The PC Store Wars have been in a Cold War, pretty much ever since Valve launched Half-Life 2 with the requirement that users ran it through Steam. The Humble Bundle, GoG and more recently, Discord offer their own alternatives with distinct twists. Meanwhile EA, Ubisoft and Blizzard have stores primarily to promote their first party games.
They have all been efforts to break the monopoly of Steam, though without any obvious impact on Valve’s money-making machine. Most of Valve’s problems around their storefront have been self-inflicted PR gaffes.
I talked about their regular problems around Steam back in June, though my prophecy for what the future would hold was, with the benefit of hindsight, not quite how things have played out:
I don’t know what the best way forward is for Valve, but I feel that the European Commission investigation will go a long way to determining how they manage Steam in Europe in the future.
I also pondered about whether Valve would be wise to consider splitting the storefront away from their product development business. While this hasn’t happened yet, in December they made some changes to how they split revenues with developers selling on their platform.
Rather than making an across the board change to their splits, they introduced a tiered system. While allowing developers with over $10million of revenue on the platform the opportunity moving forward to retain a greater share of their sales, is undeniably good for the big boys, it left indie developers less than enthused.
It was another example of Valve shooting themselves in the foot. Their efforts to try and ensure large developers, especially a company like Ubisoft who already have their own store, selling through Steam were perhaps a bit desperate. But to not offer indies the same benefits was yet another of those PR blunders.
What happened just a few days after Valve made their announcement shows it in a darker light. Epic, you know, those guys behind that little Fortnite game, came along and announced their own store, taking aim square at Valve.
A flat, across the board revenue split of 88/12 shows how meagre Valve’s offerings are. The make no bones that the great financial success of Fortnite has allowed them to be so bold with their decision. It’s already one that is having far reaching implications with Ubisoft planning to release The Division 2 on Uplay and the new Epic store, while Metro Exodus will be available exclusively from Epic.
What had been a cold war that was starting to slowly warm up has suddenly exploded into life. What comes next? We’ll take a look soon.