Borderlands 3 is the latest game to become a target of a subsection of the gaming community thanks to its Epic Games Store exclusivity. A number of Steam loyalists have been review bombing, criticizing, and negatively discussing games that have chosen to opt in to Epic Games Store timed exclusivity deals.
The Epic Games Store was only announced at the tail-end of last year during The Game Awards 2018, but it has quickly gained steam in the interim. One of the digital distribution platform's first major coups was getting Metro: Exodus to jump ship mid-pre-release period, an act that not coincidentally also spurned on the first real outrage reaction from some of the PC gaming community. The debate has, for some reason, continued to rage on about whether or not the Epic Games Store is a healthy addition to an online market that was previously almost entirely monopolized by Steam. The Epic Games Store also takes a significantly smaller cut from developers for hosting their games, making it an attractive platform for studios.
Earlier this week, developer Gearbox Studios and publisher 2K announced that Borderlands 3 would be an Epic Games Store exclusive for six months following its release, and the response from some fans has been notably vicious. The backlash surrounding that announcement has been characterized by Steam fans using social media and gaming forums to post negative responses to the decision, including images that supposedly showcase why Borderlands 3 should be on Steam instead of the Epic Games Store. Tweets like this one have become popular amongst those who are against the decision:
The backlash has been so noticeable that the CEO of Gearbox, Randy Pitchford, took to Twitter to provide more context on why the studio decided to go with the Epic Games Store; or, more accurately, why the studio didn't really have a say at all:
As a customer, I’m happy to shop in different stores - already do! I’ve bought games from Xbox, Playstation, Switch, Steam, Origin, GOG, Humble, Uplay, Epic and other stores. To me, exclusives are fine when they come w/ advantages and when they are short – say, six months :) 2/3— Randy Pitchford (@DuvalMagic) April 1, 2019
Unfortunately, it doesn't appear like Pitchford's explanation managed to sway those who have been adamantly looking for ways to tank Borderlands' reputation as a result of the studio's perceived slight against Valve and its supporters. A tweet following Borderlands 2's review reputation on Steam had some troubling revelations:
Review bombing has started for Borderlands 2 on Steam. Because Borderlands 3 has 6 month Epic Store exclusivity.— Force (@ForceStrategy) April 3, 2019
Probably not the best way to convince developers putting their games on Steam is a good idea.
Given these sort of Steam features are, clearly, are easily abused. pic.twitter.com/TOG4tsRH9f
These criticisms aren't entirely unfounded. The Epic Games Store has had some issues with its services during the first few months of its launch, and Epic Games is actively looking to add more features as they become needed. It's very much a fledgling digital distribution platform that has things that need to be ironed out as it grows, and that can be jarring when compared to Steam's service, which has been refined over many years.
Still, crusades like this hardly seem fair. Ultimately, the Borderlands 3 situation tells outsiders a lot about what the gaming industry's landscape currently looks like, and little of it is pretty. Fans are willing to defend a digital distribution service that has come under heavy fire for a number of troubling policies in the past simply because they might need to download a different installer and launcher to play Gearbox's newest title. On top of that, it's yet another reminder that user-based reviews are becoming impossible to trust online, as one small decision from a studio can end in a crusade from angered consumers that tanks its games' scores.