Epic has announced (opens in new tab) that developers are now able to self-publish their own games on the Epic Games Store, which means the store is about to inherit Steam's biggest problem.
Now the only barrier to getting your game on the Epic Store is a $100 submission fee and a handful of approval requirements. For example, if your game has achievements on other platforms, it has to have achievements on Epic, and if there's online multiplayer, it must be compatible with any version released on other PC stores. Games must also "download, install, launch and function consistently."
Epic's billing this as a way to help developers reach a "growing audience of over 68 million monthly active users." Steam last reported (opens in new tab) its monthly active user count as 132 million back in 2021, though that number's likely grown and there's certainly a fair amount of crossover between Steam and Epic users. Epic does still have the advantage of a universal 88/12 revenue split in favor of developers - Steam offers a 70/30 split for all but the biggest games.
Until now, Epic's seemingly been hand-selecting the games released on its store, and while certainly not every game on the platform is a banger, the new release section is much easier to navigate than it is on Steam. As of this writing, a dozen games have been released on Epic in the month of March so far. On Steam, 35 games have been released on the single day of March 9 alone.
There are well over 60,000 games on Steam now, and this is both the platform's greatest strength and its biggest weakness. It's a positive for indies to be able to sell their games in as many places as possible, but the sheer volume of games on Steam means that it's tough to sort out the hidden gems from the low-effort cash grabs.
Steam's increasingly wide-ranging recommendation algorithms are an effort to help players navigate the flood, but these days finding indie games to play is an occasionally complicated combination of browsing store pages, looking for recommendations on social media, and hoping that the games that seem to cut above the noise are actually worthwhile. Epic's about to send the indies it hosts into the ocean to sink or swim, without even the life preserver of the recommendation tools Valve's developed.
Epic is taking a more heavy-handed approach to moderation, though. Valve's content guidelines (opens in new tab) only ban games "illegal or straight-up trolling." If you're thinking that's vague, you're right - Valve's been back and forth with developers on what's allowed on the Steam store for years. There are plenty of questionable fetish games on Steam, though in 2019 Valve decided one particularly egregious example called Rape Day was too much and removed it from the store. Games like Sex With Hitler - I promise I did not make that title up - are still being released these days, though.
Meanwhile, Epic plans to ban "hateful or discriminatory content" and "pornography" alongside games with illegal content, copyright infringement, and malware. The issue, of course, is that pornography is legendarily difficult to define, and it doesn't take much imagination to suspect that the developers behind saucy visual novels are going to start pointing at the sex and nudity in mainstream games like Cyberpunk 2077 and raising a fuss when they're inevitably kicked off of Epic.
On Steam, these debates essentially ran themselves into the ground without any clear answer. Do you cut off a big segment of indie devs to provide a curated selection of games to players? Epic's joining Steam and numerous other storefronts in deciding the answer is no. Here's hoping the company has its own solutions to the consequent problems in mind.
Check out our list of the best Steam games. There are 25. They're all good.