely success has given them the financial muscle to undercut Steam’s margins. Indeed, for a platform that has not yet been active for 2 months, it is making impressive inroads into a market long monopolised by Steam.
Whilst it may be irksome for consumers to divide their games across two platforms, it is worth noting that, as in most areas of business, legitimate competition is usually a healthy thing that drives standards up and prices down.
Metro Exodus will release on PC, Xbox One and PS4 on the 15th of February.