Is Something Changing in the PC Games Market?
Microsoft follows Epic's example in its own Windows Store, the pressure now on Valve
Very few PC gamers are unaware of Epic's crusade to change the current status quo of digital stores as defined by Valve and the Steam service all the way back in 2003. In the context of that crusade, Epic has made a number of choices many PC gamers did not like but there's little doubt that if the Americans do succeed in breaking the monopoly currently enjoyed by Steam things will improve for all consumers long-term. Epic has been fighting more or less alone so far, but a new development may be indicative of changes happening on the digital stores front sooner rather than later.
This development is none other than Microsoft's decision to endorse Epic's model for PC games sold at its own Windows 10 Store. The Redmond giant has long employed the same revenue share model Apple and Sony use (70% for creators and 30% for Xbox) but, starting August 1st, it's changing it to 88% for creators and 12% for itself, the exact figures Epic is advocating for.
According to Xbox Game Studios' Matt Booty "It feels like right now, with our sort of re-invigorated push on PC, it's a good time to do that". Microsoft is hoping, naturally, that this change will give more PC developers reason to bring their games to the Windows Store instead of/along with the Steam store. It bears repeating that this applies to PC games only, not Xbox games (those will still be offered according to the 70%/30% model).
The news comes at a very interesting time, as Epic and Apple are already locked in a lengthy legal battle and are calling a number of witnesses and experts to testify regarding the latter's App Store policies next week. Epic maintains that Apple’s practice of keeping 30% of every sale on the App Store is exploitative and harmful to small development teams. Apple did reduce that percentage to 15% for apps/games making less than a million dollars in sales per year, but Epic is asking for App Store-wide changes, thus the trial.
It's worth pointing out that Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo may not like seeing Epic win that trial against Apple because it could mean that their own practices regarding the Xbox Store, PlayStation Store and Nintendo Online Store would be questioned in pretty much the same way next. The "big three" have always claimed that console games and PC games should not be treated in the same way, as profits coming from the former is meant to balance losses coming from initial hardware sales. It's an argument that has not been put to the test in any trial so far but, then again, Apple's practices were not seriously challenged too until Epic came along. First time for everything, right?
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