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SteamSpy Creator Talks About Epic Games Store’s Place In PC Gaming

Want to find out if the new PC game distribution store from Epic Games is worth jumping ship to? Well, why not hear it from Sergey Galyonkin, the guy who created SteamSpy and is now on-board the good ship Epic Games as Director of Publishing Strategy?

According to a recent game podcast episode from KDI Cast (via ResetEra user daxy), perhaps the Epic Games store should not be getting too much flak seeing as its competitor Steam isn’t really as “developer-influenced” as one would think.

Let’s break it down.

Steam isn’t quite the institution in PC gaming as one would think

After all, half of Fortnite players (which exceeded 200 million last we checked) have Steam installed, but 60% of that number do not actively use it.

To hammer that point across, Hello Neighbor creator TinyBuild stated that Steam made up the smallest share of its game. Most of their sales came directly from their website. When they were giving out Steam keys of their game, they were bombarded with questions on what to do with them, which means that the game isn’t targeting the correct demographic within Steam.

Hence, they jump on-board the Epic train for visibility and relevance purposes.

Discovering games on the Epic Game Store is a little more traditional(?)

Galyonkin said on the show that discovery on the EGS will primarily take place outside of the store. He draws parallels to a book store or movie theatre. You usually know what you’re going to buy or attend before going there rather than looking through what’s available to make your decision. New and featured releases will be shown on the storefront.

The EGS’s front page will not focus on algorithm-based discovery like Valve. The primary way of “discovering” games will be through influencers– developers giving out copies of their game to influencers through the EGS and, in return, influencers giving visibility to these games in some capacity. This is basically their analog to Steam’s curators.

There’s a more organic developer-influencer dynamic in the store’s back-end

Basically, developers on EGSS provide influencers with referral links to their games, which gives content creators and the like the possibility to earn a share of the game’s sale if it is bought through them.

Here’s the kicker. Epic has stated on its blog that “[to] jumpstart the creator economy, Epic will cover the first 5% of creator revenue-sharing for the first 24 months.” This is dealing with the store’s launch, not a particular game’s launch, which means that in 2021, if developers want their game to gain visibility, they will be losing a share of their cut for a subset of sales.

Galyonkin expects market standards to develop and the rate will settle for certain types of games. He gives the example of a 20% cut being used by indies, while larger publisher-backed games might go for something like 5%. While this will not likely account for the lion’s share of a game’s sales, Galyonkin expected that comparatively smaller independent developers would allow a larger cut of their per-game revenue.

If we’re to assume that by 2021 the rate for indies will indeed settle at around 20%, the percentage margin per unit that they get would be 68% — lower than Steam even. Does this mean that EGS will encourage more referral linkage action with influencers and even play fair with journalists and press? Perhaps; Galyonkin did mention that as  long as applicants for codes from devs are honest, the Support-A-Creator program will give creators and journos their dues.

Customer reviews will be scrutinized further

The major difference between this platform and Steam in terms of customer reviews? The prevention of review-bombing. Galyonkin talks about some of the solutions to review bombing that Epic has been looking into.

One of these is a pop-up message asking a player to review a game after having closed it; the idea is that only a certain subset of players will then get to review it, and it isn’t something everyone can do at any time. Another option he mentioned was only allowing or displaying the reviews of people who have recently played the game. Or using a numerical system instead of the like/dislike approach (of Steam), an algorithm then monitors review scores, and extremes are removed to normalize the (final) score.

Epic Games is currently still figuring out how to best approach it. For now, however, developers will not be able to directly moderate reviews. Similar to Steam, if there’s some issue with a review, a developer can flag it for evaluation by Epic.

The EGS interface will be consumer-friendly…

…eventually. Epic Games know that its current interface is for developers at the moment. They’ll get around to fixing it eventually with a new client, a new look, cloud save features (around February), and an achievements system (by the end of 2019).

EGS is open to a self-publishing model

This may be a big one for indies all around the world. Galyonkin states that the 12% cut that the EGS gets for their services is not planned to be raised over time. It might get lower, however, if they will be able to eventually cut a better deal with payment processing companies.

In about five to six years’ time, he expects to achieve 50% of Steam’s userbase. However, he doesn’t know yet roughly how many Fortnite players will convert to buyers of other games, as it’s too early to tell.

Here’s another kicker: EGS will not have massive game sales like Steam. The reason? Such events effectively kill off sales for games that don’t participate in them as well as for new games that launch right before that event. Instead, games on sale will be featured alongside non-sale games.

The EGS will try to give developers as much info on players as is “legally possible” – more than on Steam. Galyonkin says that you’ll be able to see what other games they play and what genres they like. Partners can disclose their own sales data, but Epic isn’t allowed to. Additionally, in certain instances, developers will be able to see what domains people came from to find their store page and find out whether that converted into a sale or not.

Long Story Short….

  • The EGS’s audience and target market are clearly different from Steam. EGS is tailored more for the hardcore who want to look for more curios and exclusive PC games outside of their comfort zone, while Steam is “E” for everyone. That’s not derogatory for the latter; different strokes for different folks, right?
  • The influencers getting a cut of the sales can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, game media folks and personalities can help out indie devs and publishers get a not-so-well-known game across. On the other, influencers can always project fun to trick people into playing a possibly-mediocre title for their gain.
  • Oh, and in case you aren’t convinced about EGS’ possible dominance in the PC distribution space? Galyonkin said to expect more console-only ports to come onto the platform in the future. So what’s next after Journey?

 

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