For & Against: Online Store exclusives

Love them or hate them, there are a multitude of online stores on the market right now, all with their own exclusives. James Troughton discusses the implications of these exclusives.

James Troughton
11th March 2019
Image: Epic Games, Valve Inc.

AGAINST

In February 2019, Metro Exodus was released to the world. It sparked controversy and reignited the flicker of light that was the debate of exclusive store games, something that hasn’t been discussed in the spotlight since the days of Origin’s inception.

To give some context, Origin is EA’s PC gaming platform and, after it was unveiled to gamers, they stopped placing their own IP’s onto Steam which sparked its own controversy similar to when Metro Exodus was pulled from Valve’s platform at the last minute to be placed onto Epic’s own launcher - which has a design more fitting for an iPad, security worse than Windows Defender, and an x-button as useless as their own social features.

Steam isn’t a perfect platform by any means, and it needs a lot of work. They take too big a cut from developers, don’t handle the greenlight system very well, and have terrible customer support. While fighting back against the monopoly seems like it would be a great way to improve Steam in the long haul, so far, with Origin, Uplay, Razer, Microsoft, Battle.net, Discord and others, nothing of the sort has happened.

The only true rival to Steam, in my opinion, is Origin, and even that has not caused a reduction in Steam’s take from developers.

All that the exclusives are doing is driving players to download new platforms and clogging their system with way too many launchers, rather than allowing them to have a universal library held in one place.

The sea of anger from gamers, which can be seen on the Steam store reviews, shows that many view these exclusives as fundamentally anti-consumer. The current model of competing stores would be like having numerous shops on PlayStation, Xbox or Nintendo rather than a singular one. It makes storing all of your games messy and cumbersome, and a lot of these launchers are half-arsed with little care or thought put into their designs.

Steam isn’t a perfect platform by any means, and it needs a lot of work.

They all pale in comparison to Steam which has been carefully crafted over a decade with superior social features, security and pricing for consumers with constant sales. The only true rival to Steam, in my opinion, is Origin, and even that has not caused a reduction in Steam’s take from developers.

Steam needs competition to improve as, right now, they are riddled with flaws but I don’t believe exclusivity is the right option as, evidently, it punishes the consumer more than it does Valve.

James Troughton

FOR

There’s no doubt about it: the situation surrounding Metro Exodus’ removal from Steam and subsequent exclusive release on the Epic Games store was poorly handled. Customers were given short notice of the switch to the Fortnite publisher’s rival platform following a lengthy pre-order period on Steam.

Overall, the whole ordeal ended up causing more inconvenience for the consumer than was necessary, all while tainting a wake-up call to Valve’s monopoly.

But that’s exactly what has been needed for some time. Valve has become lazy, with their latest releases being the occasional VR project and patches for 5+ year old games. Steam has become the standard for PC gaming, and players would benefit if Valve were forced to give them greater incentive to spend their time playing games on their platform.

Messy Metro Exodus aside, that’s exactly what the Epic Store has achieved so far. Heck, for all their anti-consumer moves, even EA are doing some good with their Origin platform - the occasional free game goes a long way!

I am a firm believer that console exclusives give publishers greater incentive to provide developers the resources they need to make a game the best it can be

Similarly, as a firm believer that console exclusives give publishers greater incentive to provide developers the resources they need to make a game the best it can be, I think this can also be the case with store exclusives on PC. Overwatch, Dota 2 and Fortnite are prime examples of their genres, and I don’t think it’s any coincidence that these have driven users to a specific platform while continuing to achieve high player counts and critical acclaim.

Every new platform has its teething problems, and I think Metro Exodus is Epic’s first sign of one. Hopefully that is the last time something like that will happen for consumers, as I think this emerging competitor to Valve could well mean that PC players can look forward to a much more vibrant gaming ecosystem.

George Boatfield
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