An honest review of the Epic Game Store

May 3, 2019

The Epic Game Store (EGS) has been the subject of heated debates in the gaming world recently regarding its strategy of game exclusivity, which means holding certain games hostage to one platform so that consumers are forced to buy that platform if they want to buy those games.

This practice might be understandable for first or second-party games, which are made, published or funded by the companies behind the launchers, like Fortnite for example. But for a third-party game, like Metro: Exodus to be exclusive is almost unheard of on PC (Console gamers have gotten used to the abuse). A lot of gamers, including myself, were not happy with this. Among many other reasons, the EGS seems to be inferior to Steam in every way, save the fact that there are exclusives on the former. And limiting the customer’s choice so that he or she can only buy from the inferior platform is clearly an anti-consumer business practice. For the sake of fairness and objectivity, however, which will allow me to make a more informed decision, I’m going to install the EGS and see for myself: Is it really that bad?

But before I do that, it is important to acknowledge the flaws that are known to be present in the EGS. There are a ton of features currently missing on the store. Even for the most basic ones like cloud-saves, user reviews and wish lists are missing. And I don’t need to install the launcher to know that: According to a chart comparing the seven major launchers on PC, the EGS is shown to be the worst of them all because it lacks so many features. Many of these core features, like the ones mentioned above, have become industry standards, so at this point that it seems inexcusable for Epic to not at least have some of them, especially considering the fact that the money spent to acquire exclusives could have been spent on implementing these features. Admittedly, Epic has released a development roadmap promising these features further down the line. But why should anyone wait for four to six months for user reviews and longer than six months for a shopping cart when they can just go on Steam instead? Furthermore, user reviews on the EGS will be “opt-in” by developers, which means they get to decide whether they display reviews on their games or not. You see, already there are so many things that make the online store EGS unappealing, but let’s see if my experience with it changes this perception.

When I logged in to my long-abandoned account (my friend gave me a beta key for Fortnite, and I never touched it), I clicked on the “manage account” button and I was surprised to find out that it opened a window in my browser instead of continuing inside the application. This is a minor complaint, but I feel like if you want players to install and use your store, you should make sure that all the functions stay within the app, especially for something so important like account management. Otherwise, what’s the point? Thankfully, the process of changing account information was simple enough as it only took that one click to get to the info that I needed.

After this was done, I went ahead to delete all the friends that my friend Jake had added, and I discovered that a lot of these profiles simply had blank spaces for names, which is strange. In the process, I wanted to try out the chat function, one of the few features that is said to exist, but the only options when I right-clicked on profiles were “remove friend” and “block.” There was no “whisper” or “chat.” I’m guessing it was because they were offline, though that’s hardly a justification for making the chat function unavailable. Without a community tab, I was forced to look on Google but found no one talking about this issue.

At this point, I felt a little lonely, not being able to talk to any of my “friends.” Add this to the fact that users can’t even set their own profile pictures and are reduced to the first letter of their usernames on their icons, there seems to be no sense of community at all on the EGS. Epic really needs to make it easier for users to access the chat system, if it actually exists, and allow, at the very least, customization of the user icon and implement a community forum feature in the EGS. Without any substantial community features, the launcher feels extremely isolating, and it might as well be a glorified game folder on my desktop.

But maybe the social aspect of launchers doesn’t interest you, dear reader. Maybe all you care about is the quality of the experience of buying games and playing them on the platform. Well, the first thing I can tell you is that it will be a little uncomfortable browsing through the store because you’ll have to scroll through a large grid of banners instead of a list of games like in Steam. As a result, there is too little information present at any given moment, which requires you to scroll more than you’d want to. The problem is scrolling feels choppy and slow. It’s like I’m scrolling on an old smartphone from 2013 that operates at 20 frames per second. Initially this might not seem like a big deal, but over time, I can imagine how irritating that can be.

Thankfully I didn’t have to scroll far down because at the top of the store, there is a free game section that gives users a free game every two weeks. This is a great move on Epic’s part because you don’t have to subscribe to anything to get it, and it’s wonderful news for people who want to expand their library without hurting their wallet. That’s me right now. So I checked out the free game, which is The Witness at the moment, a puzzle/mystery game I’ve heard so many great things about but never got to play. The individual store page for it was quite simple: The download button at the top, followed by a short, written introduction, a few embeds of trailers of the game from YouTube at the middle that I think are easier to use than Steam’s own video player, some nice big images of the game towards the end and system requirements plus supported languages at the very bottom. It’s the bare minimum a store page can have, and I think this is generally a bad thing because customers should be given as much info as possible before making a purchase. Something like a quick genre tag, recent updates or user review, which to be fair is on the development roadmap, could all benefit the user tremendously. Fortunately, the download process was quick and easy, though I’m not sure if something so basic really deserves praise. However, there’s no ETA on downloads (this standard feature isn’t even on the development roadmap)! When I started the game, I also missed the FPS counter that I had on the top right for Steam games. I looked into the settings on the EGS but was disappointed by, once again, how little there was: A language option, a few checkboxes and that’s basically it. There’s no in-game overlay, so it doesn’t seem like you can check friends list or chat with people when you’re playing. The in-game experience with the EGS is non-existent as far as I can tell, and maybe that’s what some people are looking for: a pure gaming experience.

Generally speaking, even if all you care about in a launcher is the shopping and gaming experience, Steam is still a better place for you. Its store pages are more informative, more comfortable to use and, most importantly, contains a multiplicity of titles. There are handy features in-game like the FPS counter and the overlay that allows you to chat with friends and look up guides among other things. Aside from the commendable free game feature, the EGS still has a long way to go regarding shopping and in-game features.

That isn’t to say, however, that I don’t want competition in the PC gaming market. Steam is a great platform that I enjoy using, but it certainly would benefit everyone if there are rival launchers that are just as good, so that consumers are given more choice as to where they spend their money. Some healthy competition would encourage Steam and, by extension, Valve to get off their lazy butts and innovate and improve their products. Maybe Valve would finally give gamers Half-Life 3 or Portal 3 or Left for Dead 3 and make them exclusive on Steam to attract more users. In fact, when the EGS was first announced, reception from gamers was generally positive because it was a promising new platform that already has a lot of users due to the success of Fortnite and offers a higher revenue cut for developers. It has the potential to be a good competitor to Steam.   

But all in all, the EGS turns out to be exactly what I expected it to be. In its current form, it is in no way a proper rival to or replacement for Steam due to how obviously incomplete it is. The free games are very nice, and I give props to Epic for their generosity but that’s really all I can say for the EGS right now. And although I don’t doubt that the exclusives are effectively attracting new users, especially with highly anticipated titles like Borderlands 3 on the horizon, Epic is competing in the worst way possible by holding games hostage, in a way that quickly wears out the consumer’s good will. As it stands, the EGS is at best a companion to Steam and, at worst, just a glorified game folder. But Steam needs no companion, and if Steam doesn’t suffice, pirating, which is completely free, remains a viable option to consumers. You gotta try a lot harder, Epic, before you seriously win anyone over.

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