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.