It’s not hard to trace a general trend: Major publishers got a lot, while indies only got a little. Admittedly, some smaller games went free long after their figurative sell-by dates, but those are still some pretty paltry prices.
The real winner here is Epic. As many industry figures pointed out on Twitter, those user acquisition cost numbers are awfully low, with Epic picking up nearly five million new users for dollars or cents per person. It is not easy to attract new users to a barebones store when a veritable monopoly like Steam is sitting just across the way—with everybody’s friends also on it—but Epic’s spend-to-win strategy appears to have paid off. Now it can boast a large user base to both publishers and players. Many other stores have failed where Epic is now improbably succeeding.
Epic has been offering different free games to users daily or weekly in order to get more people to sign up for the Epic Game Store and the loser in this is absolutely smaller developers. One look at the numbers makes it clear that the developers got absolutely ripped off as Epic got their users for pennies and then the developers of these games may have missed out on actual sales.
I can’t believe Epic isn’t more embarrassed by these numbers, I wonder if the free games experiment is done now that it has been running for years and they don’t mind giving it up or they may feel that the developers won’t have a choice but to ship with their store now because the deal is still slightly better than you get with Valve.
Some part of Epic’s sentiment isn’t wrong: Apple screws developers over just like every rent-seeking business that isn’t big enough to earn a special deal, it’s just that Epic is at least as awful as the facts the lawsuit reveals over and over again, Epic is just less successful and wishes they could put their own app store out on iOS so that Epic could be the ones taking rent even if it is at a more reasonable 15%.
For example, this lawsuit also revealed that Epic would have stopped campaigning against Apple if Epic had gotten a special deal like other businesses have on iOS. And of course Epic doesn’t sue Sony or Microsoft or Nintendo, because they do get special deals on consoles there and you’ll even see Fortnite editions of consoles.
I hope that in some way Apple is forced to make some of their platforms more open, because that would enable great things to be done there, but it’s clear that there’s nothing good natured in this fight between two large companies. We don’t win in the end and these numbers made it clear that small developers certainly aren’t getting enough out of it.