For years, the PC gaming market has been dominated by Valve’s Steam. All games, from indie to AAA, have been forced to release their titles through this service in order to meet an audience. There are a few exceptions, such as Ubisoft’s Uplay and EA’s Origin, however, each one can place their titles into the Steam service. Now, more and more companies have begun to create their own marketplaces, but the one that is making their presence best known is the Epic Games Store. Many PC gamers have been highly critical of the marketplace, yet most of it is unwarranted and comes off as mere speculation. This is a great thing to happen to PC gaming, as it allows for more competition and better support for developers. Epic’s service may not be the better platform for accessibility, but it will force Steam to respond and start innovating to make their platform better than before.

The Controversy

So, what’s all the fuss about? Epic Games launched its own marketplace in December of 2018 to many’s shock and surprise. Some wondered if this could go head-to-head with the conglomerate Steam or if it will merely be just another offering to choose from. Quickly, the service proved that it was going to be a major competitor. This, though, did not go over so well with the PC community. Gamers have been quick to lash out at the publisher and claimed numerous false statements such as this being unfair competition and even Chinese spyware. These may be outrageous but they still resonate with many and have caused large amounts of negative opinions online.

First, these are just rumors and wild claims that hold no merit. The Epic Games Store is not Chinese spyware trying to steal gamers’ personal data. Just thinking this is incredibly ignorant and incorrect. Since Tencent, a Chinese-based company, has a 40% stake in Epic Games, claims that they are forcing Epic Games’ hand into doing something they don’t want to do have arisen. The head of Epic Games has even come out to debunk this and stated they have “zero input” into their business. This is just an illogical argument that attempts to scare away users.

The more pressing issue that has bothered gamers is the potential for this to be spyware. A Reddit thread titled “Epic Game Store, Spyware, Tracking, and You!” brought attention to a few concerns. Primarily, the store creates a file named “tracking.js” on user’s computers, yet the vice-president of Epic’s engineering stated that this is merely to track the revenue that is shared between content creators and game assets. Another factor is that the client makes a local copy of Steam data without permission. CEO Tim Sweeney has noted this and stated they will fix this issue but that it’s only sent to Epic if a Steam friends list is imported. He later said,

“In analyzing the results, it’s important to distinguish the normal from the abnormal […] and to separate technical analysis from inflammatory rhetoric, such as the insane claim that we’re a bunch of Chinese spies.”

What is something more important to note are the other companies/properties Tencent has a stake in, which are PlayerUnknown’s BattlegroundsLeague of Legends, Clash Royale, Discord, Ubisoft, Activision-Blizzard, and many more. So, why would the Epic Games Store be their attempt at attacking user data, when it could have been done much earlier? This is such a flawed way of thinking and holds no merit. The Epic Games Store is not an elaborate scheme to steal personal data nor is it a foregign invasion. All of the concerns have been amplified to levels of hypocrisy and to take away from Epic’s chance at being a true competitor, but being a worthy competitor is a good thing, especially for PC gaming.

Competition is Good

Controversy aside, having someone willing to challenge Valve’s tight grasp on the marketplace is a fantastic thing. Competition drives each involved to make a vastly better product than it would if it had a monopoly. What would Nintendo be without Sega, PlayStation without Microsoft, or even Call of Duty without Battlefield? These drove each other to add new features and upgrades to make their products more appealing to a wider audience. Valve’s Steam and Epic’s Game Store are just the newest to come to fruition.

In order to have a chance, Epic did a few things to stand out. They announced that every two weeks, free games would be offered to all users, similar to Xbox’s Games with Gold or even Twitch Prime’s monthly lineup. These titles have included What Remains of Edith Finch, The Jackbox Party Pack, Super Meat Boy, and many more. Even with this though, there isn’t much to keep users invested because of Steam’s better UI.

Steam is still a superior product, thanks to years of innovation and tweaking. Epic Games simply does not have the same features to be a stronger option, at least as of right now. For instance, Steam can save progress in the cloud, multiple profiles can be created, accounts shared with friends and family, streaming to different devices, and users could write their own reviews and participate in dedicated forums. Yet, even with this, Epic is still able to stay afloat. How though?

Developers Deserve Better

What makes Epic truly standout is with its acquisitions of timed-exclusives. Major titles such as Metro Exodus, Super Meat Boy Forever, Outer Worlds, and now Borderlands 3 have decided to become available exclusively on the Epic Games Store for a year. Developers have put their trust in a new platform for some major releases and for good reason. The main issue for devs is that Steam takes a 30 percent revenue cut from them just to sell their game on the platform whereas Epic takes a mere 12 percent. On top of this, Epic has also been offering deals to secure these big budget releases as exclusives. It’s a bold move that has been met with a hostile response.

Gamers are not very fond of this recent development and have thrashed the company online for this along with the previously mentioned “Chinese spyware” take. Steam users have begun to “review bomb” other titles from a developer over news that their next game won’t be offered on the platform, most recently with Borderlands 2. Doing this merely adds to why Epic is more appealing to devs and does not show why the company should listen to disgruntled fans when they choose to act in a childish manner.

Valve has also recently come out and stated their thoughts on game’s switching from being available on Steam to solely being on Epic’s service:

“We think the decision to remove [Metro Exodus] is unfair to Steam customers, especially after a long pre-sale period. We apologize to Steam customers that were expecting it to be available for sale through the February 15th release date, but we were only recently informed of the decision and given limited time to let everyone know.”

This statement alone shows that they do not care to change up their practice of taking an unnecessarily large cut from developers. It also showcases that their community is just in responding how they have been.

Another aspect of this is that many have been quick to claim this as an act of being anti-consumer by taking away choices and thus against Capitalism. Even notable members of the community have shared similar sentiments, such as Youtuber Boogie2988. Firstly, those that are claiming that it hurts Capitalism obviously don’t know what they’re talking about but I must ask though, how is this anti-consumer? Simply because you have to download another client rather than having everything in one spot? It would be nice to have everything in one spot but all platforms have their own marketplaces. Console gamers have to buy entire new systems just to play an exclusive game they may like. That’s hundreds of dollars compared to PC users only having to download a free piece of software that can easily be clicked in and out of. Why all the moaning and groaning over this? This is far from anti-consumer and is actually better for the consumer since it’ll force Steam to change their ways or fall to a new competitor.

Epic Games Store

Gamers upset over Epic Games Store receiving exclusive timed releases need to understand that, A) these are only in place for a year and will arrive at a later date, and B) this is what competition looks like. If Steam had a monopoly over the PC marketplace, then it would turn into what cable and electric companies do with nobody in the way. They could make ill-advised decisions or payment increases since there isn’t anyone there to stop them, much like what they have done to developers for years. The only difference there was that it was only hurting their wallets and not yours. More choices help to deter this from being a regular practice. The Epic Games Store isn’t a meticulously planned Chinese takeover to steal your private data nor is it a threat to US Capitalism. It’s just another option that can help the PC marketplace grow and become a healthier environment for all. Not only does it make this area in gaming thrive, but it also lets developers make more money to fund bigger and better titles that we all would love to play. In the end, isn’t that what we all want to see?

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Executive Editor

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