Epic wanted Sony’s PlayStation PC games to compete with Steam, documents show

- Published: 11 May 2021
Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Epic Games has been trying to convince Sony, Microsoft, and other publishers to bring their titles to the Epic Games Store and is willing to spend millions to do so.

A 222-page confidential document, filed as part of the Epic v. Apple trial, reveals a broad effort to compete with Steam during 2020 with free games, Fortnite promotions, and more. The document was originally created in September 2020 and was published and then quickly deleted last week.

The documents also show that Epic offered Sony $200 million for at least four first-party PlayStation games last year, ahead of a bigger push by Sony to bring more of its PlayStation games to PC. PC Gamer first reported on parts of this document last week, after a ResetEra forum thread detailed one of the slides. We have confirmed the document is real, and it contains lots of details around Epic’s efforts to improve its game store and compete with Steam.

Epic Games internal document.

It’s not clear if the Sony deal fell through for exclusivity, as Horizon Zero Dawn appeared on both Epic Game Store and Steam last year, with Days Gone arriving next week on both platforms. Epic Games has also been trying to convince Microsoft to bring its first-party games to the Epic Games Store. “Their PC Game Pass leader is against what we’re doing,” notes the document, and Microsoft is “effectively bidding against us for content.”

Microsoft first started distributing more of its games to Steam in 2019, but this Epic document appears to suggest that the Xbox maker has been talking to Valve about Xbox Game Pass on Steam. Rumors have suggested Valve is keen to get Game Pass on Steam, but nothing has been announced so far. Epic’s document notes that Xbox chief Phil Spencer “is meeting with Gabe at Valve occasionally,” in the same section that discusses Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass efforts.

Epic has also been meeting with Riot Games, Activision / Blizzard, and EA in a bid to get more PC game content for its store. “League of Legends is a longshot,” admits Epic in the document, while also noting the deal to launch Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 on the Epic Games Store could lead to more in the future.

Microsoft has apparently been requiring xCloud streaming rights.

Elsewhere in the document, it’s also revealed that Microsoft has apparently been requiring indie devs to agree to xCloud game streaming support to publish on Xbox. “Microsoft is using harsh language around the requirement,” claims Epic, noting that it’s “sign or be removed from Xbox.” We’ve reached out to Microsoft to comment on these claims. Other documents in the Epic v. Apple trial also detailed that Microsoft was proposing to reduce the cut it takes on PC game sales in exchange for xCloud streaming rights. That cut to 12 percent has been announced, but Microsoft has not revealed whether developers have to agree to grant streaming rights to the company.

The document shows how eager Epic was to attract top-selling games from Steam into the Epic Games Store. Epic identified an approximate $500 million revenue opportunity if all titles from competing platforms were available on its store. But out of the top 100 selling games on Steam in 2019, only 20 were available on the Epic Games Store.

“These existing Platinum, Gold, Silver, and Bronze titles not being on Epic Games Store is a glaring hole in our PC catalog,” admits Epic in the document. “It will be hard to move market share so long as they are not also at Epic Games Store.”

Epic obviously faces the challenge of convincing publishers and developers to bring games to its PC store, but free games have been the biggest draw. Other documents in Epic v. Apple revealed earlier this month that Epic spent at least $11.6 million on free games, and gained 5 million new users in return.

Epic Games Store monthly active users, excluding Fortnite.

Epic has also been leveraging the popularity of Fortnite to bring more people to its store, with free cosmetics and campaigns to launch free games and raise awareness of the Epic Games Store. Rocket League also boosted the Epic Games Store numbers when it went free-to-play in September, with Epic employees celebrating bigger numbers on its own store than through Steam for launch day.

While Epic revealed in January 2020 that it has 100 million Epic Games Store users, its internal documents highlight how its monthly active user count changes when there are free games. In September 2019, the monthly active user count (excluding Fortnite) jumped to 10.2 million and then dropped to around 8 million until February 2020, when it jumped back up to 10.14 million when Farming Simulator 19 and Assassin’s Creed Syndicate were both free in the store. Epic made Grand Theft Auto V free in May 2020, and this caused the active user count to jump to a massive 45.4 million before dropping back down to 29.3 million the following month.

Source: theverge.com