Steam’s reign has the undisputed hub of PC gaming is finally over. While it is still likely to remain the preferred platform of choice for many, it’s clear that Valve’s Steam storefront is no longer going to be left unchallenged.
Where it was once virtually the default client for all PC gaming, skipped only when others offered eye-watering discounts, or on the rare occasion that major publishers opted out of Valve’s service, it’s now facing major competition from a new force of the industry.
The Epic Games Store has burst onto the scene in a major way, appealing to gamers with a number of clever features. A more favorable revenue split with developers, in turn, leads to better pricing for gamers, and there’s also plenty of attractive free game offers, too. But the most notable –and increasingly controversial– factor is the number of exclusive games the Epic Game Store is scooping.
It’s not just smaller scale indie titles. The Epic Games Store is throwing down the glove, and is ready and willing to work out deals to rip away major AAA games away from Steam and making them either timed, or full-blown exclusives.
The news that The Walking Dead: The Final Season would be exclusive to Epic Games perked some ears in the community, but over the last few days and weeks, bombshells have dropped.
The Division 2, Remedy’s Control, Detroit: Become Human, and perhaps most shockingly, The Outer Worlds are all skipping out on Steam either temporarily or permanently. It’s gotten so much attention, a Cyberpunk 2077 developer felt the need to chime in and say that they want their game to be “available to as many gamers as possible on their platform of choice.”
For years now Steam has been on the sidelines of enjoying uncontested dominance over PC gaming while Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo fight for the attention of the console gamer.
While having to choose a platform can be stressful if you can’t afford multiple, it can be argued that console gaming is stronger for it. Each of the big three keep each other sharp through innovating in an effort to attract customers.
For example, if the Xbox One enjoyed the same level of popularity in the United States as the 360 did, would we have Xbox Game Pass? Or if the PSN didn’t start offering free games back during the PS3 era, would Xbox Live and many years later Nintendo eventually do the same? Competition is healthy in this regard.
Right now, especially if you’re a loyal Steam user that likes having all their games in one central place (I know I do), this development might be alarming and/or frustrating. There are a ton of Fallout fans on Steam. Obsidian’s Fallout: New Vegas, and the Fallout series, in general, is very popular among modders on Steam.
Therefore, there were likely lots of Obsidian/Steam fans looking forward to The Outer Worlds in anticipation that it would be the next great single-player western-RPG. So losing it, even if it’s just for a year, to the Epic Games Store is a pretty big blow.
In the console space, it’s just been accepted as reality at this point since forever basically, but for Steam fans, outside missing out on some first-party titles, this is a foreign feeling.
In the short term, it’s definitely going to be annoying for a lot of people, but in the long term competition is always a good thing.
The barrier for entry on PC storefronts is totally different than consoles. It’s just extra work to have to deal with different gaming libraries, but at least it’s not as restrictive as having to purchase a whole new console. An expensive piece of equipment that’s guaranteed to be obsolete one day and cannot be upgraded.
If Epic Games is truly able to become a real threat to Steam, it will force both companies into a duel to outdo each other. That should be a positive for the consumer, as they attempt to make their services more attractive not only to developers and publishers but consumers as well. Neither Valve or Epic want to appear helpless.
We’ll have to see how it plays out throughout the year, but PC gamers should brace themselves to see their gaming landscape become a lot more fragmented than it has ever been. The Outer Worlds probably won’t be the last shocking announcement we’ll see this year.