Metro series developer 4A Games has caught a bit of backlash recently after announcing that the PC edition of its upcoming instalment Metro Exodus is going to be exclusively distributed through the Epic Games launcher.
That’d be all well and good but some eyebrows have been raised over 4A’s conduct leading to and surrounding the announcement. And where there are raised eyebrows in the gaming community, there is a commensurate outcry and a butchering of the game’s online review score.
The case against 4A is mainly focused on two real arguments. First and foremost is the breakneck about-face that the developer seems to have taken in choosing Epic as its distribution method, because for a while now you’ve already been able to pre-order it on Steam. Though 4A isn’t cancelling any sales or failing to deliver any Exodus-related content already purchased, those who’ve pre-ordered are the only people who’ll be able to play Exodus on Steam until the terms of exclusivity with Epic run out a year after release.
The developer perspective seems to be that PC gamers believe “our work is not worth even a couple of minutes to install the launcher.”
While it’s certainly permissible for a developer to use any launcher they wish– Steam may be an industry standard, but it’s not without its own suite of problems – that this exclusivity deal both came out of the blue and is so short-term speaks of sloppiness on 4A’s part. It’s as if 4A learned of the Epic launcher’s superior 88/12 developer/distributor revenue split a month ago, hashed out a contract and agreed to awkward terms for quick cash. It comes with little benefit to the end user, too.
It’s not that inconvenient to install an additional launcher, but you don’t get anything out of it either. And if exclusivity contracts can be retroactively negotiated for games, then what’s stopping other developers from doing this to maximise their profits after gauging interest via pre-order?
But the brunt of the fury seems to be directed at 4A’s response to criticism. In a statement by a 4A employee going by ‘scynet’, translated by Steam user Redeemed, a refusal to buy Exodus will result in 4A ceasing Metro development for PC entirely: “if at all all the PC players announce a boycott of the Metro, then the next Metro, if it does, is definitely not on the PC.” [sic] The developer perspective seems to be that PC gamers believe “our work is not worth even a couple of minutes to install the launcher.”
It’s not that inconvenient to install an additional launcher, but you don’t get anything out of it either.
The onus is therefore unfairly placed on the consumer to purchase Exodus through different means to ensure their continued access to a beloved series. Because what 4A doesn’t seem to twig is that the outrage is directed more at the precedent this case might set than their decision itself.
If exclusivity – which is, let’s be clear, always a restriction on the consumer – can be enforced retroactively, and this methodology strikes gold, then what’s to stop a less scrupulous company from doing it with another series? If microtransactions have told us anything, it’s that if it works once it’ll be repeated ad nauseam.