There’s no such thing as a free lunch, they said. But they were wrong because Epic Games gives us just that every Thursday when they open up their games vault and throw you a free game to keep forever. Yes, that’s right– to keep forever! Yet many gamers hate Epic Games Store (EGS) for reasons I’ve yet to understand. It’s a bit like going into your local pub, the landlord says that you can have a free drink because it’s Thursday and when you go home you tell your wife and all your friends that you hate the landlord of your local, but you can’t tell them why. Oh, and by the way, it’s completely naff and grammatically incorrect to use ‘hate on‘, as in I’m hating on Epic, so please don’t do it as it annoys me intensely.
Who Is Epic Games?
Epic, founded by Tim Sweeney, is responsible for Fortnite, the most lucrative battle royale video game of all time. In 2019 the game made $1.8 billion ($2.5 billion in 2018) for Epic and it now has over 350 million players worldwide. Although the game is free to play, the money comes from in-game purchases which players seem only too happy to pay for. Epic is also responsible for the Unreal game engine which it licenses out to game developers, not to mention Unreal, Unreal Tournament, and Gears Of War games. It comes as no surprise therefore that EGS would want to muscle in on the digital games market and to that end, the Epic Games Store opened in December 2018 with a handful of exclusive games which required the Epic Game Launcher to run, wherein lies the rub, possibly.
Over its first year in 2019, Epic reported that the Store drew 108 million customers, and brought in over US$680 million in sales, with US$251 million being spent on third-party games. Of those third-party games, 90% of the sales came from the Epic Games Store time-limited exclusives. Overall, Epic stated that overall sales were 60% higher than they had anticipated.
Clearly EGS pitted itself against Steam by only taking 12% revenue from game sales, against Steam’s 30%, later reduced to 25%. But it was the timed exclusives that attracted most of the ire from gamers, particularly Metro Exodus which was initially slated for a Steam release until the developers decided on a timed exclusive with EGS. This resulted in an avalanche of review-bombing for Metro Exodus on Steam simply to get back at EGS for ‘stealing’ the rights.
The Chinese Connection
It’s no secret that the massive Chinese firm Tencent owns 40% of Epic and following a post last year on Reddit, many users became suspicious that their data was being tracked in yet another outbreak of sinophobia. From what I can gather, there’s no evidence to support this claim, yet Epic did in fact adjust their data collection more in line with industry privacy standards in response to the outcry. What isn’t mentioned is the vast amount of hardware that we buy from China that could have implanted chips designed to track our every movement and the likes of the Opera web browser which is Chinese owned and therefore, by definition, must be spying on every single one of its users.
How To Look A Gift Horse In The Mouth
Or to put it another way, how to be a dog in a manger and maintain that position simply because you can and you’re convinced that you’ll feel better for it. Well, I’m not convinced by all the hysteria over EGS and frankly, I see it as entitled millennial snowflakes just blowing smoke up their nether regions and acting like sheep as they normally do. So you have to use a new game launcher for Fortnite and others? Big deal. Sure, it’s irritating to hit play GTA V in the Epic Launcher only to find the crappy Rockstar Game Launcher asking for your login details, but frankly, when you’ve just received a $60 game for absolutely nothing, zilch, nada, it’s not much of a hardship is it? In the north of England, they have an expression, there’s nowt so queer as folk and frankly that couldn’t be more true in this case with people actually complaining that the free game on offer wasn’t good enough. Human nature, eh?
Bring It On, Epic!
Let’s face it, Steam has pretty much had a stranglehold over the digital game distribution market for more than the last decade and some healthy competition is good for everybody– prices come down, more games are sold and everyone benefits. More serious players are now in the market, none more so than GOG who offer DRM-free games is owned by CD Projekt, developers of the Witcher series, and the upcoming and most anticipated game of 2020, Cyberpunk 2077. I mention GOG because, not only are they a serious player in the digital distribution market, but they also developed their own game launcher, GOG Galaxy. Developing a game launcher is a good move and as far as Epic is concerned, a clever way to keep that captive audience, especially when the launcher also doubles as a store. Yes, it’s a pain having to install multiple game launchers– I have at least seven, including Steam, Uplay, Origin, GOG Galaxy, Epic, Rockstar, and Bethesda. Am I concerned? Not in the slightest– log on once and forget it.
But really, I hardly think the hate directed at EGS is justified when you consider how much you’re actually getting in terms of competitive prices and free games. Not only that, but Epic also gives away $10 game coupons on a regular basis. I’ve received several coupons that you can use on games over $14.99 and yesterday I used one on a game priced at $15.74, where in the end I ended up paying $5.74 for a $20 game released only three months ago. The image above illustrates quite nicely how I’ve benefited, especially when you look at all the zeroes in my purchase history.
AAA games for less than $10? Yes, please!