Patch Notes

Patch Notes: Epic Games Call Out Steam

I’m a little late posting this weeks Patch Notes but in my defence I was away watching Avengers: Endgame and still haven’t really recovered from it. There wasn’t a lot of news that really grabbed my attention this week, so I’m just going to focus on two pieces, both involving Epic! Oh, Epic, you just keep providing so much material.

Epic Under Fire Due To Work Conditions

Regardless of what you think of Epic there’s no denying that they’ve turned themselves into a massive name constantly spawning headlines. This latest one is most definitely negative.

Polygon recently put a piece in which they had conducted around a dozen interviews with Epic employees over the last couple of months. What those people had to say is quite damning. Apparently 70-hour work weeks were a common thing, with some people even reporting 100-hour weeks. While this ludicrous amount of work was officially voluntary, Polygon’s interviewees stated that it was “expected.”

According to members of Epic’s staff while the company does technically offer unlimited time off it’s nearly impossible to get any, because then the workload falls onto other people and they don’t want to be viewed as, “that guy.”

So, what’s the cause? Fortnite is the answer. Fortnite is constantly updated and the staff at Epic are having trouble keeping up. Apparently the higher-ups demand that Epic responds to things immediately.

“The executives keep reacting and changing things,” said the source. “Everything has to be done immediately. We’re not allowed to spend time on anything. If something breaks — a weapon, say — then we can’t just turn it off and fix it with the next patch. It has to be fixed immediately, and all the while, we’re still working on next week’s patch. It’s brutal.”

For more information I do highly recommend reading Polygon’s detailed article where there is much more said by various employees, including how managers ignore complaints and how there’s a dangerous culture developing in younger employees who wanted to get promoted.

There’s really little more to on this subject than has already been said by myself and so many others. While working overtime is certainly not exclusive to the video game industry, it does seem worryingly common within it. It’s even more baffling in a company like Epic who can easily afford to simply hire more people and work in shifts. Instead they seem content to work people into the ground.

Epic Issues A Challenge To Steam

The other piece of Epic news that hit this week was an intriguing Tweet from Tim Sweeney himself stated that, “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 honouring our partner commitments) and consider putting our own games on Steam.”

Now, this is a loaded topic with quite a bit to dig through. On the surface it a seems like such a good thing to say, issuing a direct challenge to Steam to up their game and make the industry a better place for all. However, there’s some other important stuff at work to discuss, so let’s break this down.

First and foremost it feels like a very deliberate attempt to garner some positive PR for Epic, a company who have had plenty of negative headlines lately. It’s difficult to read the tone of a written Tweet but it comes across as Sweeney and Epic ignoring the real problems people have with games being exclusive to the Epic store. It reads as though Epic are trying to shift the focus and even the blame onto Steam.

The next thing to consider is that reports surfaced a while back that employees within Epic had described the store’s current economic model as unsustainable. Currently, Epic take 12% of each sale leaving a generous 88% for the publisher/developer. However, from that 12% Epic must take off things like Paypal’s service charge plus general overheads. According to the reports that means Epic is actually taking a loss at the moment in various parts of the world but plan to continue this model until they’ve grown their user base before switching the ratio to 20%. It’s a solid business strategy designed to deal with the fact that Steam is the dominant force in the PC games market. The absurd amount of money Epic generate through Fortnite allows them to soak up the loss now in order to build their audience.

According to Ars Technica Steam can’t simply drop its pricing scheme. Steam have considerably more overhead costs than Epic, largely due to the raft of extra services such as forums and Cloud saves. While Valve certainly has enough revenue to soak up losses for a while they already have a massive user base and thus no reason to meet Epic’s challenge.

Since putting the Tweet out Tim Sweeney has gotten a raft of replies from gamers, many of which point out that it isn’t loyalty to Steam that’s stopping them from using the Epic store. Rather, it’s the way Epic are buying exclusives, the lack of features on the Epic store and much more.

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