For once I’d like to get through a week without some sort of shenanigans on the part of the Epic Games Store.
This time it surrounds the developer of perhaps the best twin-stick shooter of this generation, Witch Beam and their attempt to get Assault Android Cactus onto EGS. Which makes a lot of sense, right? It’s an indie title, the game has been a huge success story and it would fit right in.
Apparently, Epic Games doesn’t think so and has rejected the title from appearing in EGS. Which is something that I don’t understand and apparently neither does Witch Beam. Seriously, it’s a great game, lots of fun, 4-player co-op and has amazing production value. What’s not to like about it? That’s what Santana Mishra, the designer of Assault Android Cactus, a person who I’ve met once and spoken to several times, is trying to figure out. As such he has shared his experience on trying to get the title on EGS.
I'm not sure people understand how insanely stressful life was when Steam had the same approach to curation that Epic has now, the day we won an Intel Level Up award and got guaranteed access to steam as a bonus was fucking huge for Witch Beam, we were absolutely terrified.
None of what I'm saying here means I think Valve is perfect, or even particularly great at what they're doing now. Steam and discovery is a dense and complex problem that tbh I have no Idea how to solve, but at least they're pointed in the right direction for creators and users.
We all know Epic Games and company want to make sure that no “crappy games” make it onto the storefront. Which is where the curation comes into play. Yet in this example, you can argue that this is just a front to approve or deny games they deem to fit into a specific category. Or more specifying, they could only be interested in games that are the latest an greatest.
In defense of AAC, you have a game that has been scoring well since it’s release. Tons of accolades, lots of word of mouth and the game went from being PC-only title to being released on multiple platforms. That simply won’t have happened if the game was “bad” or “crappy”. Then again, a good game is in the eye of the beholder.
Hopefully, one that doesn’t need glasses. Could you imagine if Undertale had been presented to EGS? Chances are the game wouldn’t have enjoyed the success it has to date.
Before someone jumps in and says that Epic isn’t calling games that get rejected crappy. It was basically Epic who said themselves that if a game is rejected, it’s likely because it was a crappy game.
“We’ll have a quality standard that doesn’t accept crappy games,” he 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 “quality standard” implies, to me, that Epic will play every game that comes its way before approving it, which would be a gargantuan task. That’s not the plan, though.
“We’re not going to have something like the console certification process involved in releasing a game,” said Sweeney when I asked how Epic would apply this quality standard. “But I think we’ll be aware of the quality of what’s submitted prior to making a decision to list it in the store—somehow.”
“Humans can make those judgment calls, and they’ll be pretty reasonable,” he added.
Maybe it’s just me, but if I submit a game to be included in the Epic Game Store and it gets rejected. Based on what Epic said, I’m going to assume the reason it was rejected was that it was in fact, crappy. Sure, they might not tell me that to my face. However, based on their prior messaging, what am else would I assume?
Yet, this is the problem with curation and I won’t solely point the finger at Epic Games, as GOG is also guilty of this. Even Steam was guilty of this in the past until people started fighting back and Steam changed their ways. I’d even go so far as to say that it’s because of Steam that the indie game scene has flourished.
Denying a game based on some unknown criteria isn’t exactly helping out the indie gaming scene. More so the indie developers that are trying to get their game seen and really having on a certain storefront. That being Steam, which is great and all, there’s just the issue of Steam being supersaturated. Which is also stressful for indie developers as theirs a high chance that no one will see their game and it will get added to Steam and possibly just die there due to no exposure. On the other hand, if they’re constantly being told their game isn’t a good fit here, what choice do they have?
As for EGS, they’ve been giving the middle finger to a number of indie developers since day one. A practice that I really don’t see changing unless more people continue to point out the behavior that’s being exhibited. It’s simply more of the same mess we’ve been seeing for a while now, on EGS’s part.
Yet, they continue to get away with this and more people are somehow supporting this behavior. This isn’t the past, and despite how many times Steam has tripped, they’ve managed to help shape the PC gaming scene. Something to which I’d like to think we’re all better thanks to that. Yet, it seems that Epic Games has become ignorant of all that and has decided to just ignore the past 10+ years.
Buying exclusives to force gamers to use their storefront. Making gamers pay the credit processing fees, the lack of features that should have been available on day one, telling most indie developers too stay away and even snooping for Steam data on people’s PCs. This is the sort of practice we want from Epic Games and their storefront?
Is curation bad? No, if done right. However, as history has shown us, no one has been able to get it right. Maybe it’s for the best that multiple storefronts simply don’t bother with it anymore. And no, the removal of the really bad stuff isn’t curation. That’s called moderation and every storefront needs that.
Ironically enough, I can see people asking me why I hate EGS and truth be told, I don’t. As a new platform, I welcome it. There’s room for one more platform. I’m beyond over complaining having another store to buy my games from because it’s silly. What I am not a fan of is Epic’s practices, and I’ll continue to highlight every concern that I have until it gets addressed and possibly changed.