On the Odd Cult of Launcher Loyalty

Okay, so there’s a game coming out next year called Satisfactory, which has been described as a first person Factorio. I’ve been looking forward to, signed up on test it, dying to test it, and all that jazz. Been following it and the news… and then a few days ago it disappeared from the Steam store, and you’d have thought the world came to the end. The developers said “They are looking into it” on the game’s Discord server, and  the community seemed to be getting in a tissy. Finally the community manager was allowed to make the announcement…

So the big news then was that the game wasn’t coming to Steam, but would be exclusive to the new Epic Games Store, and a very vocal part of the community and fan base just lost their shit as if it was the apocalypse. With many saying they weren’t going to buy the game now if it wasn’t on Steam. Even though we don’t have all the information yet, we’ll get more on Wednesday  (it’s a Friday as I type this), people are jumping to far reaching conclusions. 

And this isn’t the first time I’ve seen the PC gamer community get up in arms over a game launching only one launcher, if that launcher isn’t Steam. When Destiny 2 was coming to PC, people were excited, then it was announced it would be exclusive to the Blizzard launcher and people got upset, same with the Star Wars Battlefront, and Battlefield games only on Origin. The upcoming Rebel Galaxy Outlaw is also going to Epic Games for the initial launch on PC, and there seems to be some backlash there. In each case the community gets upset that it isn’t on Steam, as if Steam is the only game in town, and I finally figured it’s time to take a serious look at how insane it is that people have such a cult like loyalty to Steam, and refuse to buy a title if it isn’t on Steam or GoG (seems many are willing to go that far from Steam but none else). It just seems to be far more volatile this time than when those games stayed off Steam than this round. 

EDIT 9 Dec 2018: It seems Super Meat Boy Forever is following in those footsteps and will only be released on the Epic store, same outrage from the fans on how they’ll not buy it if it isn’t on Steam… 

I’m going to explore some of the most common reasons I see for people saying why they refuse to use such and such launcher over Steam and explore why I think it has merit or not, or both… In most cases this is regarding the most recent case of the newly launched Epic Games launcher, but some if not most all of it applies in general to other launchers. I’ll get back to Satisfactory itself later. 

To be clear, I’m not saying people don’t have a right to be upset and voice their opinion, but they are just getting a bit too hostile and upset over a launcher… a free launcher. It’s not like a game coming out only on one console which costs several hundred dollars, it’s a free launcher. The threats, and just over all ultra high level of anger, far beyond being mildly upset is what I’m taking issue with. 

Also, I think lots of people forget how badly Steam sucked when it first launched. It was horrible… of course I recall using cassette tapes to load stuff, then 5 1/4 floppies (bonus if you used a hole punch to make it double sided), then 3 1/2 disks and swapping tons of those, talking to the iD guys on Software Creations BBS when they were still making the first Doom, even swapping CDs, and even those swaps were prefered for a long time over Steam at the time. For a rather long time. If you used it back in 2004… until around 2008, it sucked big time. And I think lots of people are judging the Epic Store based on the version before this new relaunch to include titles beyond their own. 

The Epic Games Launcher Lacks Localized Currency Adjustments

Okay, this is one of the few really valid arguments against the Epic Games Store if this is indeed the case. If there is no adjustments to make it cheaper in far poorer areas, and more expensive in richer areas, then there is perhaps a valid. Also some countries assess a fee on purchases made with USD. So I get it, and this is a valid concern.

My counter to this will be repeated often, it is a new store. Give them time. I’m sure localized currency will be one of the first things added.

Note: I’ll also sometimes use “store” and “launcher” interchangeably, though they are separate parts. The Epic Launcher has been around for some time, it is the Store portion that is new… and even that isn’t fully true, more like it just started accepting more games from outside developers, it’s been there for a while, at least as far back as the super early Fortnite closed alpha NDA days (long before the Battle Royale mode was a twinkle in their eyes). 

Tencent Owns 48% of Epic… I Don’t Want My Money Going to Them

This seems to be largely racist based and/or American Exceptionalism based. Not wanting any money to go to the Chinese. I’m not going to say one shouldn’t have concerns with that, but most publicly traded companies have lots of foreign ownership. The reality is it is near impossible to operate in a vacuum and ignore the reality of current markets, and economies. That all said, so long as the concern isn’t racist or American Exceptionalism, I’d say this is nearly as valid as the localized currency argument.

Also, if it launched on Steam, GoG, UPlay, Origin, they just made their own launcher, Epic would still get 5% of the cut for the use of the Unreal Engine… that 5% is dropped for using the Epic store. Though they now pay 12%, so yes, more to Epic, but it isn’t like Epic wasn’t going to get some already. 

It Doesn’t Track Hours Played and/or Doesn’t Have Achievements

Okay, again, new launcher. Have you purchased a game from it to know for sure if those features aren’t there yet? 

Even if this hold true, it probably just holds true for now. Again, it is a new store. I’d think hour tracking is easy enough, as is achievements… if these things are actually that important to you, more power to you. I’m at a bit of a loss why that would be worth comment as a major reason though. 

It Doesn’t Have Family Sharing

Yet. May or may not come. If it doesn’t come, this is a valid point, though I have plenty of Steam games that don’t allow family sharing. 

They Should Have Told Us / They Shouldn’t Have Put it on the Steam Store

They were under NDA themselves about the Epic store. Now did they know 100% for sure when they first put it on the Steam store that they weren’t going to be there? That we don’t know yet, and if they did know 100% for sure at that time, then one can argue they did so dishonestly, and were just using it to promote the game to what small degree such a listing helps (which I’d think is very small, you most likely had to search for it). 

I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt here, and assume that when they first listed in on the Steam store, they didn’t have a 100% commitment to be exclusive to the Epic store, if they knew about the Epic store at that time. I’d hazard a guess the final arrangements for that exclusive deal were made after it was listed on Steam. 

If that all holds true, then after they made the deal to be exclusive, they were under NDA about the Epic Store until later, and while many play testers might not take NDAs seriously, companies like this do, and I believe Jace (the community manager at Coffee Stain Studios, who are making Satisfactory) honestly feels bad about not being allowed to say anything ahead of time, and I’m sure it doesn’t help his depression. I feel bad for him and the rest of the staff who knew but had to keep it quite. 

I Don’t Want ANOTHER Launcher

Valid enough, but it seems lots of people are more upset at the bloat all these launchers take. Which makes me wonder how people are using launchers. Do they start them all with their PC? Do they leave them up all the time? 

I launch Steam when I’m going to play a Steam game, or a bit ahead in case there’s an update. When I’m done with the game, if I’m not going to play another Steam game… It takes all of two seconds or so to go to that bar in Windows, right click and close it. Same with Blizzard, Epic, Origin, GoG, UPlay… I use them, then shut them down. I don’t leave all those launchers running all the time. Now I don’t always shut one down if I’m going to use another, but I have a computer that is over 5 or 6 years old, only 8GB of RAm,  it’s a bit of a potato by now, and I’m not worrying about bloat. 

If they mean bloat in terms of hard drive space, then I’m also at a loss, because unless you are using an SSD to play games off of, then hard drives are dirt cheap… heck even SSDs are dropping in price where I’d think size of a small launcher isn’t a problem. 

That all said, I do get not wanting to have to remember which launcher launches which games, and yes it’d be better if they were all in one library, and I get that adding non-Steam games to Steam isn’t the ideal solution, nor are the third party ones that manage the libraries of the launchers to just sort the games, then insure the right launcher is launched. It is a pain in the ass.

It’s Unfair to the Consumer, it Removes Competition

I get where people are coming from here, but I think this is slightly misplaced. By this I mean, Steam has a virtual monopoly on the digital storefront for PCs. This puts the developers and publishers in a chicken and egg position (which came first the chicken or the egg). Nobody will switch to the other launchers if they can get all the titles they want on Steam. This perpetuates Steam’s monopoly, and that removes competition. If there are titles customers want that they can only get on a launcher that is different than Steam, then you’ll get a decent segment of those customers to use that launcher. Yes, some very vocal people might refuse to switch for the various reasons here, and elsewhere, but the average consumer probably will follow the game. 

Again, it’s a free launcher.  It’s not even like having to subscribe to Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, CBS All Access, and whatever Disney’s service will be called, all these stores and launchers are free. 

The primary point being, Steam is the monopoly that needs broken, and to break that, we need viable alternatives for developers and publishers to look at. 

This is Just a Money Grab/They Aren’t Thinking Things Through to Make More Money

This seems to be an argument made because Steam takes 30+%, while Epic will be only taking 12%. There is also conspiracy theories that Epic paid them to only be on Epic. In any case, lots of people argue that 60% of lots of sales would be better than 88% on what they say will be far fewer sales… some even work out how many copies they have to sell to make up for the loss of Steam sales… of course they are pulling figures out of their ass as nobody knows how many sales will be lost, though I’m sure the bean counters took a guess. 

I’m sure money played a part, if not the main part of their decision to put it there over Steam. This is how Capitalism works. This isn’t even a profits over people situation. It’s a financial move that causes very little to no harm to most people.

If Epic paid them, or gave them a discount on listing (10% instead of 12% of whatever), then they would be foolish not to take the money, especially as you can be sure they looked at  the potential loss of sales and calculated that as part of the price of accepting it. This is something console exclusives have to look at as well… I’d love to play Horizon Zero Dawn on the PC, but it’s PS4 only, and people have been arguing that console exclusives like that are bad, but they keep going on. It’ll take a huge player in the market to start changing that status quo, not a small studio. 

They aren’t running a charity, they are looking to pay their employees, their rent, and all that. So one can’t fault them if money played  a part of the decision. If Epic is giving a bigger cut, and other stores follow suit, especially Steam, then this is a win for the developers, publishers and us as players. 

One of the funniest things I saw was along the lines of “… it will hurt your sales. And… if you prefer money over players, you arent [sic] a gamer to me, you are a money grabber”… It’ll hurt sales, but they are a money grabber? Do they know what those terms mean, because it sounds like if they are willing to let sales slip some, they are less in it for the money, especially if people’s mad calculations of lost sales will hurt the overall profit the game makes by more than the gains from the increase in margin. 

You also have people saying they don’t get it unless there’s lots of money involved, because they’ll lose lots of sales… again… there’s a break in logic there. I get they think Epic cut a big check to make it exclusive, but I think they severely overestimate how many people won’t follow the game to Epic, just because there is a very loud  group screaming about how unfair it is that this game they wanted isn’t on the platform they wanted it on. 

This is the area where most of the threats come… in people admitting outright, they’ll pirate the game if it isn’t on Steam. So they have near zero morals, are willing to steal, but have the gaul to lecture somebody else on morals of money grabbing? Plank from your own eye… let those without sin toss the first stone… judge not… all that.

And I’m sure the developers are getting some really nasty and more personal threats via DMs. And that isn’t acceptable at all. 

It Makes No Business Sense to Use Epic over Steam Where More Users Are

Yes, Steam has more users, but again, we addressed this before with the chicken and egg problem. If every title one wants is on Steam, people will never switch. Also, Fortnite. Probably don’t need to say much more than that. All those people playing Fortnite Battle Royale on PC are going to see it, and while most of those people probably wouldn’t pay attention, some will. So yeah, you’ll lose a certain segment of random discovery (those who refuse to use Epic Store aren’t being counted here for this case), and this may be slightly higher than the random discovery via Epic Store, but it isn’t exactly nothing.

I Want Mod Support

First, in the case of Satisfactory, they haven’t said 100% yes to mod support yet. In so far as the Epic Store goes, some form of mod support is there, and again… it just launched, give them time to get it to a better point. I’d imagine this is a bit behind monetary localization, improved chat, time tracking and achievements, but I’d think this is another area Epic knows the store needs, and no doubt it’ll be worked on. 

Epic’s Customer Service Sucks

Clearly you don’t recall what Steam’s was like when it launched. I’d wager that Epic’s service will approach if not exceed Steams…  [This section added 9 Dec 2018]

Serious Question for Those Upset About it Not Being on Steam

If they didn’t release on Steam, but did just Epic and GoG, would you still be upset? I’d wager that most everyone who’s upset, still would be upset. They’d still be screaming how it isn’t on the West’s biggest platform. This cult like love of Steam, the demand for everything to be on Steam is just out of hand.

Yes, I’d prefer it to also be on Steam, but I’m not going to refuse to buy it when it comes out just because it isn’t. 

Yes, I’d prefer it not to be exclusive to Epic, perhaps at least GoG, so we got two choices, both taking away from Steam… though GoG takes the same amount as Steam does last I heard, so at that point you may as well stick with Steam unless you have a specific reason to avoid Steam. 

Now Let’s Look at the Pro’s of Moving to Epic

So we’ve covered a few of the most discussed cons people give. Let’s look at some of the positives that didn’t really fit above. 

Epic’s store will be curated. There will be far more personal care paid attention to what is on the store. Steam is filled with a fuck ton of cheap asset flips, outright theft, and many other messes. The Greenlight system was a mess, it’s replacement isn’t much better. They have a shit ton of money and they won’t hire the staff to curate the store? 

Competition for Steam is good, as I’ve noted above. If Steam felt too many developers were jumping ship, they might become more consumer and developer friendly. Lots of the big publishers are already favoring their own launchers, EA is moving more and more of their new titles to Origin only, Activision/Blizzard is moving to Blizzard’s launcher. Those two haven’t really pushed for 3rd parties to come to them, don’t really need to. CD Projekt Red’s GoG, IO, and now Epic are the main ones that can appeal to developers to pull away from Steam, and if Epic can raise their store to GoG levels or better, then Steam does have to start thinking about the competition. Also, Steam’s dominance is only in the West… even without Epic, Tencent’s market share dwarfs Steams. 

It also makes sense if you are already using Epic’s engine to use their store… it’d be like developing on Lumberyard but not leveraging AWS for your back end.

I don’t have access to the Alpha, and wouldn’t be able to discuss it even if I did as it is under NDA, but I’d have to think that the alpha test is on Epic’s launcher already. They could be using their own launcher, but odds are they are using Epic’s, so it’s easier to just keep rolling with it. 

Also, it’s not the only exclusive coming there that’s being made outside of Epic. Rebel Galaxy Outlaw is coming. I’m a fan of the original Rebel Galaxy… I’m fairly sure I had early access to stream it via them direct or one of the PR agencies I work with. So I can’t wait for that… I’m sure there are others, but Satisfactory and Rebel Galaxy Outlaw are the biggies for me at the moment. To be fair, Rebel Galaxy Outlaw may come out to other stores at a later date… and… 

Again, We Don’t Know All the Details

That video is a very quick note so they wouldn’t keep stringing people along. They were finally allowed to make a move and talk a little about it. More details are coming in less than a week. Hold off on any judgements, let alone final judgments, until then. They gave the news as quickly as they could with what detail they could share at the time. We’ll get more. Hold on. 

If You’re Truly Upset, Get Out of the Alpha/Beta lineup

Contact them, let them know you don’t even want to test it. Be polite, always, but free up room for those of us who do want to test it. Who do want to help them make the best game they can… that is the point of being a beta tester (at least on a beta like this where it is actually a beta, not just a marketing scheme), not just to play the game, but to help provide feedback and improve the game. I hate to think how many unredeemed keys there may be out there now, not only from lost emails, but from people who couldn’t or refused to test because it is on Epic’s launcher (again, broad assumption there). 

Realize that While Those Upset are VERY Vocal, They Are a Minority

Most of the people who’ll be interested in the game and will be playing it upon release aren’t the ones in the Discord now, or on the sub-reddit, or Twitter. The people there now are the ones who’ve heard about it somehow, friends, or something like that, but very few are ones who discovered it accidently via a Steam store recommendation. They are either passionate Coffee Stain Studios fans, likely not ultra upset at the move, or the super Factorio fans who are looking for their next fix. The more casual Factorio players, if they are interested in the concept will more likely use the Epic store if needed.

Yes, once the NDA drops and people start streaming it, we’ll hear a new chorus of complaints how it isn’t on Steam. Once it goes to Open Beta (if it does, and if this is after the NDA drops and not the same time) another chorus, and again on release. 

Yet in the end the very vocal group that is yelling now (many of whom will likely relent in the end even if they aren’t just postering to be “cool” and because hating stuff on the Internet is the thing to do) and won’t buy it, is much smaller than they think they are. They have a voice now, and there is a big echo chamber going on, but by and large I think in the end, feel free to go, but don’t harp against those who will stay.

There are Much Bigger Issues in this World to be Upset About

I dig it, if you want to go, as I said, there are many legit reasons, even those I don’t personally see as legit, if you honestly see that as an issue, then don’t get it (I’d never say that is reason to pirate and steal the game though). Just don’t be so down on the developers and fans that are staying with the game. While I haven’t seen too much flack to the fans that are staying, I’ve seen some nasty accusations, and horrible stuff said to the developers and community manager(s). Like chill. Don’t be rude. Express yourself in a polite way, get out of the alpha/beta list politely, and then move on. Don’t let this consume you, don’t try to make others miserable for such a small thing as a game not being on Steam. It’s not the first, it won’t be the last to ignore Steam. There are far bigger issues in this world to put that venom towards. Injustice, racism, lack of LGBTQIA+rights, starving children (and adults), homeless veterans, the massive suicide rate… lots of stuff to put that energy to.  A game being on one platform, one launcher, one console… those are small things. Find a cause that will actually make the world a better place, then put that anger to helping fix it.

Small Aside

I’m posting this without any real review or proofreading, so errors may, and likely do, abound. This is more or less a free flow thought dump. All opinions are my own, and I honestly hold nothing against those who are upset, just trying to get the things settled down to a more level discussion out there.