On Monday, 28th January, fans of the Metro game series found their buying options for the third game in the franchise suddenly limited. Accompanied with a DRM warning, Steam and Valve released a notice stating that Metro Exodus would be leaving the Steam platform ASAP, basically. Why? Epic Games.
Perhaps we have developed a misconception over the years that every game we ever want will show up on Steam. While others have tried, this might be the most successful bid to take some of the power from Steam and Valve, but it certainly has gamers up in arms. So what does Epic Games, creator of Fortnite, have to do with Metro Exodus leaving Steam? Perhaps you haven't heard of the Epic Games store or Epic Launcher, though if you play Fortnite, you're familiar with it.
Similar to other companies such as EA and Ubisoft, Epic has decided to make their own game launcher. While that may be obnoxious, at least it's only their own games, right? Wrong. Epic has its eyes set on the prize crown on Lord Gaben's head, intent on bringing Steam down a few pegs, it appears, and Metro Exodus isn't the only title it’s poaching. The sequel to the indie gem Super Meat Boy will be another future exclusive on the platform and Telltale's The Walking Dead: The Final Season can only be purchased on the Epic Launcher as of 20th December, 2018. They seem to be taking no prisoners.
So what's the problem? Well it’s that Steam has done so well in creating an easy to use gaming environment. For example, at this point most of us have a large handful of games in our Steam library. I'm on the smaller side of my co-workers here at GG as I have only 62 games in my library, though I share with a friend who has 90, so together we at least break one-hundred! Think about that, though. That's over 100 games we can share back and forth together, and a number of games we both own that we can play together by using Steam. Everything we need to play is right there, easily accessible, and we only have to run one game launcher to play any of these titles.
Granted the exclusive Epic Launcher titles all appear to have plans to be available elsewhere down the road, but how many players are these developers and publishers risking by not using Steam at launch? Probably quite a few. Those who like Ubisoft games such as the Assassin's Creed series and the friendship ender Uno, they'll play those on the Ubisoft game launcher. Same with EA titles. It's annoying but it's the developer, so you deal with it. Just like Fortnite players already deal with the Epic Launcher to play the title, but that is, again, an Epic title, so you deal with it. For gamers who have never been interested in a title provided by Epic, they may only look on Steam to see if a game such as Metro is available or not. If they simply don't see it, they might assume it's not been released and just move on. Maybe they'll do some research, but that's not a guarantee. Then a year down the road, the game pops up on Steam for full price, I would presume. The hype that might have existed at the game's launch has been cold for months by now. It's basically Steam Sale bound as I wouldn't pay full price for a game that's been out for a year, I don't have that kind of money.
The problem here is that these are not games made by Epic that players are losing access to. So if Metro fans didn't have an Epic game account, they have to now or be forced to wait another year. As we see it, this forces gamers to have to download Epic's game launcher just to get one game. On top of that, gamers are stubborn. There are already several who are swearing off Epic and Metro all together. One co-worker even pointed out the amount of system resources game launchers take. Running Steam and Epic Launcher will be a challenge for a lot, something will have to give. We're not frowning on competition here, mind you, we're frowning on exclusivity. Let gamers buy the title where they wish, where it works for them. It's fine if Metro Exodus wants to be offered on the Epic Launcher, it's the removal from the Steam store that has feathers ruffled.
To play devil's advocate for a moment, there are complaints from developers toward Steam and Valve. Some seem to think Steam takes too much of a cut of the game on the back end. At the end of November, 2018, Steam and Valve made a new agreement to give more to the developers. According to The Verge, Valve would take "around 30 percent of all game sales on Steam, with some exceptions for games from smaller developers". The new arrangement has that still in place for those titles still trying to reach $10 million in sales. For titles between 10 million and 50 million, it lowers to 25 percent, over 50 will be lowered to 20 percent. Perhaps these changes weren't enough, sending developers into the arms of Epic to put their foot down in a sense. While this may seem like a large cut, Steam also provides quite a service in addition to just a game store. Game stores don't provide a user interface, friends lists to see who's playing what, achievements for hunters, an easy way to invite players to games, and a cloud for saves so that games can be swapped from PC to PC. All in all, to get your game out there in front of thousands of users who can play it easily, it's not the worst deal.
It will be interesting to see if Epic even makes a dent trying to go up against Steam and Valve, time will tell. Will the anger subside and the pull to play Metro Exodus be too much for gamers to resist? Maybe, but that's putting a lot of faith in Epic where others have failed in the past. Considering it's been six years since the last Metro title, that's a lot of time to pass and presume your game is still as important to the players. Let's face it, Metro isn't Kingdom Hearts 3 or the unfortunately more or less dead and buried Half-Life 3 that we will never get. It's a great game series, and a game I would like to play, but I can wait a year. I'm betting a lot of gamers can wait a year too, there's enough out there to fill our time until then.