The Epic Games Store won't always push for exclusives 'at this scale'

At GDC 2019, Epic discussed planned improvements for its rookie game store, including cloud saves, user reviews, and scaling back its exclusives program.

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You might’ve heard that Epic locked down another round of Epic Games Store exclusives this week—Obsidian’s The Outer Worlds, Remedy’s Control, Quantic Dream’s Heavy Rain, et cetera. And along with those exclusives, of course, came more controversy. The “No Steam, No Buy” crowd was out in full force again, as they were with Metro Exodus and The Division 2.

But one day—one day—this might all be behind us. This morning Epic held a Q&A session at GDC 2019 and affirmed that there will probably be an end to the exclusives at some point. Asked about whether this was a long-term policy, Epic’s Steve Allison said:

“I don’t think we expect to do it forever...At some point hopefully people just come [to the store] or the rest of the industry matches us [on revenue split]. We will definitely not be doing exclusives at this scale for a long period of time.”

He did leave open the possibility of a few exclusives a year, somewhere down the road, perhaps a result of the current partnership with Ubisoft. But in general, the panel affirmed that the current blitz of exclusives, these swathes of fourteen announcements at once, is a short-term policy meant to get people into the Epic Games Store and put pressure on Steam.

Epic’s Joe Kreiner also said there won’t be any more Metro Exodus-style situations, where the game is available to preorder on Steam and then pulled to be an exclusive. “We knew there would be some pushback there. We definitely want to avoid that in the future.”

Allison then chimed in, with a more forceful “We don’t want to live through that again,” and made it clear that those decisions were largely made on Deep Silver’s side—that the way the deal went, Deep Silver decided to take preorders on Steam while discussions with Epic were taking place, which is something we could’ve guessed before but is still an interesting piece that hasn’t been discussed publicly.

Not that it mattered much. Again, Epic announced yesterday that Exodus sold 2.5 times as many copies in its first few weeks on the Epic Games Store as predecessor Last Light did in a comparable period in 2013. But still, it’s nice to hear there won’t be another bait-and-switch on storefronts.

Though if you do plan to keep using the Epic Games Store, there are a lot of improvements to come in the near future. Epic laid out a lengthy road map for the store and peripheral features. Within the next three months we’ll see cloud saves and a store page redesign.

Wish lists, a mod browser, “library improvements,” and user reviews will arrive within six months. It’s worth noting that user reviews will be opt-in, which Epic hopes will prevent review bombing that’s unrelated to the content of the game.

Longer term, Epic’s hoping to add developer and publisher pages, a “loyalty program,” and achievements. It’s a bit of a shame achievements will take at least six months to arrive, but at least we have some indication now. And as for the loyalty program, Epic compared it to Steam’s trading cards, but said it will be a new system that doesn’t encourage buying cheap games just to engage with the platform benefits.

Oh, and one more definitive answer: No porn games, and no asset flips. Right now the Epic store is hand-curated, but even after it opens up (later in 2019) those two rules will stay in place.

All this to say: It’s getting there, and once it’s got there perhaps Epic won’t need to rely on exclusives anymore. The policy seems to be working though, both judging by Metro’s sales and a throwaway stat in the presentation that the average Epic Games Store user already owns three games. There have been a lot of freebies, so who knows how many people are buying, but the store is gaining some traction at least.

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