Epic Games boss Tim Sweeney took to Twitter to explain his stance on digital distribution services with exclusive games deals, telling fans why he feels the Epic Games Store needs to follow that practice for the time being. Sweeney responded to fans inquiring about the nature of building a digital distribution service after they began a discussion on a tangentially related post about Apple.
The Epic Games Store has been off to a somewhat rocky start in terms of functionality, but from a public relations standpoint, Epic has managed to sway a number of different developers over to the platform. Most famously, Metro: Exodus, a game that had been pre-ordering on Steam for most of its availability, jumped ship to Epic Games Store exclusivity just weeks before its release. Other games, including Ubisoft's The Division 2, have also inked deals to appear either fully or partially as an exclusive to the fledgling digital distribution service, which has immediately catapulted the storefront to one of the most exciting and relevant in the industry.
Exclusivity deals will always have their naysayers, however, and Sweeney was met with several of them in a Twitter discussion he had a few days ago. The Epic Games boss engaged with some reply guys in good faith, and made his stance on the exclusive nature of these game offerings pretty clear: they are a necessary evil for a story like the Epic Games Store currently, but one he hopes won't be needed in the future. Here are his tweets on the subject:
UbiSoft agreed to a co-exclusive on UPlay and the Epic Games store. Epic Games seeks exclusive games in order to have a unique lineup of games so there’s another reason for gamers to come to our store.— Tim Sweeney (@TimSweeneyEpic) March 15, 2019
Let us dig into this topic here. It’s a good question and we wholeheartedly support key sales for non-exclusive games.— Tim Sweeney (@TimSweeneyEpic) March 15, 2019
I understand. I’d rather have one single game library and movie library too. Hopefully some day all of these stores, including ours, will be replaced with a 100% open digital commerce ecosystem giving developers an even better deal than 88%. Till then, we need competition!— Tim Sweeney (@TimSweeneyEpic) March 15, 2019
Sweeney doesn't really try to hide anything, although it's not like he really needs to. Despite users taking a tone that would suggest exclusivity is inherently evil, Sweeney attempted to discuss the nuances of running a digital distribution platform. Essentially, the Epic Games Store needs exclusives because without them, it wouldn't be able to gain traction in a marketplace that already functions with exclusives as part of its business model. He also noted that he'd like an open digital commerce ecosystem at some point in the future, although that would clearly be less beneficial to Epic Games, so the company isn't banking on that happening any time soon. Sweeney also had an interesting point about the Epic Games Store's design:
As to a store competing on features alone, we believe that wouldn’t be enough to gain traction. Steam has plenty of features, perhaps in some areas too many, and we believe gamers come to a store for particular games rather than for store features.— Tim Sweeney (@TimSweeneyEpic) March 15, 2019
Sweeney's transparency is refreshing, here, as is the assessment that the Epic Games Store couldn't possibly hope to compete with just a few new features and nothing else. It's a brutal, logical truth of the industry that the games on a storefront are probably more important than how good that storefront's functionality actually is. With Epic attracting more eyeballs to its new offering with some well-timed exclusivity deals, more gamers will be exposed to what the Epic Games Store has to offer. While this shouldn't be a surprise to anyone, it's clearly a point of contention given how much time Sweeney spent discussing it. Maybe one day we'll live in a world where these deals aren't needed, but until then, Sweeney's got a pretty good reason for why Epic Games pursued exclusives so hard.