Earlier this year, Coffee Stain Studios announced that open-world factory-building game Satisfactory would be an Epic Games store exclusive. As could be easily predicted, some people were not happy. Epic has been pulling this stunt for months now, snapping up exclusives that previously weren’t so, and profiting off of that deal. Metro Exodus, Borderlands 3, Shenmue III, the list goes on.
It’s easy to see why this was done though, and it can certainly be argued as a positive for the developer. Nathalie Verwei, UI/ UX designer at Coffee Stain Studios, says that the deal has given them a fair bit of breathing room from financial stresses, “I think as an indie studio it’s nice to have that security that you know that your game is going to get out there and you don’t need to worry about making certain financial deadlines,” she told PCGamesN. “You can just focus on making a good game. Of course, we had some backlash but I think it’s a loud minority.”
Epic is offering a wide array of bonuses and helpful support to the developer, and that’s a good thing. “I think it’s a good thing that Epic is trying to do,” explains Verwei. “Of course, the users will only see the end of, ‘oh, it’s another launcher, it’s another store’ but Epic is trying to do something for game developers to make it better for them so we can deliver better quality of products, basically.”
Since the December 2018 launch of the Epic store, there has been constant controversy. The backlash against their consistent policy of pursuing exclusives has angered many, often to unjustifiable extremes. Glumberland, developer of farming sim Ooblets, was besieged by thousand of harassing and bigoted comments after making a similar exclusivity announcement. Many justified their harassment by pointing to the tongue-in-cheek tone of Glumberland’s announcement as deserving of anger, but it just doesn’t make sense. And these same people are going to try and nitpick a similar asinine justification against Coffee Stain.
Some people would criticize Coffee Stain for making Goat Simulator, in defending a massive corporation like Epic, especially given that the latter is openly pushing to exploit discontent with Steam with an objectively inferior service. Now to be fair to Epic, it’s still early days and they have time to improve, but a some people in the user side of things are losing faith.
Goat Simulator is an objectively bad game. And it’s not like it’s a B-Movie situation where it’s so bad it’s actually good. Goat Simulator is a concept hamstrung by broken physics that are only funny if you subscribe to the “LOL SO RANDUMZZZ” style of humor popularized by the most obnoxious and infamous YouTubers. That style of humor and the game itself has aged horribly, hence why people will likely jump on Coffee Stain for these statements, which really sucks.
Thing is, the quality of their games has improved exponentially as the studio have actually developed an unique and interesting signature style for their games. Coffee Stain has unquestionably gotten better. So in short, one bad game doesn’t justify backlash over what is essentially a business decision that helps keep people in a stable job.
When taken together, the combination of a marked improvement in quality for Coffee Stain Studios in terms of their games, and the trail of mistakes Valve has made should set an example for Epic to follow, in a manner of speaking. Epic should be taking lessons learned from the years that Steam has been around and come out of the gate storming, not delivering a half-baked and barely finished storefront that has managed to anger many gamers with their attempts at monopolizing exclusives and other screwups.
Throwing money at the problem won’t solve anything, and Epic certainly can’t just pretend their lack of features and lackluster PR moves haven’t made a negative impression. Maybe they should take a lesson from developers who actually improved and deliver a product that gamers actually want, not something they have to turn to out of necessity because it’s the only option. Their intentions are at least somewhat noble, but that’s often overshadowed by the response from the internet.