Earlier this month, Valve blocked a vile game called Rape Day from Steam following several days of public pressure (opens in new tab). In a statement, Valve stressed that it blocked the game because it "poses unknown costs and risks," not because of its obviously disgusting message and content. The fiasco put a spotlight on how Steam is curated and on hateful games in general, and now Epic has joined the discussion.
"We do not intend to sell porn and hate games on the store," publishing strategy director Sergey Galyonkin said at a GDC panel today. He later clarified that M-rated games will be eligible for the Store, but AO-rated games will not. Epic Games Store head Steve Allison also added that games which haven't been rated by the ESRB or a comparable board will require "subjective judgments."
After Valve's wishy-washy statement, it's refreshing to see toxic games rejected outright. That said, it's also a little strange to see them lumped together with porn games, but I imagine there are other reasons Epic won't allow porn games on its store. The company probably doesn't want porn games listed in the same place where people - and particularly kids - play Fortnite. The battle to get pornographic games, especially erotic visual novels, accepted on mainstream storefronts is still ongoing, and it'll be interesting to see how the Epic Games Store plays into it. From the sound of things, it probably won't, but there could be some wiggle room in how Epic evaluates M-rated games.
Galyonkin's comments line up with what Epic CEO Tim Sweeney recently told PC Gamer (opens in new tab). "We'll have a quality standard that doesn't accept crappy games," Sweeney said. "We'll accept reasonably good quality games, of any scale, whether small indie games to huge triple-A games, and we'll take everything up to, like, an R-rated movie or an M-rated game. A GTA game would be fine to us, but Epic's not going to distribute porn games or bloatware or asset flips, or any sort of thing that's meant to shock players."
Galyonkin also discussed review bombing, another problem many storefronts are still grappling with. Valve recently announced changes (opens in new tab) intended to help combat review bombs on Steam, and Epic says it's "working on a solution to the problem of brigading reviews."
"We care about users trying to express opinions about problems," Galyonkin said. "But we also want user reviews to be reflective of a game's quality. We know people brigade and review bomb games because of some issues which might not be related to a game's quality."
User reviews are on the long to-do list for the Epic Games Store, and when they arrive, they'll give developers the option of opting into the review system. Opting out of reviews entirely is certainly one way to prevent review bombing, but it sounds like Epic has other options in the works. I wouldn't be surprised to see the company adopt a similar strategy to Valve's: ensuring reviews posted during a review bomb don't affect a game's score, without removing the reviews themselves.
Obsidian's The Outer Worlds (opens in new tab) is the latest in a growing line of PC games with timed Epic Games Store exclusivity.