Epic Games Store: the store that challenged everyone

Jun 18 2019 18 min read

Epic Games Store: the store that challenged everyone ⚡⚡⚡ Esports and gaming news, analytics, reviews on WePlay! The latest news on WePlay!

Someone witnessed a landing in Normandy, someone saw a landing on the Moon, some even managed to get to the Queen concert. In our time, everything is simpler, and we have less large-scale international events. We now observe how two titans of the gaming market clashed in a fierce fight - Epic Games Store vs Steam. Of course, David and Goliath are more suitable in this situation as an analogy.

Only those who live in a bunker don’t know about the situation around Epic Games Store. The multi-million company's new store went against the titan named Steam, which seems to have fallen asleep due to lack of competition.

While one company is trying to understand what is happening, and still doesn't believe that someone dared to challenge it, the other throws money at the monitor and gradually draws the best upcoming releases to the store.

Let's say right away: we won't be riding the hype wave and blacken EGS, there's simply no reason for that. If you look at the situation objectively, you'll notice that no tragedy happened for the users. It is better to talk about the history of the most shocking digital distribution store that has shown itself to the whole world the brightest way in a short time. It's claimed a seat at the table so rudely that it feels exquisite. It all started with someone's weakness.

The Steam kingdom troubles

Let's begin with a somewhat broad perspective. His Majesty Gabe and the Valve team wisely evaluated the gaming market state in 2005. Sales of the physical copies had several problems: 

  • you have to go to the store, 
  • games may not be on the shelf, 
  • you have to install it properly, 
  •   the discs eventually got scratched and became unusable,
  • it's more difficult for the publisher to present their projects, because players may not know about its existence.

At the same time, the Internet speed already allowed to download reasonably large amounts of data.

Gabe was always the smartest leader and knew how to get benefits for the company.

Valve concludes, calculating a couple of divine formulas in its head, that games can be sold simply via the Internet in digital form, and their Steam platform is the best for it. It is no sooner said than done.

Valve offered to become an intermediary between the developers and players, and they agreed. There was one "but": the terms of an agreement said that Gabe's company would take 30% of the revenue for their services. It was a difficult decision for each publisher to give a third of their earnings, but apparently, the situation on the market showed that even this offer could be considered profitable. Reluctantly, the studios gave their games to the Steam "shelves", where players bought them.

The history of such payoffs lasted for many years. Only at the end of 2018, Valve announced new additional options in the revenue distribution. Now the platform takes 25% of its revenue if the game collects more than $10 million. If the project has sold for more than $50 million, the share of the studio rises to 80%. Yes, on the one hand, it is an incentive to make better games, but on the other hand, there is still robbery because of the total monopoly on the market. However, recently, it has been shaken due to the other platforms' development.

Many companies find it more convenient to sell the games on their websites and not paying anyone at all, rather than coming to Gabe and asking for cooperation. Origin, Uplay, Battle.net, GOG and the main character of our story - Epic Games Store, gradually come into the "play". The mention of the latter often causes terrible grimaces of hatred and pain on the faces of all those involved in other platforms.

By the way, our journalist Arseny Kuzminsky wrote an excellent article about other digital distribution platforms. We advise you to read it, so to have a complete picture of what is happening on the game market.

Epic Games brief summary

Gears of War is one of the leading Epic Games franchises, which brought them worldwide fame.

The Epic Games company was founded back in 1989 by programmer Tim Sweeney. The studio released its small games, and later worked as a publisher for some projects from other companies. At this measured pace, E.G. existed until 1998, when their first masterpiece, the Unreal game, "fell out" on the shelves. Yep, the same shooter on their Unreal Engine, which skillfully competed with similar projects from other studios. Subsequently, it became one of the most popular in the world, and most of the projects are made on it.

The company released another masterpiece of its time - Gears of War, on the same engine in 2006. Another good shooter Bulletstorm, which the players still respect, came out in 2010.

The Fortnite game saw the light in 2017. Now, this title is associated with entirely different gameplay, but initially the project was survival in the open world.

By that time, Battle Royale genre gained incredible popularity around the world. Simple but dynamic gameplay - it was a new direction for the game market. Epic Games remained silent, and then they "rolled out" their own Battle Royale. And the game was like the bomb on the quiet field - it became the winner of the 22nd annual D.I.C.E. Awards in the nomination "Online Game of the Year". A free-to-play model with cosmetics monetization is almost a win-win.

In September 2018, Epic Games shared information that nearly 80 million people play Fortnite every month. It's hard to imagine the income from the in-game items and passes with such a "population", but there is the confidence of a vast amount. Especially when you consider that the game has become popular in the USA, where the population solvency is higher than almost anywhere else. As we can see, EGS knows how to make games, and it isn't an upstart in the harsh market of the business sharks. 

Sergey Galyonkin and Steam Spy influence

Sergey Galyonkin is the director of Epic Games Store publishing strategy and one of its frontrunners. He is the director of the store's publishing strategy. The person is so impressive that we have to make a lyrical digression for him. Otherwise, the story will be incomplete.

Sergey worked as journalist, had experience in programming and tried his hand at marketing. After working in companies such as Softclub, 1C-Multimedia, Nival, Galyonkin set out to develop his skills at Wargaming.net, where he became a leading analyst. It was there that he had an idea that gave him a ladder to the very top of his career.

Being an ambitious young man, Sergey decided that the people needed some information about how the sales of the games were going. This would help to debunk myths about some games, especialy if the publisher exaggerated the numbers of copies sold. It had been mostly impossible to check this information, so we had to believe in the word of marketers and studio bosses.

Of course, the collection of such information isn't generous at all, because it is in demand on the market, and therefore it costs a lot of money. The aggregator services that studied the market and offered data already existed, but they didn't work accurately and didn't separate sales by different platforms.

Most likely, this is how Gabe told about the successful sales of Artifact.

Given that Steam has long been the leading platform for selling games on the PC, collecting statistics from its pages would be an essential indicator of the studio developer success. This information is useful for both users and journalists, as well as developers. With its help, you can analyze the market and study the demand.

Using Open Steam API, Galyonkin created the SteamSpy service, which began collecting sales information through the analysis of user libraries. In this case, the developer noted that the data may not always be as accurate as possible, but various publications quickly rated the work of SteamSpy with high marks. Some game studios have confirmed that the site statistics is about correct, and the errors are low.

The SteamSpy service looks like this now, and similar analytics came in handy for EGS in the future

While some companies praised the service and used the data for commercial purposes, others began to ask to remove their games from the tracking system. Allegedly, the developers used the collected information to convince publishers that their project would surely be successful. The desire for confidentiality reached the point that one of the Latin American developers was upset about the high sales of his game appearing on SteamSpy. According to them, such information could be a pretext for robbing their offices.

In the beginning, Sergey regularly fulfilled the studios' requirements, and then returned the remote games to the tracking system. He explained his decision by saying that there is no legal justification for concealing such information since it isn't confidential.

A little later, Valve redid the methods of displaying purchases and added the ability to hide the total time in games and the wishlist. As a result, the accuracy of SteamSpy data has plummeted, and the project is no longer supported.

As you can see, Galyonkin wasn't afraid to go against the rules and do something new. Not everyone likes it, but business is business. Not everyone can stir up the market that is stagnant in its cave rules. After Sergey gained worldwide fame, and also established himself as a competent and resourceful analyst, he was invited to work at Epic Games. And that's when it all started.

Company Establishment

After implementing some successful projects, Epic Games decided that the time to live up to its name has come. The company announces the release of its digital distribution store called Epic Games Store on December 6, 2018. Its main goal was to compete with Steam. People who at least knew a little about the gaming industry giggled sarcastically at first, but the more time passed, the more their jaw dropped.

Earlier, in August 2017, Tim Sweeney stated that Valve's policy of "weaning" 30% of developer revenue isn't entirely fair. According to him, it's possible to get a good profit even if Gabe brainchild would take only 8%. This would have a positive impact on the development of video games.

Epic Games promised developers and publishers 88% of the revenue for the games sold against 70% guaranteed by Valve. To finally gain a foothold in their statements, Epic promised that they wouldn't demand 5% of their income from studios if the game was made on their Unreal Engine and distributed by EGS. The company calculated that the profit would be sufficient, and everyone will be happy.

This announcement has caused mixed opinions from journalists. According to them, this policy could be the first nail in the Steam coffin. 

Almost immediately, several developers and publishers announced plans to collaborate with EGS. By the way, it was about exclusive partnership. The fun began from this moment: it's exciting to watch from the sidelines, if not follow public opinion, which, as always, is one-sided in common.

Tim Sweeney decided to turn the idea of digital sales upside down

As the Epic Games Store director of the publishing strategy, Sergey Galyonkin did what he could best - took the users minds with a competent, technically verified shocking. There is a large company, and there is high-quality financing and, practically, carte blanche for promotion. What to do in this situation? Make the hype, of course!

First, a page of the former PlayStation 3 exclusive, Journey, appears on the EGS pages. Someone had their eyes to twitch nervously. Firstly, the release of an excellent game that won many awards on the PC meant a "new era" in gaming, and secondly, such a bomb was acquired by the Epic platform.

A little later, EG makes another marketing move to attract users: a rude, arrogant, but very useful. It offers all registered users a free game every two weeks. They weren't cheap low-rated projects, but rather good games that are loved by many users. The store developers decided to start the promotion with the Subnautica distribution - an excellent survival game, which has only positive feedback from the players. In total, pages for the following projects were created at the time of the platform opening:

  • Ashen;

  • Darksiders III;

  • Hades;

  • Hello Neighbor: Hide and Seek;

  • Genesis Alpha One;

  • Journey;

  • Maneater;

  • Outer Wilds;

  • Rebel Galaxy Outlaw;

  • Satisfactory;

  • Subnautica (free from December 14 to 17)

  • Super Meat Boy (free from December 28 to January 10)

  • World War Z.

As we can see, the choice was small, the projects were mostly straightforward, but this was only the beginning. The Walking Dead by Telltale, What Remains of Edith Finch joined next to the list.

Users quite calmly "digested" the appearance of these games in the store. As for gifts, the situation has arisen ambiguous. Some began to praise the EGS creators, others, who were not used to freebies, looked suspiciously at Epic with the dumb question: "Well, is it legal?"

Ubisoft was extremely pleased to cooperate with EGS in The Division 2 sales.

Somehow, Epic Games was able to conclude contracts with leading studios. Ubisoft, in particular, thanks to which EGS opened a pre-order for The Division 2. Gradually, the store acquired new features that are inherent in other companies. For example, the opportunity to return the game (there will be an entertaining story that happened recently).

The first part of the Play

On January 28, 2019, the publisher of the Metro game series Deep Silver announced that Metro: Exodus will be the Epic Games Store exclusive. It won't be on other PC-platforms at all. At the same time, no one warned other video game distribution services about such a decision.

And everything will be fine, but up to this point, the game was announced to release on the Steam platform. It wasn't "just announced" - there was the open pre-order. Many users paid honestly earned money for the game, which was withdrawn from the store a few days before the release (the game was released on February 15).

The existed scandal can be called artificial in part. Developers had to justify to the players. They explained that there are good reasons for this decision, and the financial issue isn't the last factor. Also, they promised to the public that those who bought the game on Steam would be able to play it on this platform, and the "exclusivity" itself is just a temporary step. The game will return to the Valve's brainchild "shelves" on February 14, 2020.

By the way, Valve also commented on what happened:

"We think the decision to remove the game is unfair to Steam customers, especially after a long pre-sale period. We apologize to Steam customers that were expecting it to be available for sale through the February 15 release date, but we were only recently informed of the decision and given limited time to let everyone know."

The situation can be assessed as comedic. Nobody took away the opportunity to play the game from gamers, and they were offered to move to another platform. Deep psychological addiction to Steam has become the foundation of unfounded claims to EGS. Many players also argued, "we want to play via Steam because we can get achievements there, and no one needs your game without it." Can you agree that we love high-quality video games, not by that?

One way or another, the Epic Games reputation, with its aggressive policy of capturing the market, was a little shaken. At the GDC 2019 press conference, EGS head Steve Ellison told reporters that their company promises to no longer pull games out of Steam at the last moment.

Already in March 2019, "Epics" published a plan for the platform development, where it becomes known that a lot of Steam content is planned to be realized on their competing platform. Predictable move, which should affect the friendliness of the store to the player.

Spying in all its glory

The market cannot be "moved" without analytics. Therefore, Epic Games Store began to use what Sergey Galyonkin is good at - collecting data. Remember SteamSpy? Those skills were useful.

Information was published on Reddit that the EGS launcher secretly from the user travels through folders on the computer, searches for the directory where Steam is installed and begins to "crawl" in files. There it pulls information about the user's friends, the settings of some games and their list. The data, along with the PC configuration information, is sent to the Epic Games servers. The funny thing about this situation is that there is a point in the privacy policy that every user agreed to when installing the launcher. But not so many players read these text pages in small print.

Epic launcher tried to get into all the processes on the computer in a row, Steam got most of all, of course.

The dissatisfaction of the majority reached such an apogee that Tim Sweeney had to go to public forums and explain that such a system existed long ago and it was created to improve Fortnite functions. CEO of the company also promised that the situation would be corrected soon — so-so explanation, frankly. An unpleasant residue remained in gamers' souls.

Valve, though remained unhappy with such Epic Games Store launcher activity, couldn't help it. According to the law, everything was done correctly.

Another interception of exclusives

After recovering from a series of scandals, Epic Games Store decided to continue to conquer the market and to give "slaps" to Steam. Quantic Dream studio, the author of such masterpieces as Heavy Rain, Beyond: Two Souls and Detroit: Become Human announced that all these games would be ported to PC. And they will be released exclusively for (wait for it…) EGS. At least for the first time. A similar situation came out with The Outer Worlds and the Control game from Remedy.

Heavy Rain, Beyond: Two Souls and Detroit: Become Human on a PC in Epic Store, could you believe this?

It was the next blow to Steam, and it seems that they weren't going to take any action to improve its position in the market.

While Epic Games Store was rolling out the next announcement of exclusives for its store after another, players continued to hate the platform. A few understood why exactly they hated developers for. The phenomenon has become widespread. Borderlands 3 announcement, which will also become exclusive for Epic's brainchild for a year, added fuel to the fire.

Haters' rage was so high that they began to bomb the previous versions of the games that had moved to EGS. This situation first occurred with Metro 2033 and Last Light. Later, the evil trolls tried to attack Borderlands 1 and 2, though Steam managed to repel the attack with the help of a new service for removing suspicious reviews.

Next, users have turned on the game developers. Fans began to threaten the company that made the Satisfactory game, because it also became an exclusive for Epic Games Store. Players have promised that they will pirate the project until it appears in the Steam store.

Take responsibility for your words isn't always a natural step

The promises of Epic Games Store developers aren't always explicit. With all the pros of the store, someone may notice that they don't follow some ambitions. For example, according to unverified information, Sergey Galyonkin previously allegedly claimed during regular YouTube stream that the company fully understands the possibility of bugs on a new platform. In this regard, the service won't take back the games that players might receive as a result of a system error.

The opposite situation occurred: as a result of another bug, the former PS4-exclusive Detroit: Become Human fell on store shelves with a zero price per copy on March 31, 2019.

Source: Twitter

Happy users pounced on the "novelty", adding it to their library. The error lasted only an hour, after which it was eliminated. It looked more amusing that the game was removed from the players' libraries. This situation served as a trigger for another negativity wave towards Epic Games company and its store.

The second part of the Play

Another comical situation occurred when Epic Games Store announced the first sale in its history. After the favorable conditions and prices on their platform for most games, the developers decided to launch another arrow into the Steam knee.

Yes, such actions are regularly held on almost all platforms, but EGS promised to give a discount to everyone who purchases the game more than a specific price. It was seen from the side, as the developers of Epic throw money into the monitor. As always, things didn't go as planned.

The fact is that Epic organized unprecedented discounts without notifying many publishers. As a result, on the very first day of the sale, games began to disappear from the store. First, Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines 2 went, which was sold at a discount of 50%.

Epic Games were surprised by Paradox's decision, but they said they respect it. After that, Oxygen Not Included disappeared from the store, and discounts on Hades and Transistor were removed. Sergey Galyonkin had to enter the case. It turns out that the company was utterly confident that the publishers are aware of the sale and its conditions. Such low prices for games were due to that Epic Games was ready to take on all the costs of discounts, i.e. the publisher received the FULL amount per game. If a user bought a game that cost $10 for $3, then Epic paid extra $7 from its pocket to the publisher.

Meanwhile, throwing money into the monitor continued, both from buyers and EGS. The ridiculously hellish dumping from EGS to Steam attracted users, but how such actions affect the market is not entirely clear.

The current state of affairs

It seems Epic Games Store doesn't even plan to stop its avalanche of the onslaught on competitors. Just recently, it was announced at the E3 2019 conference that the Shenmue 3 upcoming release would be EGS exclusive. Another wave of negativity appeared. The fact is that when the developers raised money for the series revival using Kickstarter, then Steam was specified as the leading release platform.

Shenmue 3 at Epic Games Store, who could doubt

Outraged players began to demand a refund for the donated money from the developers. But they received a polite rejection that there would be no returns.

*  *  *

If you look at the situation objectively, then everything doesn't look as bad as Steam fans imagine. EGS offers good games at a bargain price - all that the average gamer needs to get pleasure in the price or quality ratio.

Yes, there are still no achievements on the platform, but if you buy the game just for the badges and insignificant progress, then what's the point? The modern player has long been turned into a collector who skips the main plot, gameplay, and goes to collect 100 feathers from the tail of a horned duck on a map with an area of a hundred square kilometres.

Installing another launcher also doesn't look a big problem. If we discard laziness, then modern PCs allow you to install hundreds of ones.

The best solution in this situation, in our opinion, is to relax in your chair, continue to get games at tasty prices and discounts and wait for the Steam response, which should come sooner or later. And if not, then what's the difference with which button we launch our favorite game?

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