In 2022, the Epic Games Store topped 230 million PC users, who spent $820 million on the store and claimed nearly 700 million copies of free games. However, it is unclear how long the company can tolerate losses while sticking to its business strategy.
It’s a bummer that Epic hasn’t made much ground here after all these years. Steam is the king in the PC game storefronts, but it’s not like it’s perfect. Epic’s store had a nice UI and better revenue share with developers, but it lacked features people expected, didn’t have nearly as large a library of games, and didn’t offer much different for users other than free games. Based on what I see out there, it seems like most people use their storefront to get the free games they’re constantly giving out, but rarely actually buy anything.
But we do have an example of a PC game storefront that seems to be working, and that’s GOG. GOG isn’t as big as Steam, but it does have a hook that appeals to customers. They have good games that are well-curated and easy to discover, they have a good collection of old classics, and all games you buy through them are DRM-free. Those are real consumer benefits and they resonate with people. As much as u like Epic giving more of my purchase to the people who made the game I’m buying, that’s just not enough for most people to change their behavior.
All of this is relevant in a potential world where Apple needs to open up the iPhone and iPad to alternate app install methods. Developer concerns often come up in our enthusiast circles when this topic comes up, and I think alternatives should try to do better here, but ultimately it will be clear benefits to the users themselves that will determine success and failure in this theoretical future.