What if the 30/70 profit sharing ceases to be the gamedev standard?
Gamedev is an industry full of uncertainties. In the middle of game development, the engine, genre, plot and setting can change, but one thing is certain for sure - when the game comes out, the stores will take 30% of the profits.
70 to 30 - the usual standard, which, it seemed, no one was going to change. On the one hand, it is dictated by closed platforms, such as gaming consoles or iPhones, on the other - a free and open PC, where in fact the Steam monopoly has also been established for a long time. Only giants like EA and Blizzard can afford to release games without him, but they tread the tracks for themselves and do not lead others along them.
But perhaps from 2019 the standards will begin to change.
Steam is a rather old service, and when it appeared, it fought not with digital platforms, but with analog carriers. Professional developers found it harder to get the game across to the audience. The development tools were expensive, they needed to be promoted in a world without an omnipotent Internet, it was necessary to print discs and organize deliveries to retailers.
But the digital market grew, and Steam grew with it. Gradually, the old obstacles disappeared. Ideological and active schoolchildren could take a free engine, pour the game on their own in the store, make fun in social networks - and it's done. In such conditions, where Steam is the main showcase of PC gaming, the indignation that it is necessary to give 30% of the profits did not seem to be a great injustice. Without Ctim, there would be no profit at all.
But when the digital market grew, new problems appeared.
Sergey Galenkin, the creator of the SteamSpy service, explained in his blog the phenomenon of the so-called “Indipocalypse”:
Unity, Unreal and other professional tools became available, and game development seemed simple to people. Even my son was able to make his own platformer on Unity when he was thirteen.
This led to the next apocalypse rider - a low entry threshold. Since everyone now has access to tools and knowledge, theoretically, anyone could have made the game. There was a whole stream of game developers seeking to do something new.
The flow led to the third point - sameness. How many retro platformers do we really need? Do we really need all these 8-bit styled games? Moreover, many of them are good, even excellent. But how can you expect to find a great game if they all look the same?
Indie games filled Steam to capacity. Every year there were more releases than in all previous years combined. According to Sergey, because of this, Steam has ceased to be a good channel for promotion, because all the games sank in the same sea, where nothing is possible to find.
That is, the developers themselves had to drive traffic to the page of their game in the store, not really hoping that Steam will help with this. But 30% gave everything as before.
However, small studios still had no choice. There are few alternatives to Steam, and building your platform for a long time is expensive and risky. Only large companies could resist. Developers of blockbusters turned out to be cheaper to create their own platform than to bring their own traffic on Steam and give a third of profit for it.
For players in this, too little pleasant. I want to have a single launcher for everything, but you have to put Origin, Uplay, Microsoft Store, Battle.net and so on.
Advances to change began not long ago
In August 2017, Tim Sweeney, head of Epic Games, spoke out.
In an interview with Game Informer, he expressed his opinion in more detail:
Sharing a profit of 70 by 30 was a breakthrough ten years ago, when Steam, the App Store and Google Play appeared. Today, digital stores have grown into an international business with a turnover of $ 25,000,000,000 + across all platforms, but the increase in scale has not given developers any advantage. According to our data, stores overestimate their prices by 300-400 percent.
Around the same time, when Sweeney started talking about the unfair sharing of profits, his company sharply reduced the fees for using the Unreal Engine.
And then she shot Fortnite and became the largest cultural phenomenon of 2018. Success enabled the company to make decisive steps. For example, the mobile version of the game on Android was not distributed through app stores, but directly from the developer. As Sweeney said, if Apple didn’t have a closed platform, the game on iOS would also pass the store.
In the summer of this year, the head of Epic criticized stores for advertising in search results. In a series of tweets, he gave an example where the first place in the tape is often taken by the competitor of the desired service.
Seriously? How did we get to this? The store puts its profits above the desires of the user, so the developers buy advertisements before competing requests, and now no one gets in the issue what he was really looking for. Is everyone crazy?
In early December, Epic announced the launch of its own game store , where developers will receive 88% of the profits. Almost immediately after the announcement, the store opened. So far, this is not a close Steam competitor - now there are only a few games, there are no regional prices and many other functions that are likely to appear gradually next year.
But the main thing is that while we managed to launch Epic - this is not a store, but a broad discussion on how much developers should pay the store for placement
Valve, the owner of Steam, also takes steps to change , but far less radical. Now, if the game brought in between $ 10 and $ 50 million, the developers would give 25% instead of 30. If the revenue exceeded $ 50 million, the store will take only 20 percent. The step is useless for most small studios. It is aimed only at large publishers who are thinking of taking their blockbusters to alternative platforms.
But the most generous offer so far promises Discord. This is a service for communicating in games, which has already gained a base of 200 million users. In 2019, they plan to launch their store with a profit sharing of 90/10.
This year we noticed a change in the gaming industry. We talked to many developers, and most of them think that modern stores do not justify their 30% on the standard 30/70 revenue sharing. Therefore, we see how developers started creating their own stores or launchers, instead of concentrating on creating good games.
Competition is good for players, unless the desktop is filled with the icons of different stores, because for competition with the help of payments, there will be competition with the help of exclusives. But now you can seize the moment and collect free games, while new stores one after the other will attract attention.
But when the issue of profit is solved, the previous problem will return.
Epic Games made an excellent move by focusing on one of the injustices - the one that is easier to solve. But the problem is that the feeling of injustice appeared when the stores no longer cope with the task of filtering garbage and bringing games to players. Even if everyone now goes from Steam to other stores for a larger share, how will the problem of the player drowning in the daily sea of releases be solved? Will the profit really be greater than before? The market is still crammed with the same type of nonsense, where the work of several years disappears from the tape in two minutes.
Will this personalization algorithms, as Valve tried, but failed. Or, lowering the entry threshold with manual quality control seems to be doing Epic Games. Or, according to Discord, only community and word of mouth will help good games to avoid oblivion.
Which approach will be more effective in the end is a question no less interesting than the fair division of money that still needs to be earned.
Because, on the other hand, will not a small percentage of the profit remove all moral responsibility from the stores? Does this mean that they will finally abandon the idea of being a showcase and help find games or give developers at least minimal marketing. What if the stores admit that they have long been simply the infrastructure for delivering files from the server to the computer. Like, “search and promote your games yourself. We take pennies and owe nothing to anyone else. ”