2018 has been an eventful year in the video gaming industry, so far, and I’m not just talking about the games. This period of the eighth console generation might very well go down as an influential one as publishers push back against the industry status quo hoping to change the way consumers engage with their content moving forward. Let’s take a look at the key players and what they’re up to:
Epic Insists on Crossplay
Multiplatform games are nothing new, but Epic Games’ strategy with its sensationally popular Fortnite Battle Royale is something different —it represents a concerted drive from the publisher to make a game that’s playable anywhere and on any device. More than that, Epic has insisted that crossplay become a core pillar of the experience, allowing players on different platforms to compete against each other. And it’s this combination of Epic Games’ intent to achieve that and the game’s popularity that has started to mount pressure on any parties unwilling to accommodate the arrangement —namely, Sony. The unwillingness of the Japanese publisher to play ball has caused an uproar among consumers, even prompting popular streamers to speak out against what many consider to be a move motivated by greed. How much longer that continues is anybody’s guess, but you’d have to imagine publishers that command as much power as Epic Games is sure to influence Sony’s future strategies regarding crossplay. After all, if you can’t play the world’s most popular game versus your friends on PS4, why own the console in the first place?
A Viable Microtransaction Scheme
Microtransactions were a debacle in 2017. They’re still detested by many, of course, but Epic Games’ Battle Pass somehow made the process more palatable. The Pass weaves daily and weekly challenges into the standard gameplay loop, and recently, Fortnite has even seen the introduction of special themed events and minigames. For completing and taking part in these limited time modes, players can earn rewards to spend on their avatar. As a result of this perceived value, it marks one of the few occasions in which consumers seem to willingly accept continued payments for a product that’s otherwise completely free.
The value is certainly there. The Battle Pass is about $10 for a season, or $25 for the Premium version, which enables a set of challenges to unlock outfits and other cosmetics. The Battle Pass also lets you level up faster, and does not impact gameplay whatsoever. There is no pay-to-win mechanic.
After the hoo-hah over loot boxes and microtransactions last year, Epic’s Battle Pass is a breath of fresh air, and they deserve plenty of credit for their innovation. The Pass represents something of a crossover between a conventional microtransaction and a seasonal subscription model. It’s proved such a success that the game’s biggest rival, PUBG, has effectively copied the model with its event pass. And Rocket League, another hugely popular game, is following suit with a Rocket Pass’ of its own.
Encouraging Smaller Developers
Perhaps partly as a result of its newfound fortune, Epic has rather generously altered the creator split for their Unreal Engine Marketplace, a store where designers can sell assets made in the Unreal Engine.
Prior to the change that was announced on July 11, creators earned 70 percent of their profits on sales while Epic took the remaining 30 percent as the host of the Marketplace and supplier of the game engine. Epic changed the creator split to 88/12, seeing almost 90 percent going to creators. Not only did the publisher change how much of the profits sellers on the market would share, they retroactively awarded funds to sellers based on the new percentage system.
While decreasing their share in the profits might cost them money in the short term, the move also encourages more creators to design content to be sold on the Unreal Engine Marketplace. In a year marked by gamer and consumer-friendly decisions, Epic leads by example here.