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the monopoly of the Steam online store increasingly challenged

Epic Games is counting on the phenomenal success of its game “Fortnite” to serve as a locomotive to its future online store. EPIC GAMES

There are two kinds of computer game creators: the billionaire companies, who distribute their own titles in supermarkets and on their own site, and independent creators, who go through the Steam online store and leave the platform behind. form puncturing 30% of their income.

But Tuesday, December 4, thunderclap: the American company Epic Games, who surfs for a year on the phenomenal success of the game Fortnite, announced the upcoming launch of its own distribution platform – no specific date is given yet, but a communication should be made on Thursday night. The Epic Games Store will initially offer a hand-picked computer game, and will open progressively to other games and media in 2019.

Does the Epic Games Store have a chance to shake the near-monopoly of Steam? He can in any case count on the incredible popularity of the locomotive Fortnite and over two hundred million players. A clientele deemed young, monomaniac, who often plays today only Fortnite but will mature and, at least hope developers, turn one day to other games – if possible, theirs.

Read also Video Games: Publisher of “Fortnite” Announces Steam Competitor

Then, there is the promise of a distribution of income that is extremely advantageous for creators: 88% of the sale price of their games would come back to studios and publishers, far from 70% of Steam. “According to our analysis, teases Epic Games, online stores, which take 30%, make 300% to 400% profit. Even with 12%, our shop will be profitable. “

Above all, the announcement of Epic Games Store comes at the right moment: in recent weeks, the anger rises among independent developers, who find that the service rendered by the platform Steam, all-powerful, is no longer up to .

A steady stream of outings

“The hegemony of Steam, which flirts with the 85% market share on the PC is good for anyone”, regrets Julien Villedieu, general delegate of the national union of the video game (SNJV), which represents the interests of the French studios.

On Steam offer explodes: every month, about a thousand new games are published

If he is wary of the announcement effects of Epic Games (“No one is fooled: we have already seen publishers come back” on this type of announcement), Mr. Villedieu welcomes, like all studios, the arrival of a new player on the market. Because the days when a presence on the virtual shelves of Steam was enough to reach a large audience is over. As the platform refuses to make any selection on the titles offered – since September, it even accepts pornographic games – the offer explodes: every month, about a thousand new games are published. With few exceptions, only the very big games, published by very big companies, manage to stand out in this continuous stream of exits.

Could the arrival of Epic Games change the game? ” Who says new platform says less competition, summarizes Anthony Jauneaud, freelance writer. The site is less busy, the outputs are more visible, the games exist longer. In the short term, it's a good thing. ” Even if it is not a durable solution, and to ensure the visibility of all in the long term, it will be necessary to “That entry rules are more complex. There are too many games, which decay each other. We must welcome better projects, better treat them, build a shop with a real vision. Steam is an indecipherable monolith.

Indecipherable, and all the more hostile to small productions that, since mid-October and a change in algorithms highlighting Steam, freelancers are even less visible than in the past.

Call of the foot to the “big”

British developers Simon Roth and Jake Barquette sounded the alarm. In October, Steam “Did something that killed the attendance of independent games pages”. Figures to support, they show that, overnight, the frequency of appearance of their games in the recommendations of Steam has been divided by three.

Officially, the bug has been fixed since October 19th. Mélanie Christin, Transformice developer, does not believe it. Still today, according to her, the Steam pages traffic “Abruptly dropped by more than 50% for no apparent reason”.

His counterpart Thomas Altenburger of Flying Oak Games even speaks of a decline in visibility of 85% for his game NeuroVoider. An attempt, according to him, to give more visibility to big games, to the detriment of more confidential works.

Finally, the 1st December, Valve, the publisher of the platform, announced that the games having garnered more than fifty million dollars on Steam would now not touch 70%, but 80% of the price of the sale. A boon for the “big”, but a new snub for the little ones. For screenwriter Anthony Jauneaud, “It's just insulting to independent developers. And it will rot the system further “.

Chance of the calendar? These two measures of Steam, occurred a few weeks before the announcement of the opening of the Epic Games Store, resonate today as a foot call to the address of the largest publishers, who would be tempted to make infidelities to the historical distribution platform.

A service that is no longer up to par

By dint of pampering the biggest, it is the little ones that Steam risks to get back, and throw in the arms of the Epic Games Store. David Elahee, developer of Double Kick Heroes in the Headbang Club studio, wonders if the service Steam offers is still worth it.

“The promised natural traffic is no longer what it used to be. Before, Valve took 30% and brought 90% of the added value. Today, it still takes 30%, but the added value is no longer at the rendezvous: 30% to operate an e-commerce driven by a few servers and algorithms, even sophisticated, it pecks; 30% is more than the share that goes to all other players, including marketing and artists. “

Rami Ismail, developer for the Dutch studio Vlambeer and one of the most respected figures in the independent video game industry, summarize on Twitter : “I'm incredibly grateful to Steam for doing so much for the independent video game over the past decade. But, having said that, it's time for them to face real competition. “

Others like the British Terry Cavanagh, recalled that other choices than Steam already exist. Like the discreet Itch.io store, well known by developers, less of the general public, and which, by default, only takes 10% of creators' income.

Corentin Lamy

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