Fans eagerly anticipating the release of upcoming X-COM-like game Phoenix Point have turned on the developers after the announcement the game would be an Epic Store exclusive.
Snapshot Games was founded in 2013 by Julian Gallop, creator of the X-COM franchise, and David Kaye. Back in April 2014, the studio launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund its first title, Chaos Reborn. The campaign was a success, generating over $210,000.
Chaos Reborn, an update of a 1985 title by Gallop, was in Early Access on Steam within 6 months, and fully released within a year. The game was well received and everyone was happy.
With this solid crowdfunding history, it’s no wonder that fans flocked to back Phoenix Point, a spiritual successor to X-COM, when Snapshot took it to Fig back in April 2017.
Fig campaigns are similar to crowdfunding but have an extra element: investment funding. This is when backers invest in the product and are paid back, with interest, at a later date. The traditional crowdfunding and reward tier system runs alongside this. In the end, Snapshot Games raised $484,000 in investment funding and $454,077 in rewards funding.
Snapshot Games raised $484,000 in investment funding and $454,077 in rewards funding.
Problems arose when the studio announced that the title would now be an Epic Games Store exclusive for its first 12 months. Backers of the game were upset; the developers took to Reddit for an AMA, to try and clear matters up. Spoiler Alert: It didn’t go well.
So, why does the distribution platform matter so much?
It’s not what backers purchased
The game's campaign on Fig clearly states that backers will be able to receive their game via Steam or gog.com. Both of these are long-standing and trusted platforms. Gog was founded in February 2008, while Steam has been around since September 2003. The Epic Game Store, meanwhile, didn't even exist at the time the crowdfunding campaign launched.
Steam in particular also boasts a range of extra features including cloud saves, Linux support, reviews, and social options. In contrast, the Epic Games Store has been around since December 2018 and boasts a search function.
As well as a lack of features, the store also faces accusations of being spyware as well as having some glaring security issues. With these concerns seemingly dismissed, it’s understandable that many gamers are reluctant to trust the Epic Games Store, which is now the only option available to redeem Phoenix Point codes, at least for the next year.
During the AMA, Julian Gallop answered some questions about Steam store availability. He said “Phoenix Point will be DRM free, and will run without the Epic Launcher. You can uninstall it after downloading or updating, and the game will run fine. You can even add it to your Steam library manually.” He continued “If you only want to play on Steam/gog.com, you will get a Steam/gog key after the exclusive year has ended, which will include all the DLC up to that point.”
The problem is most players who have supported the title through Fig or via direct pre-orders don’t want to wait another year, especially those who backed the game when it first emerged, almost 2 years ago. They just want a Steam key, or possibly a refund. While we’re on the subject of refunds, there’s a problem there too.
Using Trust Pilot Scores As A Defense
Snapshot Games have offered refunds to those who wish to avoid the Epic Games Store entirely, but they’ve brought with them another concern: security. The refunds are being done through TransferWise, who require you to give all of your bank details to them, in order for them to process your refund.
Many users are incredibly reluctant to do this, as they feel their security could easily be compromised. Most would prefer a system such as PayPal, where simply providing an email address is enough for someone to be able to send you a payment.
When trying to convince disgruntled customers that TransferWise are legitimate and trustworthy, Snapshot made the mistake of doing this by linking to the companies 5 star Trust Pilot rating.
Using Trust Pilot ratings as a measure of a company’s reliability and security would prove to be a mistake - as people were quick to point out, Trust Pilot does not hold a very favorable view of The Epic Games Store. While TransferWise does indeed have a 5 star rating and a 9.2 TrustScore, the Epic Games Store is an entirely different matter. Epic Games, as a whole, gets a 1-star rating and a TrustScore of just 1.1.
Epic Games, as a whole, gets a 1-star rating and a TrustScore of just 1.1.
It’s true that people complain more than they praise, but by bringing TrustPilot into the conversation Snapshot have really shot themselves in the foot. However, that’s not even the worst part, that is to be found on the AMA thread.
The Reddit AMA
The Reddit AMA was billed as a chance to ask the developers questions and find out more about the exclusivity deal. What people expected was an open forum, and a chance to be reassured. What they got was a couple of stock answers and a lot of silence.
The thread is full of questions; some thoughtful, some concerned, some repeated, and most completely unanswered.
I’ve been through the AMA thread twice now and I’ve yet to find David Kaye’s name at all, despite his apparent participation. Julian Gallop did at least answer some questions, but not many.
All we are told is that backers will be offered a Steam or GOG key, but only after the 12-month exclusivity deal is up. He also says that the game will still be DRM free, as quoted earlier, and backers will get 1 year's DLC for free, which will comprise at least 3 major packs.
Gallop also admitted that the studio approached Epic, not the other way around, and he says he feels that “the offer of a year's worth of free DLC, plus a Steam/gog key at the end of it, is a good deal for the inconvenience caused.”
Speaking more in-depth about the deal he says “Yes, we did expect some people to be upset by the Epic deal, and we did not make this decision lightly. We have enough resources to release the game, but the Epic deal will help the game enormously in terms of quality and post-release content. It helps give our employees security and gives them the confidence they can get the job done, despite the stress and high expectations.”
The future of Pheonix Point And Its Fans
While the studio maintains the deal is critical for the game's quality and the studio's continuation, it remains to be seen if the Epic Games Store deal will hurt or harm Phoenix Point when it comes to sales. One thing is for certain, however: the storm of negativity towards the fledgling distribution platform is unlikely to subside anytime soon, unless Epic makes some major changes.