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Epic “Competition”

The Epic Game Store has poached another high profile new release from Steam: The Outer Worlds.

OuterWorlds_Steam

As if trailers weren’t already misleading enough.

As with Metro: Exodus, this is a timed exclusive meant to expire after 1 year. Unlike Metro though, Outer Worlds is also slated to be released on the Windows Store as normal. So if you really wanted to play it Day 1 without using the Epic Store, you can. Of course, that means… you have to use the Windows Store, which comes with its own issues.

The backlash from the continued poaching of games is pretty widespread on Reddit (and Youtube comments, etc) although there is also a tremendous amount of counter-backlash. Most of the counter-arguments seems to boil down to “why so serious?” Which should not be unexpected from /r/SubredditDrama or /r/GamingCircleJerk users, of course. Nevertheless, it is question worth asking.

But before I get to answering it, let’s review why Epic is doing this in the first place:

When asked for his take on these reactions, Sweeney reiterated the aim of the Epic Games Store is, “breaking the 70/30 stranglehold that’s pervaded the industry for more than a decade,” and that its methods in doing so were never going to please everyone.

“Changing the way that games are sold is a big disruption to everybody,” he says. “I understand that — I’ve personally unsubscribed from Netflix twice as their selections of movies changed. But this is a necessary step forward for the games industry if we want to enable developers to invest in building better games, and if we want the savings to ultimately be passed on to gamers in the form of better prices.

Ah, it’s all pure altruism for the good of all gamers.

On Sweeny’s Twitter though, he admits:

UbiSoft agreed to a co-exclusive on UPlay and the Epic Games store. Epic Games seeks exclusive games in order to have a unique lineup of games so there’s another reason for gamers to come to our store.

In fact, here are the brass tacks:

That’s one of the biggest complaints about the Epic Games Store: it lacks features. Indeed, it didn’t even have a search tool until recently. But Sweeney points out that there’s no use taking on a “dominant storefront” (ie, Steam) unless the exclusives, prices and developer relationships are there.

“It’s nearly perfect for consumers already… There is no hope of displacing a dominant storefront solely by adding marginally more store features or a marginally better install experience,” he said. “These battles will be won on the basis of game supply, consumer prices, and developer revenue sharing.”

It may seem like a “duh” moment, but I just wanted to reiterate the fact the Epic CEO admits there is no other way to compete with Steam on the merits. That the Steam store is “nearly perfect for consumers already.” And thus, the only way that the Epic store can hope to compete is by restricting the game supply via exclusivity agreements.

Which is a bit of a weird way to foster “competition,” don’t you think?

If you want to know why I consider Epic’s shenanigans as anti-consumer, timed exclusives is it. Competition between storefronts means I have the choice to purchase it from Steam or from Epic or whomever. For some reason, Sweeney feels like competing on price or developer revenue sharing isn’t enough. Possibly because Epic has a shitty store lacking in basic functionality. Forcing people to use said store if they want to play X game isn’t doing consumers any favors, even if it’s hypothetically “for our own good” years from now.

I get it. Disruption is required to break into mature markets. But typically – or at least ideally – the disruption comes out in favor of the consumer right away. Uber and AirBNB and Netflix and all the rest broke monopolies by offering not just lower prices, but superior service/opportunities in most cases. Uber didn’t just swing big-dick Fortnite money around and buy up all the cabs around the airport and tell people that the next five years are going to be super exciting for cab drivers.

2007 Called

…and it said attunements are still a bad idea.

I was not going to write on this subject, given how much of it is ancient history. Indeed, even now I am not going to spend a lot of words detailing how and why everyone is wrong. Only 7 words are really needed:

Attunements were unnecessary in accomplishing their goals.

In other words, every single thing attunements set out to accomplish can be achieved by doing something else. Epic quest lines? Those can still happen. Gating content? That is what the bosses themselves are supposed to do, but you can still go the Sunwell/ICC or gear check route if you like. Encouraging the spirit of cooperation (no seriously, Klep said this)? Since most attunements were for raids, this implies one is already in a raiding guild, presumably to raid, and thus cooperation is already secured. Alternative advancement at endgame? Achievements et tal, or the EQ2 method would be fine.

In the course of pontificating on this subject in the comment sections of three different blogs, the one attunement argument that I actually enjoyed was the “checking to see if you are ready to raid” one. You see, my primary umbrage towards attunements like the Karazhan key quest was how many components required a group. I tanked my way to attunement on my paladin main with the officer core no problem. And then, over the proceeding 37 weeks of raiding Karazhan, I had to make 15 additional Karazhan attunement runs for various people in the guild. People that had no problem being terrible raiders, or otherwise expecting the guild to provide them with endless dungeon runs so that they could guild-hop/get poached three days later. Who was getting attuned here? New DPS recruit #13? They aren’t being challenged by having Karazhan-geared raiders carry them through dungeon runs.

The one sort of attunement that I would consent to return would be personal attunements. The example I gave in a comment reply was:

Hell, if attunements were something that had to be completed solo (or at least could be) I would have zero problem with them. Sure, why not? Have one of the steps be “equip socketed, enchanted gear appropriate to your spec and deal 4000 DPS” and endgame WoW would be in a much better place.

I would 100% be behind that, not out of some kind of desire to demean casuals or new players, but out of an earnest desire to educate them. Where in WoW does it suggest to fill in sockets with gems, or that gear enchants exist? The Ready for Raiding achievement was amusing (less so for how few raiders probably have it), but imagine if it were a required attunement before zoning in to any raid content. Have it be some kind of solo instance tailored to spec/class and filled with fire that needs not be stood in, CC not to be broken, and a final mob that needs to be killed with some minimum level of DPS (that even a tank/healer could achieve). Hell, normalize the gear too.

Bam. I have just created an attunement with an actual, useful purpose related to the thing it is serving as an obstacle for. You know, unlike every other attunement in the history of the game.