A little bit of competition never hurt anyone!
Last week, Metro Exodus developer 4A Games announced that the game’s PC version will be distributed exclusively through the Epic Games Store until 2020. While Valve has stayed silent as other game companies have opted to do the same for different titles, it appears as if this particular game was the one to break the camel’s back. Valve – the multi-billion dollar company that amassed its wealth through creating a near-monopoly in Steam – has issued a statement expressing its dismay at 4A Games’ decision to take its business elsewhere.
“We think the decision to remove the game is unfair to Steam customers, especially after a long pre-sale period,” Valve wrote. “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.”
You’d be forgiven for thinking that the company was writing from the point of view of an underdog store owner trying to garner sympathy from their customers, except for the fact that it is coming from an online game distribution juggernaut that could – and should – have prepared for this event. To be fair, Valve may have only just realised that Steam is not invincible; if that’s the case, it has embodied the level of complacency that plagued Sony during the PlayStation 3’s early years and Nokia following the iPhone’s release.
A head start is only beneficial if you keep running at the same pace, but slow down and your competitors will pass you. Epic Games has demonstrated that it can use its own games’ popularity to change the gaming industry – whether through forcing Sony’s hand regarding PS4 cross-play or increasing revenue sharing via the Epic Games Store – and it appears to be convincing companies such as Ubisoft and now 4A Games that it is ready to go toe-to-toe with Valve.
Epic Games’ Sergey Galyonkin – creator of the wildly popular SteamSpy sales data tool – has noted that the majority of PC Fortnite players do not actively use Steam. Let that sink in for a moment – he’s talking about tens of millions of people who don’t go to Steam first when they want to play a game on PC. These are the players that Valve, and its apparent lack of recent innovation, have failed to capture and will continue to until it does something different again.
Epic Games has Fortnite, cross-play technology, and some neat exclusives; Itch.io and Humble Bundle cater to independent games, Discord and Twitch leverage their social features, and Valve just continues to rely on its market share to keep customers logging in and companies signing sales agreements. Valve, it’s time for you to quit your whining and come up with a new of way of adding value to the market, because we’re all too tired of your complacency to wipe away your tears.
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