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  • Writer's pictureSarah Brightmann

Epic's First Run Initiative Offers Game Developers 100% Revenue Share in Return for Exclusivity

Epic Games, in its ongoing bid to challenge Steam's dominance in the PC gaming realm, has introduced a new initiative named First Run. Under this program, developers can receive the entire revenue from their game sales in exchange for a six-month exclusivity deal on the Epic Games Store.

Starting from mid-October, First Run aims to attract developers who are growing weary of paying Steam's standard 30% share, which many consider to be excessive. While the Epic Games Store already offers a more favorable 12% share for creators, they can still list their games on other platforms at this rate.

Besides the promise of obtaining all net sales revenue, games participating in First Run will enjoy exclusive badges, homepage placements, and dedicated collections. Additionally, these products will be prominently featured in relevant store campaigns, including sales, events, and editorials.

Although the offer may sound appealing, it might not be as advantageous as it seems for everyone involved. Steam remains the go-to platform for PC gamers, and developers have often reported that when their games are available on both Steam and Epic, the latter contributes only a small fraction of total sales.

Granted, many developers did accept exclusivity deals from Epic, but that was mainly due to upfront cash payments the company offered based on anticipated earnings from exclusivity. For many independent developers, receiving a guaranteed sum upfront, such as $150,000, was more appealing than risking the chance at earning twice or even ten times that amount. Small development teams have financial obligations to meet, and the Epic exclusivity agreements provided a way to ensure stability; eventually, they would still release on Steam.

However, the reality is that Epic is essentially asking developers to trade a 70% share of a larger pie on Steam for a 100% share of a potentially smaller pie on their platform. While Epic remains an active player in the gaming industry, its platform lacks certain features that have become integral to the Steam experience. Even after years of operation, Epic's store still lacks customer reviews, which have evolved into a self-contained subculture on Steam. Furthermore, Steam has amassed various features over its extensive history that enhance the user experience.

For smaller developers, this new program might not be a feasible option. However, larger companies could potentially consider it. If a substantial PC game is being published and it's anticipated that people will purchase it, but the company doesn't have its own functional store, or their store is subpar, Epic's platform could serve as a preferable sales channel compared to Steam. It's likely that a few companies will test the waters with this initiative.

The introduction of this program raises questions about whether Epic is thriving or struggling to attract customers. Although it's difficult to ascertain, Epic has not effectively positioned itself as a genuine competitor to Steam in recent years, despite significant investments in giveaways and exclusive titles. While users appreciate freebies, they also want compelling reasons to remain loyal, and it seems that Epic is grappling with delivering such reasons.

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