If you thought Epic would stop giving away games at the end of 2019…well, by now you’ve probably realized that hasn’t happened. Instead the Epic Games Store kicked off 2020 by giving away three games the first week (Darksiders, Darksiders II, and Steep), before returning to its standard one-game-a-week pattern with Sundered this week and Horace next.
The Epic Games Store has given away 73 games in total, as of today—and it’ll be 120 or more by this time next year. Lest you think the well is running dry, Epic confirmed today that it’s extending its free games program at least through the rest of 2020. That’s another 50-plus games you can add to your backlog before the year’s through, all for the low, low price of “Making an Epic Games account” and then clicking a button every week.
And when 2020’s over, what then? No idea—but as I said a few weeks ago, I’m done betting on an end to Epic’s generosity and/or war chest. Maybe December 31, 2020 truly marks the last free game Epic ever gives away, or maybe we write essentially this same article in twelve months. It’s impossible to know at this point.
In any case, the announcement was one small part of a lengthier post about Epic’s 2019 year-in-review. There are some big numbers in Epic’s infographic (which we’ve embedded at the end of this article), though per usual none really have the context necessary to draw major conclusions.
For instance, it opens with the claim there are 108 million Epic Games Store customers on PC, but are those paying customers? People who downloaded one of the weekly games for free? People who only use the Epic Games Store as a Fortnite launcher? Your guess is as good as mine.
The revenue numbers come with similar caveats. The first figure claims people spent $680 million in the Epic Games Store, but then clarifies that only $250 million was spent on third-party PC games a.k.a. not Fortnite (or I guess Shadow Complex).
$250 million is still a respectable number. Divide that by the standard $60 retail price for a AAA though, you’re talking a little over 4 million units. That’s 4 million units total for all non-Epic games combined in 2019. Hell, even if we assume an average sale price of $40, we’re still talking 6 million units. $30, and those are some deeply discounted games at that point, 8 million.
Given the number of major exclusives Epic’s bought up—Borderlands 3, Metro Exodus, The Division 2, Control, and so forth—statistically some of those must’ve sold pretty poorly. Worse than they probably would’ve on Steam, anyway.
That’s to be expected, though. And if developers were bearing the cost from underwhelming sales? I might be upset. They’re not though, as Epic guarantees a certain amount of sales and reputedly pays very generously for exclusives. It’s frustrating for the “No Steam, no buy” crowd maybe, but if it’s good for developers then I don’t much care if Epic throws around its Fortnite money—of which, judging by the $400 million in first-party revenue, there’s still a lot.
Get ready for more exclusives in 2020 including Gearbox’s Godfall and Hi-Rez’s Rogue Company, and I’ll see you back here (with 50 new free games) in 2021 maybe.
Hayden writes about games for PCWorld and doubles as the resident Zork enthusiast.