Epic CEO: The only way to 'displace' Steam is with exclusives, good prices, and better revenue sharing

Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney has spoken at length about the company's push into the digital storefront frontier, and what it might take to displace Steam from market dominance. In an interview with MCV, Sweeney explained that it will take exclusives, decent prices and fairer revenue share with studios—not necessary the rolling out of new features.

That's one of the biggest complaints about the Epic Games Store: it lacks features. Indeed, it didn't even have a search tool until recently. But Sweeney points out that there's no use taking on a "dominant storefront" (ie, Steam) unless the exclusives, prices and developer relationships are there.

"It’s nearly perfect for consumers already... There is no hope of displacing a dominant storefront solely by adding marginally more store features or a marginally better install experience," he said. "These battles will be won on the basis of game supply, consumer prices, and developer revenue sharing."

That said, Sweeney says the current version of the Epic Games Store will be "significantly evolved" over time as the library expands. And its approach to curation will change too. "In this early phase, we are starting with a small number of carefully selected games based on consistent quality across a wide variety of scopes," Sweeney said. "Throughout 2019, the store will open up more widely."

On the topic of revenue share, Sweeney says Epic's storefront mirrors the business model his studio has always desired, and that the concept has been kicking around for a good while—it really took the success of Fortnite to precipitate its launch. Meanwhile, he envisions more seismic shifts in the industry during the next five years.

"I think the game business will change more in the next five years than the past ten,” he said. “The last remnants of the old retail model of gaming are falling apart, and the biggest successes are fast-moving indies and fast-moving big competitors – exemplified by Fortnite and Apex Legends. All of the old decisions need to be revisited.”

The interview is lengthy and far-reaching, also taking in the success of Fortnite and the company's Support a Creator program. It's definitely worth a read.

Shaun Prescott

Shaun Prescott is the Australian editor of PC Gamer. With over ten years experience covering the games industry, his work has appeared on GamesRadar+, TechRadar, The Guardian, PLAY Magazine, the Sydney Morning Herald, and more. Specific interests include indie games, obscure Metroidvanias, speedrunning, experimental games and FPSs. He thinks Lulu by Metallica and Lou Reed is an all-time classic that will receive its due critical reappraisal one day.