Devolver wants the Steam vs. Epic conversation to be 'reset'

(Image credit: Devolver Digital)

Conversations about Steam and the Epic Games Store can get a little heated. Epic offers developers and publishers a more generous revenue cut than Steam (and the weekly free games are certainly nice), but not everyone is a fan of the way it's been throwing around the Fortnite money to secure exclusivity deals on big games, especially since the Epic Store is a barebones operation compared to the feature-rich, recently-updated Steam client.

Speaking to Gamespot, Devolver Digital co-founder Graeme Struthers called for that conversation to be "reset," saying that it "never really took place properly in my opinion." He defended the impact that Steam has had on the business since it went live in 2003, including that it enabled publishers to be paid accurately and on time every month, which was sometimes a struggle with other publishers. And while Steam's 70/30 revenue split might seem out of wack now (Epic offers 88/12), Struthers said it was "transformative" at the time.

Not that he thinks Steam should, or will, maintain a hammerlock on the PC market forever. "Competition is going to come along at some point. Epic have taken a view that their way of bringing content to their platform is far more generous revenue share and obviously they've been pushing exclusives—that's great," he said.

"You can't compare the two things however as like for like. Steam has invested I don't know how many hundreds of millions of dollars in their platform; Epic have yet to do that. I'm not saying they won't, and hopefully they will. In terms of the features and in terms of the toolsets for developers, there's a ways to go. But competition is good."

Epic definitely lags behind Steam in features—it only got a library list view last month, for instance—which can be attributed to the fact that it's still relatively new, while Steam has had 16 years to evolve into what it is today. But as Struthers said, it's not really a fair comparison: Steam serves as a template (and, to be fair, sets expectations) for new storefronts that didn't exist prior to its launch, and some gamers—as you can see in the responses to Tim Sweeney's defense of Epic's strategy, for instance—are put off by the perception that, instead of investing money into its storefront as Valve did, Epic is using it to secure major exclusives like Borderlands 3, Ghost Recon Breakpoint, and Control.

Struthers also dismissed complaints about Epic exclusivity, noting that Devolver has done console exclusives with Sony and Microsoft in the past. "But I think we have to respect Steam for what they've done," he said. "Without them, none of this would have been a conversation in the first place."

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.