An ex-Valve employee named Richard Geldreich took to Twitter late last week to lambast Steam's digital distribution, going so far as to say that it was killing PC gaming before the Epic Games Store arrived to break up the monopoly. Geldreich worked for Valve for five years from 2009 to 2014, and has previously been critical of his former employer for having negative, "ruthless" internal politics.
Valve has continuously weathered criticism lately, with the company coming under fire for several different Steam policies and business practices. Most recently, Steam's new anti-review bombing measures were tested in Borderlands 3 backlash, and the system was less than impressive, failing to identify what was happening before a few days had already passed. Prior to that, Steam's curation system—or rather, it's complete lack of one—became a target of ire for the gaming community after a problematic game garnered undeserved attention before finally being removed from the digital distribution service. Whereas Steam has always been the only real option for wide-reaching digital distribution in the industry before, though, the Epic Games Store has recently arrived to challenge that monopolization and give developers another viable option, creating competition for the first time in years.
Geldreich was extremely vocal in his support of the Epic Games Store. In the ex-Valve employee's view, Epic is fixing a problem that Steam began several years ago with its developer cut. He primarily criticizes Steam's 30% revenue share, stating that it is a "tax on an entire industry" that the Epic Games Store is finally working to alleviate in some way. Here's Geldreich's full tweet:
Steam was killing PC gaming. It was a 30% tax on an entire industry. It was unsustainable. You have no idea how profitable Steam was for Valve. It was a virtual printing press. It distorted the entire company. Epic is fixing this for all gamers.— Richard Geldreich (@richgel999) April 5, 2019
The conversation began with a tweet from Epic Games founder Tim Sweeney, who quote-tweeted a USGamer article that debated the allegations of the Epic Store using spyware that sends information to the Chinese government through Tencent Holdings. Here's the original tweet:
I support everyone’s right to complain about tech industry stuff. Epic’s store, with exclusive games and a spartan feature set, is a fine target for ire. But please help separate facts and opinions from the lies about spyware and foreign control.https://t.co/UrNisiFxy6— Tim Sweeney (@TimSweeneyEpic) April 5, 2019
Geldreich stated that the notion that the Epic Games Store was peddling potential spyware was "insane", and that anyone with familiarity of that part of the industry would be able to see it for what it was. Geldreich also stated that the comparison between Steam and Epic was unfairly slanted toward negativity for Epic, who collects data in the same way that Steam has collected huge amounts of data on users interacting with the Steam client.
The debate over whether or not the Epic Games Store is a welcome addition to the world of video games is a surprisingly lively one, despite those on the side of Steam essentially arguing for monopoly, which tends to be a bad practice for consumers. The criticism largely comes with the fact that the Epic Games Store has relatively barren features at the moment, coupled with its coup of several AAA titles from Steam already. Fans just don't want to have to maintain and curate multiple libraries across several services, but ultimately, competition is healthy and should result in better revenue cuts for developers. For the minor inconvenience of having a few different clients launching our games, it seems like a small price to pay for advancing the industry into a more developer-friendly environment.