Epic Games is finally going to let developers self-publish games to the Epic Games Store beginning Thursday. The change could mark a potentially seismic shift for the PC storefront because now that self-publishing is available, a lot more games may show up on the store.
The big draw for developers is Epic’s generous revenue share model. Epic takes a 12 percent commission on game sales, meaning developers keep the money earned from the remaining 88 percent. Valve generally takes a 30 percent cut on its competing Steam marketplace, though that cut decreases if your game hits certain sales milestones.
Epic also doesn’t necessarily take any cut of in-app purchases. Developers can keep the entire split if they use their own payment system, making the store an enticing platform for big free-to-play live service games. Many Riot Games titles are on the store, for example, and “Riot gets everything, and we’re happy for them,” Steve Allison, VP and general manager of the Epic Games Store, says in an interview with The Verge.
The submission fee per game on the Epic Games Store is $100, like Steam’s. If you self-publish a game on the Epic Games Store, however, there are a few rules you have to abide by. If your game includes multiplayer, it will have to support crossplay for all PC stores, for example. And games launching after Thursday must include Epic’s achievements if they have achievements on other PC platforms.
We’ve known that Epic has wanted to offer self-publishing for some time. The company launched a closed beta of its self-publishing tools in August 2021, and the goal was to make the tools widely available sometime in 2022. Epic missed that deadline by a few months in part because “developing software is hard,” CEO Tim Sweeney says.
There was a lot to line up to make sure Epic could do self-publishing right, according to Sweeney. “We realized as we were building this that the world is changing out from underneath us and that there were really high expectations of gaming ecosystems. [Those expectations] were just growing over time rapidly.” Sweeney points to Epic’s recent $520 million FTC settlement over Fortnite privacy violations and unintended purchases as an example of increased expectations from regulators.
He also says the company had to build its moderation pipeline for incoming submissions, which have to abide by a stricter set of policies than they do on Steam. While Valve has very few limits on content, Epic prohibits the following in addition to standard bans on things like copyright infringement, illegal content, and malware:
- Hateful or discriminatory content
- Products with Adults Only ratings
If a game or app is a borderline violation, Epic has an escalation process, according to Allison. If an app is escalated (which would happen when a game is submitted for Epic’s review just before launch, spokesperson Natalie Munoz tells The Verge), it’s looked at by a small group that makes a call on whether or not it should be allowed. “But it’s not our goal to control content other than to measure it against those principles,” he says. There’s no formal process to appeal a decision, but “we will always talk to everybody about every decision that’s made.”
Where content ratings on Steam often only appear on big-budget titles, Epic will offer developers age ratings for free through a partnership with the International Age Rating Coalition (IARC). Sweeney believes this could be a critical differentiator for the Epic Games Store. “There’s a whole bunch of the PC gaming ecosystem that’s been broken for a long time because of the lack of highly accessible rating systems for developers,” he says.
Epic is announcing the availability of the self-publishing tools alongside new stats about the Epic Games Store, including that the store now has more than 230 million users on PC. And Epic plans to keep investing in the store moving forward. That includes getting ready for future opportunities like the growing possibility of Apple allowing third-party app stores.
One feature missing from Thursday’s Epic Games Store update is profiles, which were mentioned in Epic’s 2021 year in review blog post. They’re still in development, Allison says, but the company is taking a broader approach that ties into its lofty metaverse ambitions.
“There’s a lot going on there that I think we’ll be talking about in the future,” according to Allison. “It’s not just an Epic Games Store thing. It’s like a metaverse kind of thing that will connect to the Epic Games Store and Fortnite and other things that we haven’t announced yet. So we’ve sort of stepped back from talking about it in an Epic Games Store context until the bigger vision gets unveiled in the future.”
Update March 9th, 6:35PM ET: Added detail about when an app that’s a potential violation of Epic’s rules would be escalated.