Faced with increased competition, expect this year’s Steam Summer Sale to be, wait for it: Epic
Like your cousin with the asymmetrical haircut home from her first semester of college, the Epic Games store is demanding to sit with the adults for Thanksgiving dinner. Ignoring the dirty looks and the spoonful of mashed potatoes flung from Microsoft and Sony at the children’s table, Epic issues a clear challenge to the patriarch seated at the head. Steam will no longer be the only game in town for, well, games.
Hail King Gaben! Oh wait…
The Epic Games store has already wrestled away some titles from Steam that it’s now offering as exclusives, like The Division 2 (hard pass) and Borderlands 3 (yawn). They’re both AAA titles from bigshot developers, but c’mon, who really cares? Absolutely nobody is going to give a shit about either of these reheated doodoo burritos one microsecond after the next big-budget online dick-waving contest comes out.
I see the appeal and the potential value to the individual gamer in breaking up Valve’s near-monopoly on PC gaming, but I just don’t see what Epic is doing as the right approach. In an effort to stop Steam from holding the entire marketplace hostage, they’re gatekeeping exclusive content so that they can grab some of those hostages. That’s not pro-consumer, that’s just increasing the number of kidnappers in the world. And it seems like at least some developers agree with me: when the Epic Games store lowered the prices of some games recently, their owners pulled them (temporarily) from the digital shelves. Not cool, Epic Games; you should at least ask for permission before using someone else’s property to beat Steam over the head with.
It especially sucks since there have finally been some overtures of peace in the endless console wars. Microsoft is beginning to blend PC and Xbox games online, and Sony has been licensing content to Nintendo for the Switch. That’s what a pro-gamer marketplace looks like, where more gamers get access to a wider variety of content. It’s sad to think about the number of great games that I’ve missed out on playing over the years just because I bought the competitor’s console.
So what is Steam going to come up with for this year’s summer sale? I’m sure that they’ll fight fire with fire and offer up some deeply discounted AAA titles of their own. But if they want to steal the media hype and attention away from Epic, they’re going to have do something truly memorable. The only thing we have to go on so far are a couple of rumors and a “leak” (i.e. paid guerilla marketing) confirming that the sale will happen in late June like in previous years.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Epic was just the first of a number of upstarts to take on the throne. You have to imagine that Amazon and Walmart have also been eyeing up the video game digital distribution industry. It’s not easy being king-and someday those kids slinging mashed potatoes are going to grow up too. Until then, I will gladly continue to humble myself before the king, especially when he offers these sweet, sweet sales.
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