Ubisoft typically doesn't shy away from voicing opinions on the games industry at large, and Chris Early, the company's vice president of partnerships and revenue, has stated that he believes Steam's game market model is unrealistic as it currently stands. Ubisoft has been dancing the line between progressive and regressive with its recent public exchanges, attempting to distance itself from politics in gaming at times while also designing a game in Watch Dogs: Legion that is explicitly tied to a dystopian future following Brexit.
When it comes to digital distribution, perhaps Ubisoft's stance on Steam shouldn't come as much of a surprise. The publisher has been adamantly refusing to put its games on Valve's ubiquitous Steam client, instead choosing to sell its games on the Epic Games Stores and through its own UPlay service instead. Despite some critics believing the decision to lean less heavily on Steam was a risky one, it appears to be paying off for Ubisoft, which has seen more people adopt the UPlay platform as part of their gaming rotation. In fact, PC gaming is Ubisoft's most profitable platform as of early 2019 financial reports.
According to Early, Ubisoft's absence from Steam lately has been very deliberate, as the company no longer agrees with Valve's policies when it comes to digital distribution. In a feature about the rise of the Epic Games Store in New York Times, Early shared his views on where digital distribution currently stands with a quick and incisive analysis of Steam. "It's unrealistic, the current business model that they have," Early stated about Steam. "It doesn't reflect where the world is today in terms of game distribution." Steam has been seeing many developers begin to depart the platform in favor of the Epic Games Store's more generous revenue share policy, and Ubisoft has been able to go a step further since it also owns its own platform in UPlay that gives the company full share of the profits from its online sales.
What wasn't stated is whether or not this stance was affected by Steam's decaying reputation within the games community thanks to the platform's terrible curation policies. With Steam courting controversy over problematic game releases on a frequent basis and Valve refusing to adopt a more strict or hands-on curation system, developers are growing uneasy with the idea that their next major release could be sold side-by-side with a game that espouses hate messages. There's also the obvious pull of money, as Epic's digital distribution revenue sharing policy is significantly better than Valve's, which can take up to a 30% cut of a developer's sales revenue in some circumstances.
If companies like Ubisoft are beginning to publicly voice its belief that Steam has an unrealistic and outdated business model, then perhaps that will be the action necessary to get Valve to re-examine its platform. Steam remains a competitor thanks to its longevity in the industry, but as more consumers get past the idea of having to install two game launchers instead of one, the good will may begin dissipating much faster than it has thus far. For now, though, the Steam detractors can take heart in the fact that some industry veterans agree that the platform has a lot of work to do to catch up with modern digital games distribution.
Source: New York Times