When you ask most PC gamers why they prefer to get their games on Steam over other platforms, the most notable response happens to be ‘that they already have a sizable library on there’. Steam is the biggest player in the PC walled garden space but what if I told you that may change soon.
Epic Game Store has been gathering ground over the past few years thanks to some pretty draconian tactics and it seems like they’re finally paying off for the platform. When the Epic Game Store first launched it was nothing more than a platform for them to share their games. I had an account on there back then but over time forgot about it because it lacked a big enough hook. That account existed for one simple reason – Access to a free game giveaway for Shadow Complex. Over time I forgot the login info for said account and with it the entire epic platform as a whole.
Years later Epic released a little known game called Fortnite: Save the World. The game was a basic cartoonish tower defence title with no real redeeming features. It never truly was on most players radars – myself included but in 2017 Epic changed that. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) was released on early access for PC and we happened to get a few codes to cover it. We managed to complete a few streams of the buggy mess of a game before abandoning it for greener pasture. Not too long after the very same buggy mess became the most popular game on the PC and with that came a lot of imitators. One of those was Epic’s Fortnite: Battle Royale.
Over time Fortnite cannibalised the online multiplayer market and soon even surpassed it’s inspiration. How it achieved this was through a Free to Play model similar to that of mobile titles. The company offered the massive online survival game to their player base for free while monetizing them with sweet cosmetic niceties. As Fortnite grew, so did Epic’s influence on the market and soon they realized they had a second chance at competing in the walled garden space. A second chance that they’d take full advantage of using the tactics they learnt from their success with Fortnite.
For this to be a success they needed users to make Epic Launcher their main platform of choice and to achieve that they’d need to have some feeling of investment in the platform. How do you build such a sentiment on a platform with a large user base who don’t really purchase games? Yup remember Fortnite was built on a mobile game Free to Play model and the types of players who tend to gravitate to those games are quite frankly kids. Kids usually have very limited budgets and so they’ll play whatever they can get their hands for as little as possible. The least being Free. They also have a sort of herd like mentality, tending to associate with whatever their pairs deem relevant. So if all the Kids like Fortnite then how do you get them to associate to your platform while bringing in even more users?
Simple, you offer more free and cheap offers with the intent for users to build a sizable library on the platform. The quality of what they own being irrelevant, only the numbers matter. So Epic began their exploits and in the process they garnered some bad blood from the mature community and publishers alike. This came about due to some unethical exclusivity deals and sales without publisher knowledge.
Deals like these are great for the platform holder and their communities but terrible for the games themselves. Usually title doesn’t sell as well on the exclusive platform as it would if on all others. More often than not they don’t even recover once the exclusivity expires but those aren’t Epic’s problems. Their goal was to build a feeling of investment towards their platform and so they struck their deals to offer not just exclusives but also games for free or severely discounted. With their massive pool of cash flow provided by Fortnite they were able to giveaway well over 60+ games of varying quality.
This means that most younger users who may not have had access to a Steam account could instead have Epic accounts with well over 70 games. Older gamers in the lower purchasing bracket also make up this demographic. Since they too may not have patronized Steam with their dollars in the past.
Personally I have 66 games on the platform at the time of writing but there are those with even more. Now this doesn’t come close to my whopping more than 500+ game Steam library however I’m an outlier. As a reviewer who receives most of his games for free my numbers are unnaturally not representative of the average PC gamer. Most Steam users don’t have libraries as large as mine. Just looking at my friend-list I was able to extrapolate that the average typical gamer has between 80 to 300 games in their libraries. Many of which aren’t Triple A titles. Epic on the other hand has been making triple A titles like the Metro series, Assassins Creed, Darksiders, and now ever GTA more available for players.
If they continue on this course they’ll soon surpass Steam and in doing so upset the balance in the PC space. Whether Steam will allow this to happen or not is yet to be seen, but so far Epic is on a steady competitive raise that can only mean good things for gamers in the future.