When the crowdfunded Shenmue III was announced as an Epic Store exclusive late in its development, many backers were unhappy. Until now, the game’s publisher, Deep Silver, did not appear open to offering refunds to backers who felt betrayed by the decision. Now, Epic Games has stepped in and offered refunds to Shenmue III backers for those who request it. He has also suggested that Epic will compensate backers of other crowdfunded projects that become Epic exclusives in the future.
The announcement was made via a series of Tweets by Epic CEO Tim Sweeney. He has stated that “Epic is funding the cost of all Kickstarter refunds resulting from Shenmue III’s move to the Epic Games store, so that refunds won’t reduce Ys Net’s development funding”. He also stated that Epic will work to try and ensure key availability on other storefronts, or to offer refunds, when similar situations happen again.
When future games go Epic-exclusive after offering crowdfunding rewards on other PC stores, we’ll either coordinate with colleagues at the other stores to ensure key availability in advance, or guarantee refunds at announcement time.
— Tim Sweeney (@TimSweeneyEpic) July 2, 2019
In addition, Shenmue III developer YsNet posted on its Kickstarter page regarding the issue. “As noted in the updates and survey at launch, we had originally planned for PC distribution through Steam. Taking publishing and sales considerations into account, YSNET and Deep Silver agreed to our partnership with Epic Games Store on PC version distribution”, the developer wrote.
“In response to backers who have requested Steam keys for their rewards, we discussed offering the keys on the day of release. However, coordination with the sales policies of the involved companies was untenable, and as a result we are not able to make a day one distribution option for Steam keys available. That we are not able to offer Steam keys for Kickstarter rewards at the time of the game’s release is a great disappointed and inconvenience for those backers who were expecting to receive them. We deeply apologize for the unrest caused by the announcement.”
Epic Games’ recent series of exclusivity deals have been controversial, to say the least. Many gamers have disliked having to use a separate client for their games. Furthermore, the Epic Store still lacks vital features like modding support and cloud saves. Whilst there is a plan to introduce these features, many are still several months away.
When crowdfunded games come into play, these deals have become more complicated. Many crowdfunded games coming out recently were funded several years ago before the Epic Games store existed. As such, backers on PC usually funded them on the understanding the game would be available on Steam. Games like Outer Wilds and Phoenix Point have received backlash for taking money from Epic over the concerns of backers.
Hopefully this new policy will help reduce future concerns about Epic Games’ exclusivity deals. With the storefront offering the refunds, it reduces the risk for the developers if they decide to partner with Epic. Whilst it is understandable that some backers still feel betrayed when this happens, at least now they can get refunds.