The Epic Games Store has been racking up an impressive slate of exclusive content. Entries from famous franchises such as The Walking Dead and Metro Exodus are skipping Steam in favour of its most notable competitor. Epic’s latest acquisition will be Phoenix Point, the highly-anticipated strategy title from the creator of the X-COM series. However, this news has not left many fans particularly enthusiastic.
Similarly to Metro Exodus, the exclusivity deal was only announced late in production, after having promised kickstarter backers Steam keys. Fans of the X-COM franchise have been looking forward to this spiritual successor of sorts since it was crowdfunded in 2017, and the fact that Steam users will need to create Epic accounts and use a separate storefront is annoying, especially as it was funded with the promise of being on Steam from the start. However, the true reason that backers are angry comes with the reason for the exclusivity deal in the first place.
According to a Reddit AMA with creator Julian Gollop, it appears that the Phoenix Point developers approached Epic to sign an exclusivity deal in return for more funding. “It allows to commit more to the launch without risk, and more to supporting the game immediately post launch,” according to Gollop.
The idea that, after a highly successful Kickstarter campaign that made $765,948 from 10,000 backers, the developers decided to continue to seek external funding has irked many backers.
“I think what makes this particularly galling is how they basically used us backers for an interest-free loan,” wrote redditor Spinecone.
“They took our money, developed to the point where it was mature enough to attract external investors, then totally changed the game plan and fully expect us to withdraw our cash, since they’re now out of the high-risk phase of the project that nobody but us actual fans would back and have a mature product that’s been guaranteed external funding.
“They conned us into lending them the money, and manoeuvred it so we’d be sitting on the bill if the development project failed. For a game that sold itself based on community involvement, with backer builds and all, this is just awful.”
In addition, some fans are concerned about the modding potential for Epic Store games compared to Steam, noting that Epic doesn’t yet have a system like the Steam Workshop to help promote and download community-made content.
In an interview with Eurogamer, Gollop has since apologised to anyone who felt let down by the deal, and has offered full refunds. However, he doesn’t feel that the controversy will hurt Phoenix Point in the long run.
‘”I don’t think the Epic deal will affect Phoenix Point on launch,” Gollop said. “By that time the Epic store will be more established, with more features. I know Epic are genuinely committed to building a store which is both developer friendly and consumer friendly, and they have some good ideas to make it more distinctive than alternatives.”
Whilst many have requested refunds, Gollop doesn’t anticipate that “more than five to six per cent of our backers will actually request refunds in the long run.”
Phoenix Point will release as an Epic Store exclusive September 2019, and release on GoG and Steam after one year.