Maria Montero

Steam fights for the future of game stores and …

For more than For 15 years, Steam has been the dominant digital distribution platform for PC video games. While its success has spawned several competitors, including some game publisher online stores, none have made a dent in its grip on the market.

However, it appears that cracks are starting to appear in Steam’s armor, and at least one notable challenger has risen, with potentially larger ones on the horizon. They threaten to make Steam the digital equivalent of GameStop, a once-unquestionable retail giant whose future became questionable when it failed to successfully change over time.

The epic launch of an epic store.

Photo by Neilson Barnard / Getty Images for Ubisoft

Epic Games, in a remarkably short period of time, positioned itself as the successor to Steam. In December, the creator of the trillion dollars. Fortnite The franchise announced that it was entering the gaming retail business with the Epic Games store. Less than two months later, it had struck limited exclusivity deals with two publishers who chose to bypass Steam when releasing their next titles.

The first was Ubisoft, which announced the PC version of Tom Clancy’s Division 2, a highly anticipated action game would be semi-exclusive to the Epic Games store (it will also be available on the Ubisoft digital store). Ubisoft also said that “more select titles” would be coming to the Epic store in the coming months.

“We are giving game developers and publishers the store business model we’ve always wanted as developers,” said Tim Sweeney, founder and CEO of Epic Games. “Ubisoft supports our model and relies on us to deliver a seamless journey for players from pre-purchase to game launch.”

Three weeks later, publisher Deep Silver abruptly discontinued advance sales of its survival game. Metro Exodus on Steam and announced that the game would be available by progressing only through the Epic Games store (previous Steam orders will be honored).

Steam’s past success is hitting new blocks.

To be clear, Steam is hardly struggling. Last October at Melbourne Games Week, Steam announced it had 90 million monthly active users, up from 67 million in 2017. Daily active users, he said, had grown from 33 million to 47 million.

Much of that growth came from China, where players seek to avoid the government offensive in games. However, national numbers have been on a downward trend, according to SteamSpy, a third-party tracking service.

Valve Software, owner of Steam, did not respond to requests for comment on this story. However, he did publish a statement in the Metro Exodus The Steam page shortly after Deep Silver announced its partnership with Epic, said: “We believe the decision to remove the game is unfair to Steam customers, especially after a long period of pre-sale.” We apologize to Steam customers who expected it to be available for sale through the February 15 release date, but only recently were we informed of the decision and given a limited amount of time to let everyone know. “

So what is the giveaway for game makers to sell through the Epic Games store? It is, of course, a combination of factors, but the main one is financial. To convince publishers and developers to use its system, Epic only takes a 12% cut in revenue from game sales. That’s significantly lower than the 30% taken by Valve on Steam (or the amounts taken by Apple or Google in their app stores).

To attract developers who use their Unreal With the graphics engine, Epic also waives all royalty rights for sales generated through the store. (Developers using Unreal in their games they normally pay a 5% royalty on all sales.)

The reason for those remarkably lower fees, perhaps not surprisingly, is linked to Fortnite.

“While running Fortnite we learned a lot about the cost of running a digital store on PC, ”says Sweeney. “The math is simple: we pay about 2.5% for payment processing for all major payment methods, less than 1.5% for CDN. [content delivery network] costs (assuming all games are updated as often as Fortnite), and between 1% and 2% for variable costs of operation and customer support. Because we operate Fortnite on the Epic Games launcher on such a large scale, it has allowed us to build the store, run it cheaply, and pass those savings on to the developers. “

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