Surprise: Games given away on Epic Store see huge increase in players, says Newzoo

Surprise: Games given away on Epic Store see huge increase in players, says Newzoo

New research from Newzoo confirms that titles that have been given away for free on the Epic Games Store see a "huge spike" in players on PC.

The firm reports that Subnautica went from being played by 0.4 per cent of 'core PC gamers' in November 2018 to 2.9 per cent the following month. That's an increase of 625 per cent. The game saw its largest spike in the Czech Republic, rising from 0.7 per cent to 7.2 per cent month-on-month, with Slovakia coming in second place - 0.6 per cent to 6.1 per cent.

Meanwhile, Slime Rancher saw a similar increase, shooting up from 0.2 per cent in February to 2.1 per cent of core PC players the following month. Again, the biggest leap in core PC gamers playing the title was in the Czech Republic, rising from 0.3 per cent of core PC gamers playing the title to eight per cent month-on-moth.

"On PC, Steam has had a relatively unopposed monopoly on the digital game store market for over a decade now," Newzoo wrote.

"The tail end of 2018, however, saw Valve’s store facing some serious competition, especially from Epic Games, the publisher behind Fortnite. In a bid to get the edge over long-term market leader Steam, Epic leveraged its massive Fortnite audience to attract consumers to its new Epic Game Store, while also offering exclusivity deals and a better revenue split for developers wishing to add their games to the store. Another one of Epic’s key strategies to attract core PC gamers is by offering a new free game every two weeks.

"Timed third-party exclusives are a new phenomenon within the PC store ecosystem. While platform-exclusive titles are common on console, many core PC gamers are not used to third-party (timed) exclusivity deals within the PC ecosystem, with some even boycotting the Epic Game Store. Others have review bombed (submitted poor reviews to) previous releases from publishers who announced Epic Game Store exclusives. Though these strategies have had a mixed reception from players, our data indicates that both players and developers have benefitted from Epic’s free game initiative. Using our PC Game Tracker, we currently track more than 1,000 games in 42 markers, including the games that went free on the Epic Game Store."

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.