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Epic signs up more app makers for its PC store. But it's not asking for a cut of sales.

Itch.io is coming to the Epic Store alongside the Brave browser.

Epic signs up more app makers for its PC store. But it's not asking for a cut of sales.

Epic already offers Spotify through the Epic Store.

Image: Epic Games

Fortnite maker Epic Games is bringing more third-party software to its PC storefront, the Epic Game Store, in a bid to turn its Steam competitor into a full-fledged app store. And in a not-so-surprising move that feels like a strategic dig at rivals Apple and Valve, Epic says it will not demand developers pay it a cut of sales or in-app purchases on commission.

Epic already offers Spotify through the Epic Store, as part of the two companies' close collaboration with the Coalition for App Fairness industry group that has opposed Apple and its App Store policies. Now, Epic is adding four new apps, including competing indie game marketplace itch.io, with plans to add more in the future.

Epic's PC store has been the subject of controversy since its launch, but the company has continued to invest in the platform in an effort to, as CEO Tim Sweeney has said, level the playing field for software makers. In Epic's sights is Steam, the leading PC game marketplace. But on the periphery of many of Epic's strategic moves in the industry is its ongoing feud with Apple over Fortnite and the ability for developers to keep larger chunks of the revenue they generate on third-party platforms, like the App Store and Steam.

Epic's antitrust lawsuit against Apple goes to trial next month. While Epic doesn't stand to make any money from courting app makers to its platform and not collecting commissions, many of its developer-friendly initiatives do help promote Epic's reputation as fighting for the creative class against the platform middlemen Sweeney has long decried.

Epic can't release a competing app store on iOS, which is part of why it's suing Apple for alleged antitrust violations. On PC, where Epic can and did develop a competitor to Steam, Epic has waged its battle for market share by lowering its commissions on the Epic Store and courting developers for exclusivity deals and giveaways, an initiative that has cost Epic hundreds of millions of dollars, as recent court documents in its lawsuit against Apple revealed earlier this month.

Sweeney doesn't seem to mind, even if Steam fans have railed against the Epic Store for its lack of features and its propensity for securing exclusives. "It has proven to be a fantastic success in reaching gamers with great games and a fantastic investment into growing the business," he wrote in a public statement on Twitter in response to news of the Epic Store's potential $330 million overall loss. "Apple spins this as 'losing money,' but spending now in order to build a great, profitable business in the future is exactly what investment is! It's equally true whether you're building a factory, a store, or a game."

The most notable of today's new additions to the Epic Store is itch.io. The app serves as both a storefront and a PC launcher for indie games, and has been a favorite of developers because of its more generous revenue-sharing model. Itch.io launched in 2013 with a 0% commission, and since 2015 it has used a pay-what-you-want model for developers interested in selling on the store. That means developers can choose to share any percentage of sales with itch.io or none at all, and the storefront has often collaborated with indie game makers for charity drives and other initiatives.

When Epic launched its PC store in the winter of 2018 to compete with Valve, it followed in itch.io's footsteps by increasing the share of revenue that game makers could keep from sales and in-app purchases to 88%, up from the industry standard 70%. Now, the two companies are partnering to distribute the itch.io app on the Epic Store, and an Epic representative tells Protocol it will not take a cut of any sales. Epic says it's extending this benefit to any app that uses its own payment processing.

The other apps arriving on the Epic Store include the privacy-focused browser Brave, the digital painting application Krita, a 3D modeling app called KenShape, and iHeartRadio (for the North American users only). Epic says it will also launch its Houseparty social video app on the Epic Store soon, as well as the chat platform Discord.

Protocol | Workplace

In Silicon Valley, it’s February 2020 all over again

"We'll reopen when it's right, but right now the world is changing too much."

Tech companies are handling the delta variant in differing ways.

Photo: alvarez/Getty Images

It's still 2021, right? Because frankly, it's starting to feel like March 2020 all over again.

Google, Apple, Uber and Lyft have now all told employees they won't have to come back to the office before October as COVID-19 case counts continue to tick back up. Facebook, Google and Uber are now requiring workers to get vaccinated before coming to the office, and Twitter — also requiring vaccines — went so far as to shut down its reopened offices on Wednesday, and put future office reopenings on hold.

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Allison Levitsky
Allison Levitsky is a reporter at Protocol covering workplace issues in tech. She previously covered big tech companies and the tech workforce for the Silicon Valley Business Journal. Allison grew up in the Bay Area and graduated from UC Berkeley.

After a year and a half of living and working through a pandemic, it's no surprise that employees are sending out stress signals at record rates. According to a 2021 study by Indeed, 52% of employees today say they feel burnt out. Over half of employees report working longer hours, and a quarter say they're unable to unplug from work.

The continued swell of reported burnout is a concerning trend for employers everywhere. Not only does it harm mental health and well-being, but it can also impact absenteeism, employee retention and — between the drain on morale and high turnover — your company culture.

Crisis management is one thing, but how do you permanently lower the temperature so your teams can recover sustainably? Companies around the world are now taking larger steps to curb burnout, with industry leaders like LinkedIn, Hootsuite and Bumble shutting down their offices for a full week to allow all employees extra time off. The CEO of Okta, worried about burnout, asked all employees to email him their vacation plans in 2021.

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Stella Garber
Stella Garber is Trello's Head of Marketing. Stella has led Marketing at Trello for the last seven years from early stage startup all the way through its acquisition by Atlassian in 2017 and beyond. Stella was an early champion of remote work, having led remote teams for the last decade plus.
Protocol | China

Livestreaming ecommerce next battleground for China’s nationalists

Vendors for Nike and even Chinese brands were harassed for not donating enough to Henan.

Nationalists were trolling in the comment sections of livestream sessions selling products by Li-Ning, Adidas and other brands.

Collage: Weibo, Bilibili

The No. 1 rule of sales: Don't praise your competitor's product. Rule No. 2: When you are put to a loyalty test by nationalist trolls, forget the first rule.

While China continues to respond to the catastrophic flooding that has killed 99 and displaced 1.4 million people in the central province of Henan, a large group of trolls was busy doing something else: harassing ordinary sportswear sellers on China's livestream ecommerce platforms. Why? Because they determined that the brands being sold had donated too little, or too late, to the people impacted by floods.

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Zeyi Yang
Zeyi Yang is a reporter with Protocol | China. Previously, he worked as a reporting fellow for the digital magazine Rest of World, covering the intersection of technology and culture in China and neighboring countries. He has also contributed to the South China Morning Post, Nikkei Asia, Columbia Journalism Review, among other publications. In his spare time, Zeyi co-founded a Mandarin podcast that tells LGBTQ stories in China. He has been playing Pokemon for 14 years and has a weird favorite pick.
Power

The video game industry is bracing for its Netflix and Spotify moment

Subscription gaming promises to upend gaming. The jury's out on whether that's a good thing.

It's not clear what might fall through the cracks if most of the biggest game studios transition away from selling individual games and instead embrace a mix of free-to-play and subscription bundling.

Image: Christopher T. Fong/Protocol

Subscription services are coming for the game industry, and the shift could shake up the largest and most lucrative entertainment sector in the world. These services started as small, closed offerings typically available on only a handful of hardware platforms. Now, they're expanding to mobile phones and smart TVs, and promising to radically change the economics of how games are funded, developed and distributed.

Of the biggest companies in gaming today, Amazon, Apple, Electronic Arts, Google, Microsoft, Nintendo, Nvidia, Sony and Ubisoft all operate some form of game subscription. Far and away the most ambitious of them is Microsoft's Xbox Game Pass, featuring more than 100 games for $9.99 a month and including even brand-new titles the day they release. As of January, Game Pass had more than 18 million subscribers, and Microsoft's aggressive investment in a subscription future has become a catalyst for an industrywide reckoning on the likelihood and viability of such a model becoming standard.

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Nick Statt
Nick Statt is Protocol's video game reporter. Prior to joining Protocol, he was news editor at The Verge covering the gaming industry, mobile apps and antitrust out of San Francisco, in addition to managing coverage of Silicon Valley tech giants and startups. He now resides in Rochester, New York, home of the garbage plate and, completely coincidentally, the World Video Game Hall of Fame. He can be reached at nstatt@protocol.com.
Protocol | Policy

Lina Khan wants to hear from you

The new FTC chair is trying to get herself, and the sometimes timid tech-regulating agency she oversees, up to speed while she still can.

Lina Khan is trying to push the FTC to corral tech companies

Photo: Graeme Jennings/AFP via Getty Images

"When you're in D.C., it's very easy to lose connection with the very real issues that people are facing," said Lina Khan, the FTC's new chair.

Khan made her debut as chair before the press on Wednesday, showing up to a media event carrying an old maroon book from the agency's library and calling herself a "huge nerd" on FTC history. She launched into explaining how much she enjoys the open commission meetings she's pioneered since taking over in June. That's especially true of the marathon public comment sessions that have wrapped up each of the two meetings so far.

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Ben Brody

Ben Brody (@ BenBrodyDC) is a senior reporter at Protocol focusing on how Congress, courts and agencies affect the online world we live in. He formerly covered tech policy and lobbying (including antitrust, Section 230 and privacy) at Bloomberg News, where he previously reported on the influence industry, government ethics and the 2016 presidential election. Before that, Ben covered business news at CNNMoney and AdAge, and all manner of stories in and around New York. He still loves appearing on the New York news radio he grew up with.

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