Developer Glumberland announced recently that “We did the thing”, referring to signing on with Epic Games for a PC exclusive release. Unlike other developers, Glumberland then released a thoughtful blog post discussing exactly why the decision had been taken, which casts a light on the issues faced by small developers attempting to compete in the busy and all but saturated video game market.
They begin with a bit of feigned sarcasm, asking how anyone could possibly accept funding in exchange for exclusives, and that this in turn might lead to game consoles paying for exclusive titles, or streaming services like Netflix paying for exclusive shows. Such madness! In what world could this possibly be permitted to exist?
Never mind, this is capitalism. The developer is making their point by describing the current dominant economic model throughout the world.
All joking aside, the developer then goes on to discuss exactly what Epic offered them for this exclusive arrangement, and the benefits afforded to each entity. In sum, this partnership alleviates much of the stress for the developers by offering a minimum guarantee on sales that will match their projected earnings had they sold Ooblets across all PC platforms.
Epic also provided some of those funds upfront, which allowed the developers to complete the game as they envisioned it with fewer compromises. With platforms like Steam offering no similar incentives and a revenue split that leaves developers with less profit compared to Epic, this seems like a great opportunity for Ooblets.
The post goes on to discuss why some people may dislike the Epic Games Store, and how some players may resort to piracy due to some imagined entitlement to play a game only on the platform of their choice.
At the end of the day, Glumberland cannot control how some players will react to the news, but this post is a refreshing piece of insight into the realities of game development. Perhaps more importantly, the current exclusivity arrangements offered by Epic are allowing some developers to do more with less, or rather, to gain more of their profits and see less split with Steam.
In the end, it feels like Glumberland is sympathetic to the concerns of its users, and is mostly focused on delivering as well-made and successful product. At the very least, they have been as honest and forthcoming as possible in their decision.
On the other hand, we can see how other developers provide textbook examples of how not to handle similar decisions. Shenmue 3 is a game that backed by passionate fans on Kickstarter, but has since experienced problem after problem, most of which seem to kick the fans right in the gut, all in the name of profit. Signing an exclusivity agreement with Epic was one of its decisions, along with a host of others. Perhaps it wouldn't have gone so badly for them if they had taken a page out of Glumberland's book and approached the issue of financing with honesty, rather than brushing off backers' concerns and dragging their feet on refunds.
In the end, the candid post by Glumberland might be enough to sway some potential buyers over to the Epic Games Store platform. As Epic Games looks to gain a greater market share of the PC consumer base, that kind of honesty is what it needs. Though it doesn't absolve some of the more questionable things its CEO has said, Epic might still shape up to be an encouraging platform for indie developers with limited resources.