Weekend Whammy

Weekend Whammy: What Are You Guys Playing?

I missed last weekend’s Weekend Whammy, but I’m back and as mediocre as ever! HUZZAH! And this damn cold I’ve had since New Year finally seems to be loosening its grasp on me. I still feel rough around the edges, but I’m considerably better than I was, so let’s do this!

Horrible feelings or not I did manage to punch out a new review of the rather excellent Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 2. It improves on the original game quite a bit, and I’m currently loving playing as the Necrons. I’ve been sneaking in time wherever I can, casually taking over solar systems and making everyone bow down to my green and black color scheme of awesomeness.

The other review I put out was for Jon Shafer’s At The Gates, an interesting little 4X game with a crap-load of joke potential in its name. To be honest, I wound up more intrigued by the story of the game’s development than in the game itself. It took aro/und six to seven years for Jon Shafer to finally launch his game, and he’s done several interviews about the struggle of getting At The Games made. I highly recommend checking out the PCGamer interview with him.

The review I’m currently working on is for Unruly Heroes, a beautiful platformer that was designed by a bunch of people who worked on Rayman Legends, another beautiful platformer that played great, too.

Despite not exactly loving the first season I decided to give Star Trek: Discovery another go now that it’s into its second season. My verdict is that it’s an improvement, but still ultimately not very good. It’s a shame because the production values are fantastic. That’s not enough to get around the fact that I absolutely hate Michael Burnham, though. As the lead character she is a frankly unlikeable ass as that feels like she is being written as the stereotypical Mary Sue. She always has the answer, and appears happy to cut through everyone else.

The big news that hit this week was the controversial announcement that Metro Exodus is going to be launching on PC exclusively on the new Epic store. With just a few weeks left until Exodus launches it’s a surprisingly late move by Epic and a clear move to poach a big title, but Steam pre-orders that have already been paid for will still be honoured, according to publisher Deep Silver. This exclusivity deal will last for one year.

It’s a strange situation, and people have not taken kindly to it. In fact, the previous two Metro games are getting review bombed at the moment by angry people. In fact, Metro: Last Light Redux has gotten around 3,000 negative reviews over the past few days

So, let’s break this down; Metro Exodus can now only be gotten for PC via the Epic Store who are also offering it for $10 less than it would have cost on Steam. The UK doesn’t seem to be getting the same discount, sadly, with the price staying at £49.99. Now, this discount owes to the fact that Epic takes a 12% cut of each sale rather than the 30% Steam takes. Breaking this down further, based on UK price Epic will take roughly £6 of each sale, whereas Steam would be taking roughly £15 per sale. That’s a considerable difference.

In other words, from a business perspective opting to sell your game on Epic makes a lot of sense, with the only benefit of Steam currently being the much larger amount of potential customers. The big question here is whether the overall sales of Exodus on PC will be much lower due to launching on a lesser known storefront, but of course there’s also the sum of money Epic must have paid to gain exclusivity. We have no idea what that amount was, but presumably it was big.

So, why are people mad? After all, this just means you buy the game from somewhere else. Sure, it’s one more launcher, but is that really a big problem? Well, I’d argue that most of the people complaining are frankly being idiots. But sadly they are overshadowing the genuine complaints, such as the Epic store simply not being fully featured yet with issues surrounding security, returns and more. Not long ago a huge security leak caused a massive amount of Epic accounts to be leaked, for example. There’s also the issue of Chinese company Tencent being involved as the Chinese government can ask them for information on user accounts and Tencent must provide it. The Epic Store also lacks things such as user reviews, has poor customer service and has had a lot of backlash surrounding a returns system that doesn’t work.

I’d also say that making the game exclusive to the Epic store at such a late juncture was a poor move, too. The cynic in me wonders if the announcement was left so late so that Epic and Deep Silver could reap the free Steam advertising.

Personally, while the Epic store still needs a lot of work I fully support its premise of offering developers and publishers a larger slice of the profits, especially if it does lead to slightly reduced retail prices for customers. However, it’s understandable that people are irritated by the extremely late announcement of this Metro exclusivity deal and there are plenty of genuine concerns over the Epic store that are being overshadowed by review bombing and a lot of nonsense about people simply being annoyed with the game not being on Steam.

I would have liked to have seen the game launch on both platforms, with the Epic store offering a slight discount due to the better deal for publishers and developers. More competition is always a good thing for the consumer, after all. The whole situation just needed to be handled better than it was, and due to the last-minute nature of the deal I think launching on Steam and the Epic store would have made more sense. With that said, I can’t blame publisher Deep Silver for wanting to launch exclusively on a store that is offering them a far, far better deal than Steam.

The real worry is what this might mean for the future. Outright buying exclusive titles for your stores isn’t good news for us consumers. Rather than attempting to attract people via a better storefront along with better deals for the publisher/developers, Epic are simply taking the route of brute force, drawing people in because they offer the only place to get certain titles. For us consumers the ideal situation is that both Steam and Epic offer the same games, with both competing to attract customers through better pricing and stronger features.

If Epic do continue this march toward exclusive titles then perhaps the best we can hope for is that Valve finally start paying attention and put some work into their product. While people are rightfully pointing out the Epic Store’s numerous problems, they are also very forgiving of Steam’s massive flaws as well. If Steam wants to compete they need to reduce the cut they take and being taking a more hands-on approach in their storefront.

It’s a complicated issue and obviously I’ve only covered a tiny bit of it. Reading everything back I don’t even think I got my own points across very well, so feel free to chime in with what you think about this crazy situation.

In short: exclusivity is bad for us consumers, this whole deal was poorly handled, Epic and Steam both need to work on their storefront’s, but ultimately from a pure business standpoint Deep Silver’s choice makes sense, even if they clearly did not consider the impact it would have in the community. We need competition between Epic and Steam, not games being launched exclusively for one or the other.

Edit: one of the game’s developers has stupidly posted on forum saying that they simply won’t launch their next game on PC if players boycott Exodus. Understandably, this has not gone down very well. Let’s be clear, though: unlike what website are implying this is not the official stance of 4A, rather the opinions and thoughts of a single person working for the company. Go and take a long at YongYea’s video for more information.

Anyway, as always thank you for reading, and what have you been playing, reading or watching this week?

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