The Epic Games store has just launched with a few exclusives, and a lot of promises. I had a click around and bought Supergiant's Hades (which is sweet so far) to see how Epic's shop compares to other stores.
First impressions are good. Buying a game worked. The download was as quick as I would expect. The game launches correctly. In presentation terms it's a lean client with nice big images. Videos are simple Youtube embeds, so they buffer more consistently, and at a higher quality than I find they do in Steam.
Valve's store is a hybrid shop/social media platform, but the Epic Games Store is almost entirely dedicated to housing games (for now). There is a bare bones chat function (and you can import some friends from Steam if you link accounts), but you don't have a fully featured community profile. There are no forums. There is no overlay that I've found yet, and therefore no screenshot functionality. I haven't found an 'invite friend to game' function either, which I do find useful in Steam.
Frankly I like not having to build a social media presence to be part of another ecosystem. I'm much more interested in the client's buy/download/run game functionality. After some time with the store I have noticed a few elements that I'd like to see change.
No way to search or filter the store or game library
I was so surprised that there wasn't a search function in the store that I asked a colleague to double check. Granted there aren't many games on the store yet, so this will likely change as the client is updated. It's already annoying to have to scroll down through a collage of games to find. Also, available and coming soon games should be separate. It's hard to judge at a glance what you can and can't buy.
You can't search or filter your game library either, and I can't find a way to change it away from a large grid of thumbnails. Scanning a grid of banners with game titles in custom fonts is more taxing than a simple list of game names. Perhaps there aren't enough games to warrant that display yet, but it's something I'd expect to be able to do.
This isn't enforced very consistently on Steam, but if you look at a store page, you tend to see in-game shots, often with the full UI present. Not so on the Epic Games Store. Hades is an unclear mix of in-game shots (sans UI) and game art. Fortnite does not look like the screens above.
At a very basic level a store should show you what you're buying, not concept art of the game, or highly posed scenes that bear no relation to the way the game looks while you're playing it. Apart from one Shadow Complex shot, I struggled to find any pics that really showed a game properly.
Mailing list opt-outs
By default, buying Hades will put you on a list for whatever marketing spam the developer or publisher wants to send you. You can check the box to opt out, but I want to just buy games without the risk of ending up on some random mailing list.
Clicking on a game banner in your library takes you to its store page
A minor thing but... why do this?? The grey 'launch' section starts the game, but if you click on the much larger banner for the game it takes you to the store page, for the game you already own, where there's another 'launch' prompt.
No ETA on downloads
The downloads interface is nice, but it lacks the most important piece of information I need from it: when will this download be finished? Do I have time to make a cup of tea, or watch an episode of The Good Place, or is this going to be a Lord of the Rings extended boxed set job? I know I could do the maths based on the download size and the MB/s info, but I don't want to.
The store is by no means a disaster, then, but there's plenty of room for improvement. There's a whole microsite dedicated to Unreal Engine and all the news on the homepage is dedicated to Fortnite, but in the store and library areas there isn't any egregious Epic cross-promotion getting in the way. The client's processing footprint is comparable to Origin and Uplay (though it's slightly hungrier than Steam), and it all basically works.
Now to sit back if Epic's slimmer revenue cut (opens in new tab) will change the PC gaming digital distribution world forever, or whether players will just shrug and stay on Steam.