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Epic Talks Exclusives, Tencent, ‘Metro’ Backlash

Update: Two weeks after this talk, Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney said the company has had another change of heart about nabbing Steam Games and making them exclusive.

After a short talk about the brief history and planned future for Epic Games Store, the people behind the service opened their GDC talk up to a packed room filled with developers.

And those present didn’t hold back.

They asked about how Epic would deal with porn in the store, if investor Tencent had any say in the way things were run at the company, the fallout from “Metro Exodus” move from Steam to an Epic Store exclusive, and whether they would ever create a publicly available “Epic Spy.”

One of the first questions asked was actually about “Unreal Tournament,” which Epic Games essentially mothballed in the wake of “Fortnite’s” rocketing success. But the question was about what investor Tencent had to do with that decision.

Tencent has zero input into our business,” head of Epic Game Store Steve Allison said. “They don’t talk to us. They don’t suggest things. Everything we do is with our team. The final point of conversation is (Epic Games founder and CEO Tim Sweeney) and Tim takes no orders from Tencent. 

“There was a significant investment Tencent made in the company and we like them, but they are not running our business.  We actually compete with them — they run ‘PUBG.'”

Another developer asked about the possibility of Epic Games eventually creating a stat service that could be used to track the popularity of games, estimate sales and see concurrent player numbers. Sergey Galyonkin, director of publishing strategy at Epic Games, created such a service to track Steam data called “Steam Spy.”

“Would you create an Epic Spy,” the developer wanted to know.

“I would love to share as much information as possible,” Galyonkin said. A sentiment echoed by Joe Kreiner, head of business development for the store.

“It’s our intent to share as much information as possible with developers,” he said.

But Allison said that Epic “can’t create Epic Spy.”

Finally, a developer asked about Epic Games Store’s decision to lock major games into exclusivity deals when they publish on the store and if that would continue “forever.” The developer also asked about the backlash Epic saw when it announced that “Metro Exodus,” which had been on sale on competitor Steam,” was pulled from that store and moved to the Epic Game Store.

Both Allison and Kreiner said that the company expected some pushback from the community but was caught off guard how bad it got. They also said it a misstep.

“We will definitely avoid that in the future,” Kreiner said. 

In terms of Epic Games Store exclusives, Allison said he doesn’t think the company plans to do that “forever.”

“We will probably do it for awhile,” he said. “It’s about pushing the business model and helping (developers) thrive. But at some point, the industry will move down and match us (in terms of Epic’s 12% cut of sales.) At some point we could go to zero exclusives or very, very few. We definitely won’t be doing it at the scale we’re doing it now.”

Galyonkin noted that it’s likely that the industry will eventually start to match Epic Game’s 12% cut. There was a time, he pointed out, when Steam’s 30% cut was “extremely beneficial.”

“The other option was going to retail where they were charging 50% and you had to manage inventory,” he said. “So through retail, you got maybe 15%

“Now that we’re seeing costs are coming down it’s possible to operate a store with a smaller margin.”

 

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