Since the announcement of the Epic Store, tales of thievery and deceit have become synonymous with the now digital distributor/publisher. Their newest acquisition is none other than the highly anticipated Borderlands 3.
Last week Gearbox announced that Borderlands 3 would release on the Epic Games Store as a 6-month exclusive, alongside a simultaneous release on PS4 and Xbox One. While the latter part of the announcement isn’t a surprise, what caught many off guard was 2K’s decision to partner with Epic for a half year exclusivity deal.
While 6 months isn’t a huge amount of time, by now it’s more the principle of the matter rather than the actual act of a publisher deciding to use Epic to distribute their games. On top of that, due to the angry backlash towards Gearbox and 2K, it would seem that Pitchford might re-think publishing any future titles on Steam.
Like Metro: Exodus, Borderlands titles have begun receiving an influx of negative reviews on their Steam pages from fans upset with 2K’s Epic exclusive decision. In response to this, Gearbox developer, Scott Velasquez, retweeted a post that showed the spike in negative reviews for Borderlands, Borderlands 2, and the Pre-Sequel. With it, he chastised Steam for allowing fans to act this way, and very soon after, Pitchford chimed in with his thoughts on the matter…
Ironically, that this misuse is possible and that Steam has no interest in correcting this misuse makes me kind of happy about 2k’s decision and makes me want to reconsider Gearbox Publishing’s current posture on the platform.
— Randy Pitchford (@DuvalMagic) April 5, 2019
Now, for starters, this is understandable frustration (we’ll see both sides here, so don’t get mad at me yet). As a developer, the last thing you want to see is your games on Steam getting review-bombed, hypothetically decreasing their chances of being sold. In Steam’s defense, they very recently implemented a new bot that recognizes rapid spikes in negative reviews and prevents them from being included in the aggregate scores.
However, and it’s kind of a big ‘however’, the written part of these negative reviews can still be easily found in the comments section of the reviews. This makes Steam’s attempt to mitigate review bombing damage more of a half-assed band-aid than an actual fix. So while the Borderlands titles all sit on Steam with extremely positive scores (Borderlands 2 is currently holding at 90%), all of the backlash and negative comments are still out there for everyone to see.
For developers, this is a shining example of why they have such an issue with Valve’s automated, hands-off approach to monitoring their online store. It is a point of frustration that has been a discussion topic for developers for quite some time, but one that has given them a convenient excuse to go with Epic.
Of course, this is one issue that Steam has, compared to the multitude of content missing from Epic’s game launcher. Inferior or straight up missing features have been a point of contention among PC gamers when it comes to not wanting to switch the Epic store. Their argument is “why would we switch to this when it lacks all of what Steam already offers?” and, that is a valid point.
In Epic’s defense, they have released a road map showing what their plans are for the launcher in the coming months, but again, Steam already has all of these amenities. What it boils down to is the additional income publishers and developers get when they sign exclusivity deals with Epic. While it’s an understandable move for smaller, indie developers, when a AAA company, like 2K, makes the move to Epic, clearly it’s for the extra income and nothing more. It’s here that you’ll find the epicenter of the anger directed towards 2K and Gearbox.
Borderlands 3 was, and probably still will sell insane amounts of copies. It’s a series that has garnered love and affection from gamers for over a decade. Which is why the move to Epic was so confusing for everyone. 2K and Gearbox didn’t NEED to sign with Epic in order to make a profit off their game, it was going to happen regardless. The simple fact is that this was a financial move, not one that benefited anyone other than the people behind the game.
Now, that doesn’t mean I think developers shouldn’t be compensated for putting in grueling hours to deliver a game that people have been waiting years for, but it’s public knowledge that 2K is an extremely profitable company. They have the finances to keep the lights on, and their staff well paid. It makes their move to Epic a selfish one, one that fans are going to recognize as a greedy move, and obviously, have a problem with.
This back and forth will continue to happen as Epic continues to rip exclusives out from under Steam, and while competition is great for distributors like this, it’ll be interesting to see how Valve retaliates. It may be time for them to match Epic’s revenue split if they hope to convince other developers to stay on board.