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After declaring war on Steam, Epic is now challenging publishers

(Image credit: Epic Games)

Epic is now a multiplatform publisher, announcing the new Epic Games Publishing label today. Just as it did when it revealed it was squeezing into the digital storefront business, it's promising to do things a bit differently in ways that probably look extremely appealing to developers.

Under the new publishing label, it's already planning to release games from the developers behind The Last Guardian, Limbo and Control. Remedy has already worked with Epic, as Control is exclusive to its store at least until August, but as a publisher it's going to be responsible for a lot more than distribution.

According to Epic, it will be covering up to 100 percent of development costs, including salaries, QA, localisation and marketing, but developers won't have to give up ownership of their games or creative control in the bargain. As for the profit split, developers will get at least 50 percent after Epic has recouped costs. 

Publishing agreements come in all sorts of flavours these days, especially with the arrival of 'indie publishers,' but Epic's terms seem very generous. The promise of complete creative control for developers, along with them keeping their intellectual property, must look rather tempting, and even more so if Epic's offering to potentially cover all development and publishing costs. While some publishers might offer a profit split that favours developers more, in every other way it looks like developers will come out on top.

“We’re building the publishing model we always wanted for ourselves when we worked with publishers," said Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney. It's a similar sentiment to the one Sweeney has said is behind the Epic Games Store, which is also touted as being a more developer-friendly deal. 

Like Epic's strategy with its store, however, there's the question of its sustainability. Epic's been throwing its money around to net exclusive launches and weekly free games to tempt people into installing another platform, and in April last year Sweeney predicted that investments in freebies and exclusives would exceed the store's net profits for the year. And that certainly seems to have been the case. In January, Epic announced that $680 million had been spent on the store, but when you factor in the revenue split, which nets Epic 12 percent, and the cost of the exclusive deals, including more than $10 million for Control, it looks like it took a loss. 

Since Epic recoups its costs before splitting the profit with the developer, it might not be as big a gamble as the store, but the upfront costs are going to be big. It's also going to be quite a while before it sees that recoupment, depending on how long development takes. I guess it's a good thing it's got all that Fortnite money.

Starting a publishing label probably won't be as divisive or feather-ruffling as opening up a Steam competitor, but it still has the potential to shake things up. Epic is absolutely making a statement by boasting about its terms, putting them front and centre, and it's sure to get a reaction. 

Remedy also offered a few details about what it's working on with Epic. The deal is actually for two games, the first of which is a "AAA multiplatform game" that Remedy has already started pre-production for. The second is set in the same universe but will be smaller in scale. Both use Remedy's Northlight engine.

"The partnership extends Remedy’s strategy of creating and developing its own IP’s into long-term franchises," its statement reads. And we'll be able to get our hands on them on consoles and PC "in the next few years."

Expect more information about the publishing label, as well as its development partners and games, in the coming months. I'm particularly interested in seeing how it's going to deal with PC platforms. Will Epic's games only appear on its own store, or will we see them on Steam, GOG and elsewhere? More timed exclusives seem likely, at the very least, but Epic's not saying anything about it yet.  

Fraser is the sole inhabitant of PC Gamer's mythical Scottish office, conveniently located in his flat. He spends most of his time wrangling the news, but sometimes he sneaks off to write lots of words about strategy games.