Epic Games founder and CEO Tim Sweeney has taken to Twitter again, this time to suggest that the Epic Games Store exclusivity deals that have been giving some consumers fits over recent weeks could be a thing of the past — just as soon as Valve's Steam platform commits to a significantly better revenue share deal for developers. This isn't the first time that Sweeney has suggested that changes to Valve's policies would have a ripple effect on the Epic Games Store's, but it's certainly the most blunt he's been about the topic.
Sweeney has previously made headlines by defending the need for exclusive titles on the Epic Games Store, an argument that essentially begins with acknowledging that it's a flawed practice. According to Sweeney, however, it's still a necessary one, particularly when attempting to build a competitor to Steam's current digital distribution monopoly. Without incentives for gamers to try another digital distribution platform, it's unlikely they ever would, which is why Epic has been so quick to get major games like Metro: Exodus and the upcoming Borderlands 3 as timed exclusives for the Epic Games Store.
Sweeney's latest visit to Twitter produced similarly controversial headlines, although this time it's less about defending his company's own practices and more about attacking Valve's. According to Sweeney, the Epic Games Store would "hastily retreat" from the practice of signing exclusives as soon as Steam considered committing to a permanent 88% revenue share for all developers and publishers. That figure is what the Epic Games Store currently gives developers, while Steam's revenue share practices are at a tiered split that caps out at 80% and can be as low as 70% for games that sell under $10 million. Here's Sweeney's tweet in full:
If Steam committed to a permanent 88% revenue share for all developers and publishers without major strings attached, Epic would hastily organize a retreat from exclusives (while honoring our partner commitments) and consider putting our own games on Steam.— Tim Sweeney (@TimSweeneyEpic) April 25, 2019
As Sweeney would go on to explain, the clause of no "major strings attached" would mean that games could use online systems involving friends and accounts as they choose, wouldn't be taxed on revenue on other platforms, and would be free to operate across multiple platforms. That's certainly a big ask given the way that digital distribution is set up currently, but Sweeney believes if it happens it would be a "glorious moment in the history of PC gaming".
Such a move would be a glorious moment in the history of PC gaming, and would have a sweeping impact on other platforms for generations to come.— Tim Sweeney (@TimSweeneyEpic) April 25, 2019
Then stores could go back to just being nice places to buy stuff, rather than the Game Developer IRS.
Obviously, what Sweeney is discussing here is idealistic, but it's worth considering. The problem stems from Sweeney preaching about better practices in the games industry while simultaneously heading a company that was recently exposed for essentially forcing employees to work unhealthy work weeks that would cap out at 100 hours in some instances. Until Epic Games' own practices change for the better, it's hard to look at Sweeney's statement as more than just empty words coming from someone who is still profiting off the worst 'traditional' elements of the game industry that he's publicly railed against.