Uh-oh, Tim Sweeney’s been tweeting again, and this time he’s really stirring the pot by declaring Epic would stop signing new exclusives if Steam “committed to a permanent 88 per cent revenue share for all developers and publishers without major strings attached”.
In the (unlikely) event of this actually happening, Sweeney says Epic would even consider putting its own games on the Steam store.
“Such a move would be a glorious moment in the history of PC gaming, and would have a sweeping impact on other platforms for generations to come,” Sweeney enthused.
If Steam committed to a permanent 88% revenue share for all developers and publishers without major strings attached, Epic would hastily organize a retreat from exclusives (while honoring our partner commitments) and consider putting our own games on Steam.
— Tim Sweeney (@TimSweeneyEpic) April 25, 2019
The 88 per cent figure is the current amount the Epic Games Store gives to developers and publishers, with the store itself taking the remaining 12 per cent of the revenue. Steam currently offers developers a tiered revenue split, the lowest being a 70 per cent share for games selling under $10m. Titles that hit the $10m mark get a 75/25 split, while the really big blockbusters that sell over $50m allow developers to keep 80 per cent of the revenue.
As Sweeney explained in later tweets, “no major strings attached” means “games can use any online systems like friends and accounts they choose, games are free to interoperate across platforms and stores” and “the store doesn’t tax revenue on other stores or platforms”, such as playing Fortnite on both PC and iOS. Bonus points go to being able to “play the game on multiple platforms” with “stuff you’ve bought [being] available everywhere” with “no onerous certification requirements”.
“Essentially, the spirit of an open platform where the store is just a place to find games and pay for stuff,” Sweeney added.
This isn’t the first time Epic has suggested eventually ending its exclusivity policy: at this year’s GDC Epic Games Store chief Steve Allison said the company “will at some point go to zero or very, very few exclusives per year”. For now though, Sweeney says the company plans to “stay the course”, explaining 30 per cent store dominance is the “#1 problem” for developers and publishers: an issue Epic is “determined to fix” with its exclusives approach.
It’s unlikely Steam will call Sweeney’s bluff on the 88 per cent offer, which seems more like an attempt to re-build goodwill towards the Epic Games Store. Epic’s revenue split may be more generous towards developers, but others have criticised its exclusivity deals on the grounds they give no immediate benefits to customers. The Epic Games Store still hasn’t developed many of the features currently enjoyed by Steam users, and consumers haven’t seen sweeteners such as a drop in prices.
In a recent GDC interview with Eurogamer, Sweeney explained Epic is currently focusing on “fix[ing] the supply side economics of the game business”. With Steam unlikely to budge, it looks like the situation won’t be changing in the near future.