I know the title is pretty rough, but my frustration with PC Gamers (notice the capital “g”) is extremely hard to contain.
Almost all of the drama waves the last few weeks have been centered around this weird obsession with Steam and the Epic Games Store. Epic has been making strong moves with developers, offering a higher end cut of profits made using their store and even garnering some high-end exclusives that are really helping them get a foothold in a market long monopolized by one platform: Steam.
Epic has also made the right moves with content creators, enabling streamers, YouTubers, and others the ability to make some money off of any Epic Game Store game sold using their creator code. Some creators make pretty decent income from the Epic Game Store, especially thanks to Fortnite and the cut given to creators for the use of V-Bucks in-game.
Steam’s fallen short here, and it shows. A dated UI cluttered with a massive amount of stuff – trading cards, badges, levels, item inventories, a user-powered trading market, community hubs, user reviews, forums, leveling, and a ton of other bloated (and ultimately unnecessary) concepts move what could be a simple, effective storefront into the realm of confusing feature creep that makes it very difficult to get involved with on even the most minimum of levels. Note that I’m not being critical for the sake of it — these are concerns and issues I’ve heard many people bring up when they talk about Steam, even before EGS was a factor.
Epic’s offering has made a simplistic, if not overly-so, store that’s game-first, which in my opinion is something Steam has not been in ages. Steam focuses on the “community,” enabling users to control a game’s visibility or appeal by allowing them to control reviews as well as complain directly at developers in the forums built around each game’s Community Hub. Epic, while lacking in some departments, has avoided user reviews and enabling users to manipulate the game availability in any way. Will that change? Likely, but at the moment it’s blissfully peaceful there. No noise of irate users who don’t like the decisions a publisher made, or folks bombarding reviews because they’re unhappy with a change or update.
Not that there’s nothing wrong with the Epic Games Store. In fact, there’s a lot of valid criticism; lack of available games (which is changing quickly), a confusing and difficult to navigate storefront, and a weird and fairly slow downloading system are definite sources of concern for an already weary purchasing base. There’s a few others that aren’t coming to mind, but they still ring true, and they’re all correctable.
The recent upheavals around games like Metro Exodus and Borderlands 3 being Epic Games Store exclusive for a short while (6 months to a year) has certainly brought out the most intense gnashing of teeth and balling of fists I have seen since the console wars that erupted around the launch of the Xbox One and PS4.
It’s truly odd to see the amount of upset around a game launcher and store, especially considering there’s already a plethora of stores with exclusives on PC. Origin, GOG, UPlay, the Microsoft Store, and Battle.net are all stores and launchers with exclusive games you can’t get on Steam; so pray tell, why is this such a big deal when Epic Games gets into the mix? I distinctly remember uproar about Steam when Valve made their first foray into the games market. Online DRM, a terrible UI, an unstable system that was constantly updating or not able to connect to Valve’s servers, and a huge plethora of issues caused people to despise Steam for many years after it launched.
Interestingly, Polygon posted an article about how Steam is not your friend in 2017, before the Epic Games Store was ever announced, and so much of it rings true.
Perhaps Good Guy Valve did exist, at one time. But beneath the glassy smile of Good Guy Valve today lurks an altogether more cold and corporate beast, a textbook rent-seeker that is profiting from both hostile practices and a bizarrely customer-supported near monopoly on PC game sales.Tim Colwill, Polygon, 2017 [link]
The truth is, Valve has given a glossy veneer of loving its customers, with all these “community”-oriented features — groups, reviews, forums, levels and badges, trading cards, and a market. However, beneath each and every one of these features lies abuse and a lack of moderation, toxicity and awfulness in so many places, as the linked article from PC Gamer states.
The State of Steam survey asks developers a number of questions with the goal of distilling feedback into a few key areas. That feedback is turned into 10 actionable issues, with the hopes that Valve will respond and make changes to better benefit developers on Steam. Of those 10 items, number five is “The Steam Community feature needs better ways to deal with toxic users.” Of the 222 developers willing to share their opinions publicly, 147 feel that Steam needs better tools to combat toxic users and trolls and 63 were neutral. It’s a small polling size—just two percent of Steam’s estimated 10,000 developers—but the message is clear: right now, it’s hard to fight toxicity on Steam.Steven Messner, PC Gamer, 2017 [link]
While the citation is a couple years old, the fact still rings true that Steam is a huge mess, and it’s these outspoken review-bombers who are the most toxic of the bunch. Some weird belief that Steam is the best store and that it loves its customers more than Epic. Unfortunately, Valve doesn’t love you and it’s not your friend; it loves your money, and it’s willing to not moderate the games it sells nor is it willing to protect people from the worst dregs of the gaming community in their own built-in forums, reviews and community spaces.
My point is this: Steam or Epic Games Store. Epic Games Store or Steam. Your choice of where to purchase isn’t the important part; it’s your reaction that speaks volumes about you and those you associate with. Are you or your friends happy Steam finally has a real competitor opening its doors? Or are you or your friends angry that Epic is making moves to grow that competition and really make Valve innovate? If you or your friends’ response is the latter, then we might have found one of the crybabies the title of this article refers to.
Simply put, the moves Epic is making are good for PC gaming as a whole. Valve’s monopoly in the digital games sales space is finally put into the cross-hairs of a company with the funds and expertise to deliver a valid competitor to Steam, and maybe, just maybe, Epic will avoid the toxic pitfalls that Steam has fallen into that Valve seems to care little about fixing.
Instead of condemning Epic and attacking the publishers and developers that decide to have some exclusivity to the newcomer for a limited window, maybe we should embrace the fact that Epic is making Valve think twice about their untouchable status in PC gaming. For once, we might see Valve take steps to eliminate or regulate the toxic, garbage-fire environment that has become every “community” feature on Steam and improve the experience as a whole. Or, they won’t make any changes and Epic will eclipse them as the go-to place to purchase your games online.
But either way, let’s not cry about it. Let people like what they like and enjoy the games they want. Feel free to voice your opinions about exclusivity, but don’t attack good games and developers to make a misguided and completely erroneous point. It makes us all look badly. Be constructive. Be helpful. Aim to make gaming a better place overall.
A live streamer, podcaster, and game lover hailing from the Tampa Bay area of Florida. Regardless of the game, Tim thoroughly enjoys what each game can bring to the table, whether it be visuals, audio, writing, or a combination of the three. He wants nothing more than to have a positive impact on gaming in some manner.
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