The Epic Games Store is gaining momentum with PC developers. But even with its popularity (due to its 88 percent revenue share model), some still have questions about how Epic Games plans to stay competitive against Steam and whether it’ll expand into other markets.
At the 2019 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco last week, the company hosted a Q&A session to address those concerns, as well as to talk to the community about the state of the store. Currently, the Epic Games Store has 85 million players, with each person owning an average of three games (though Epic said that’s partly because of all the free games it’s been giving away). Over 55,000 influencers are part of its Support-A-Creator program, where video creators and streamers get paid for convincing viewers to download games in the store.
Director of publishing strategy Sergey Galyonkin said that while it varies from game to game, up to 25 percent of sales are coming directly from these influencers and their audiences. But he believes that number will dramatically increase as they add more games and improve the store and its tools. Epic is also working on adding user reviews (developers can choose whether to opt-in or not), modding support, and cloud saves. A full roadmap can be found on its public Trello board.
Handling mature games
Toward the end of his short presentation, Galyonkin promised developers that the store will open up to more games by the end of 2019 (currently, Epic sets up each game manually). But he also echoed CEO Tim Sweeney’s comments from earlier in the week, when Sweeney told PC Gamer that the Epic Games Store will never sell “porn games or bloatware or asset flips.”
“We do not intend to sell porn or hate games on the store. But other than that, we do not intend to censor your titles. We will not judge them on the artistic merits, just on the quality merits,” said Galyonkin.
The topic of curation came up again later in the Q&A portion, when someone asked the team whether they’d consider selling visual novels — which Valve has also struggled with — in the future. Galyonkin said that as long as these games have the equivalent of the ESRB’s “Mature” rating, then it’s OK, but that anything higher than that (such as the rarely used “Adults Only” rating) is a no. However, head of Epic Games Store Steve Allison offered a more nuanced statement.
“If we’re in the business of [selling] visual novels at the Epic Games Store — it could happen. … If they don’t have a rating that we can reflect on, that they went through a process on, then we’ll have to make subjective judgments on stuff like that,” Allison said.
As it stands, Epic’s policy is much more direct and explicit than Valve’s approach to curation. In the past, Steam has been roundly criticized for allowing hateful and despicable content on its digital distribution service.
China and the perceived threat of Tencent
One person asked the panel why the Epic Games Store isn’t available in China yet. While the gaming industry there is worth $30 billion, the Chinese government is incredibly strict about what kind of games — especially games from foreign developers — can be legally sold in the country. Allison alluded to those challenges in his answer, adding that Epic’s office in China makes it a more precarious situation for them.
“That’s a complicated question. … The way our competitor operates offshore is not legal in China, and they don’t have an office in China. We have employees there, so we are very sensitive to what is legal and what is is not — more for the benefit and safety of our staff. We just don’t want to take any risks that can put them in any legal fire,” said Allison.