A different lens on Epic Games, Stadia and Arcade
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.
The last couple of weeks have been incredibly exciting, introducing new services and platforms.
After reading and listening to many concerns on many layers, be it the Business Model, Technical, Availability, Player Perception or Revenue Share, I would like to view things through a different lens of opening up, sharing and accessibility.
As a disclaimer, my views and opinions are my own and paints a view coming from my heart to see incrementally the world move to a more sharing and open economy, improving life everywhere and decreasing our footprint along the way.
Also without to say that there are way more examples out there, I will focus on Epic Games, Steam, Stadia, and Arcade.
Quixel | Rebirth
After Unity has made games development more accessible for everyone, Epic Games announced Unreal Engine 4 on a Subscription Model including the Source Code in March 2014, following one year later to be used for free.
Epic decreased the barrier by exposing Engine Tools and Source Code for everyone to use, extend, improve and learn from.
Without saying that there are still costs involved when a game is released and successful, it provides access to everyone. Students, Filmmakers, Game Developers, Enterprises and Lone Wolves growing their skills and unleashing their creative experiences.
With the latest Epic MegaGrants, access to Education, access to their Marketing and Technical Teams over various channels and the Epic Online Services, Epic is enabling everyone with more Analytics, Tools, Knowledge, Money and Publishing Power.
The biggest hit for me personally is the fact that the Epic Online Service is free, for any engine, store, and platform.
After 5 years of Unreal Engine 4 in the open, we have seen incredible achievements, and with this open-minded strategy decreasing barriers, I truly look forward on the amazing games and products we will be enjoying.
Steam has provided for many years an incredible platform for PC players to access and organize their games and experiences in one single place, which makes today's Epic Store for consumers controversial and with the last minute exclusives also very disruptive.
Nevertheless, my take on it from both sides of the aisle might provide a different point of view:
If the marginal cost doesn’t decrease over time and only bigger publishers gain better deals, access is not provided to everyone and we lose the amazing creations from less well-funded teams, who take creative risks and think outside of the box.
Having Epic Store going for a 12/88 model is shifting the playing field around and gives back to the creators and challenges the Status Quo so others follow.
Choice matters for consumers but also for those who create those experiences. If we continue on this route for much longer - fewer games with unique experiences will be available, and many will be either forced to jump on the next big revenue model, such as In-app Purchases, so-called Live Service Games or simply go into a niche or leave it altogether, not able to produce games economically and facing immense costs in performance marketing and having the data and platforms available to scale.
To be clear, I don’t want Games to be only financially scalable through Microtransaction and Performance Marketing. I want good games worth their money that as a consumer can be discovered and enjoyed across any model.
Apple Arcade finally splits off the premium experiences from freemium, so big and small developers creating these experiences are having a spotlight to be discovered. I deeply hope that the shares are beneficial for all developers, so more have reasonable access to the platform, developing unique and amazing games.
Letting Revenue Share and their Business Model aside until it is clear - equipping, reusing and extending their infrastructure to be used by developers to scale their different experiences is huge.
In addition not to forget the integration work of a lot of the platforms poses a challenge for smaller teams to maintain. Having Google integrate their App into many end devices and Engines supporting it decreases that complexity - letting creators focus on the experience itself.
It doesn’t mean that everything else goes away or Stadia is the new monopoly. There will be the next generation of consoles, other streaming services, and not everyone has, of course, the technical infrastructure to play on Stadia, but it could be a new opportunity to create a more open and sharing economy.
Seasonal crossroads by demasrusli | photography inspiration
Many questions are unanswered and especially for new entries such as Google Stadia and Apple Arcade, I hope that they share their knowledge as they also learn from Epics Model to lower the barrier with Tools, Source Code, Analytics, Revenue Share, etc.
Even though things might turn out quite differently, for now, I remain hopeful that a more open and sharing culture of developing creative experiences and consuming them is rewarded with creators able to live off it and consumers receiving a diverse and complete experience on a less predatory level.