Interviews & Opinion

ANALYSIS: What impact has the Epic Games Store had in its first year?

ANALYSIS: What impact has the Epic Games Store had in its first year?

It's been twelve months since Epic announced and launched its own storefront and during this time, the Fortnite maker has had an undeniable impact on the PC market.

The years preceding Tim Sweeney's (pictured) company setting up shop were marked by a growing dissatisfaction with Steam. For all intents and purposes, Valve's platform was a monopoly and so dominant that it was more or less synonymous with PC games as a whole.

Epic's entry into the space has disrupted the market in some very interesting ways. There has always been competition to Steam, such as CD Projekt's, but Valve hasn't faced competition with such deep pockets and so much cash to splash.

The Fortnite firm's 88 per cent revenue share was far more generous that Steam's 70:30 split, with research from GDC earlier this year saying that Valve wasn't doing enough to earn its cut of game sales. Epic made developers being compensated a real part of the conversation and has forced its biggest rival to try and win back its industry audience.

As well as a competitive revenue share, Epic's other big gambit for its storefront was snapping up exclusive titles. There's no denying that this has alienated some gamers, with customers who had pre-ordered Metro Exodus on Steam being annoyed that the title was coming to the Epic Game Store, something that was also true for PC backers of the eagerly-awaited Shenmue III.

But this has also seems to have resulted in healthy sales for the titles that have decided to go with the Fortnite firm. At GDC this year, Epic revealed that Metro Exodus had sold 2.5 times as many copies on the Epic Games Store as its predecessor, Last Light, did on Steam during the same time frame.

The platform is also doing a good job of looking after the companies it wants to bring on board. In bringing titles exclusively to the Epic Games Store, the firm is handing out minimum guarantees on sales. This means that developers and publishers don't need to worry about how their project is going to do and at a time when it is harder and harder to actually get noticed and have success in the games market, especially on PC, this is some meaningful support for creators.

Epic paid out .5m to Italian games firm Digital Bros for the exclusivity of Remedy's Control

Epic reportedly paid out $10.5m to Italy's Digital Bros for exclusivity on Remedy's Control in addition to looking after developers such as Ooblets maker, Glumberland. That last studio took a beating from the games community for going exclusively with Epic, something that Epic boss Sweeney condemned, but ultimately you have to consider why they are doing this. As Sweeney has said, these decisions are down to the publishers and developers.

All of this isn't to say that the Epic Game Store has had a perfect 12 months. It hasn't, and it has received a deal of valid criticism over missing or delayed features - in addition to a lot of bizarre and unfounded claims such as being Chinese spyware due to the firm's ties to Tencent. 

But ultimately the Fortnite company has helped move the conversation on in the PC games space. While Valve dodged questioning from about the competition that Epic represented at Devcom this year, it's hardly a coincidence that the Steam firm has made some huge changes to its platform this year.

New features are being tested via Steam Labs, with many of these addressing discoverability on the platform which was one of the main criticisms Valve's storefront had received. The firm has changed its Library and introduced a new Events system in recognition of how games have moved from single releases to longer-term services.

In one year, the threat of Epic has forced Steam to change a huge deal. And the Fortnite maker is likely only just getting started. It has insane amounts of cash at its disposal, even with its battle royale behemoth waning in popularity, so can continue throwing money at its storefront for the time being.

Then there's the small matter of its audience. Last December, Epic revealed that 250m people had made accounts to play Fortnite meaning that the company likely has the billing information of a huge number of players. Once Epic has that, suddenly there is less friction to buying on its storefront. And the Fortnite audience is younger than that of Steam. Epic has likely successfully locked down a massive slice of the games audience before they got to sign up to Valve's platform.

So while Epic has had, by all accounts, a pretty good first year, it's looking likely that the Fortnite maker is just getting started.

PCGamesInsider Contributing Editor

Alex Calvin is a freelance journalist who writes about the business of games. He started out at UK trade paper MCV in 2013 and left as deputy editor over three years later. In June 2017, he joined Steel Media as the editor for new site In October 2019 he left this full-time position at the company but still contributes to the site on a daily basis. He has also written for, VGC, Games London, The Observer/Guardian and Esquire UK.