Opinion

The PC Launcher Wars Must Come To An End

With a fortune from Fortnite, Epic Games has perhaps let its cash flow go to its head a little...

This madness has to end. One of the things which drew me to PC gaming over consoles back in the mid to late 90s was the freedom of choice. The mods, the tweaking, squeezing slightly better frame rates out of my beloved video games. Choice. Good times.

The PC as a gaming platform is an evergreen land, if you can afford it, where your hardware is always up to date, and where “exclusives” were not a concern; it was on the PC or it wasn’t. Hello Red Dead Redemption.

Sometimes when a game wasn’t available, that didn’t even matter if you were willing to bend the rules a little, thanks to emulation, such is the joy of the platform. We’ll always find a way.

Here we are, in the year 2019, PC gaming is arguably more popular than ever, thanks in no small part to the rising tide of Valves Steam platform and its seasonal sales, offering steep discounts. Other digital distribution platforms have come along, publishers and developers such as EA and Ubisoft fancying a slice of the pie.

In typical EA fashion, if you want to play their games, they’re only on the Origin store, after a certain point in history. Ubisoft have played a little nicer, allowing much of their catalogue to still be available on Steam as well as their own store. Until recently that is, but we’ll get to that.

On my PC, I now have Steam, Uplay, Origin, Gog Galaxy, Twitch Desktop (for freebies), Battle.net (to play Overwatch and Destiny 2), Bethesda.net (to play Fallout 76) and my head is spinning already. Recently I found myself installing the Epic Games Store for more freebies.

Epic’s store will obviously gain features at a rapid pace, thanks to modern software development methodologies, so I have no concerns there, I’m sure it will become an excellent platform in a very short space of time. Many others disagree, justifiably at present; they can’t purchase games in their local currency, play offline, leave reviews or join communities. These features will all come soon enough.

Epic is a business like any other, they know Fortnite will not continue to make them money forever, that’s why they want a cut of video game sales from other publishers on their own distribution platform. What better way to do go about it than undercut the big dog and make some waves in the industry, while you’re at the height of fame already?

Exclusivity hurts gamers

Not content with having one of the most popular games in the world, they’re now investing their new found fortune from Battle Passes and cosmetic sales. By scaling up the content available on their own digital distribution platform, they’re taking on Steam directly, calling out the established 30% cut Valve takes from sales.

Dangling the carrot of a higher percentage of revenue from sales, the difference going straight to the developers/publishers rather than Epic, it appears to be working. Publishers are eating it up, because lets face it, all they’re interested in is money, the developers are generally the altruistic bunch who do it for the art, not the cash.

Yanked from Steam shortly before release, The Division 2 was always going to be available on Uplay as well… but seriously!?

Here’s where the problems start, they’re also ensuring distribution of these games is exclusive to their store for 12 months, even where pre-orders have been taken for months on Steam, such as Metro Exodus and The Division 2.

Those are two high profile video games, making this feel like some serious anti-consumer nonsense.

During the Game Developers Conference, they’ve announced a number of additional titles coming to the Epic Games Store, including one title developed by Obsidian Entertainment, The Outer Worlds. As little as four hours before the announcement, Obsidian were updating the Steam Achievements. They were seemingly unaware of the deal going on behind closed doors with their publisher.

Although they might receive a bigger cut from sales, how many lost sales are they missing out on by players boycotting the game, due to their publishers decision to sign up for 12 months exclusivity on the Epic Games Store? Are Epic offsetting that cost by paying for exclusivity?

I can’t help but wonder what they’re trying to achieve here, short of pissing off what is probably a vocal minority I’m sure, but I consider myself a part of that minority now.

Thanks, but no thanks Epic

I’m tired of installing more software on my PC to play games. Enough!

There are so many features of Steam I miss when I play a game on a different platform. In-Home streaming is chief among those features, with a small child now asleep in the next room from around 7pm, it would suit me more to play PC games on the TV downstairs, with a controller. There’s a whole host of games I can’t do that with, because the Steam overlay just cannot work with them.

I can’t believe I’m writing this, but out of everyone, I think Ubisoft had it right. Build out your own platform, but integrate with Steam and keep your games available there. My free code from a graphics card for The Division was my first foray into Uplay after years of avoiding it. After I realised it wasn’t so bad after all, I bought a whole bunch of Ubisoft titles on Steam and have enjoyed them immensely.

After begrudgingly installing the horror show that is Besthesda.Net, because of my love for Fallout 4, just to play Fallout 76, now with this nonsense… I’m definitely done. It looks like Rage 2 isn’t going to be on Steam, that looked like fun, but screw this, I’m out. I will support the developer by acquiring these games on a frigging console. Oh the irony!

Update (26/03/2019)

A few days after this post was first published, Bethesda tweeted they would be bringing Rage 2, new Wolfenstein, Doom Eternal and Fallout 76 to Steam. Maybe there’s hope after all!?

Are you fed up with having so many different launchers? Are you primarily a console player chuckling from the sidelines? Are there any games you’re missing out on because of where they’re distributed? Lets hear about it in the comments!

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