Steam Winter Sale burned by Fortnite developer Epic’s stunning reveal

Epic Games, best known for its work with the Unreal Engine and a little game called Fortnite, has unveiled its own storefront, offering fans even more choice when it comes to buying games digitally on a PC.

The exact games launching with the service have not yet been revealed, although Epic founder Tim Sweeney told fans to keep an eye out at Thursday’s The Game Awards for announcements. For now, the store is sticking to PC and Mac games, although it won’t be limiting its library just to games created using Unreal Engine, and will also be open to titles created in the competing Unity engine, and others.

After the initial releases, the news is that the new Epic Games store will start working with new developers and additional releases throughout 2019. This is reasonable, as many big outfits will likely wait to see how successful Epic’s approach is before committing themselves to the extra work.

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The timing couldn’t be better as Valve’s Steam store, long viewed as the only viable game in town for digital game sales, has recently attracted controversy for its 30 percent revenue share.

Steam recently announced that it would take a smaller chunk for titles with bigger sales, taking the full 30 percent only on games that have sold under $10m, 25 percent on sales between $10m and $50m and 20 percent on titles that sell more than $50m on the service.

While you likely don’t think about who gets your money when you click buy on a storefront, it’s easy to see why both indie developers and huge publishers could feel slighted by handing over 20-30 percent of their revenue, and the recent changes have brought this conversation back to the fore, with some people clamouring for a decent competitor to reveal itself.

Meanwhile, Epic Games’ new storefront is proposing a different revenue split: 12 percent. This means 88 per cent of sales are going to the publisher or developer, with Epic even waiving their own standard five percent share for games created using the Unreal Engine.

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If you’re unlikely to start developing and selling games, this is probably not exciting news. However, the news of a serious Steam competitor — and with a revenue share this generous it will be a serious Steam competitor — can only be good news for consumers. If Epic’s store is successful, Steam will have to take a look themselves at ways to remain competitive, which could result in better prices or other benefits.

Epic is also reportedly looking at other platforms, such as consoles or phones. How well this tactic will work on platforms like iOS where Apple manufacture the machine and run the App store for it, remains to be seen, but it’s unlikely any of the platform owners are going to want to give up their monopoly.

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In a pre-prepared statement, Sweeney stated: “As a developer ourselves, we have always wanted a platform with great economics that connects us directly with our players. Thanks to the success of Fortnite, we now have this and are ready to share it with other developers.”

Epic’s current launcher will soon become Epic’s store, meaning the millions of PC and Mac players that have installed Epic’s launcher to play Fortnite are a captive audience that’ll be using the new store to continue to snag their Victory Royale’s. Who knows, perhaps they’ll even buy something?

Valve is probably looking at it nervously. Steam made somewhere in the region of $4.3b in 2017 through its game sales. If Epic Games can help themselves to even a small slice of that pie, it could cost Valve plenty.

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