With us now getting on into nearly a year of the new PC gaming platform war between Valve's Steam platform and the Epic Store, you might have forgotten how this all got kicked off. Before Epic pulled a Healthcare.gov with its platform release, and before crowdfunding efforts to fund PC games began taking a hit, and even before this whole thing transformed into mostly a PR war being fought with the PC gaming fanbase, there was Metro Exodus. The game was the first major title to announce an Epic Store exclusive deal for 6 months and that announcement came shortly after the game also became available for pre-order on Steam. This, understandably, pissed off a great many people. Including, it seems, the folks at Steam, who put out a statement on the game's page. The results were as predictable as the sun rising in the East.
On Monday, the latest game in the series, Metro Exodus, became an Epic Games Store exclusive, prompting Valve to call the sudden departure “unfair to Steam customers.” For some Steam users, that’s served as a rallying cry. This has led to sustained outcry in the form of everything from review bombs of previous series entries Metro 2033 and Metro: Last Light to irate comments on every possible social media post associated with the game.
The review-bombing kicked off almost immediately and continued for days. And not just on that game's page, but on game pages for other Metro titles. Then, as other games went Epic exclusive, the review bombing continued, even after Steam put some tepid efforts in place to remove such review-bombs that were not relevant to the game itself.
Again, this was entirely predictable. Valve isn't made up of stupid people and this was widely seen as an effort to weaponize the Steam community to punish game publishers that chose to go with Epic. It's difficult to see it as anything else. That hasn't stopped some folks at Steam from trying to pretend otherwise, however.
Speaking to Kotaku during a Valve event in Seattle last week, Steam business developer and designer Nathaniel Blue said the company did not intend to legitimize the outsized backlash to Metro Exodus’ Epic store exclusivity when it put a comment on that Steam page. The use of the word “unfair,” he said, was meant to reference the timing of the announcement rather than the entire concept of exclusivity.
“I don’t think that was our intent to upset people,” Blue said. “It wasn’t the intent of the message. It was more about the timing. The game was about to launch, and then it was [exclusive to the Epic store]. So that was the only goal of that. What came out of that was not what we expected. It wasn’t meant to be this lightning rod.”
The integrity of this specific developer aside, this is flatly unbelievable. The best that could be said here is that the entirety of the Valve team that had any hand in posting the message to the Metro Exodus was laughably out of touch with the gaming community. Frankly, that's not something I would want to be admitting to if I were Valve. More likely is that Valve knew exactly what it was doing, but perhaps didn't expect the backlash to be quite so severe. So severe, in fact, that it created problems for Steam devs themselves, who suddenly had to figure out how to combat these review-bombs to save face with the gaming industry as a whole.
It is worth noting here that Valve has refrained from commenting similarly on any other Epic exclusives.
“I don’t know that we’d go back in time and change it necessarily, but I can say that in the future we didn’t say anything,” he said. “In the future we didn’t continue to do that because our goal is not to upset the community or light anyone’s hair on fire. Our goal is to get developers close to customers, have a really valuable place for people to play games, and stay focused on that.”
There is plenty of room for disagreement on what Epic's entry into the marketplace, and its specific tactics, means for the gaming industry as a whole. That being said, this claim by Valve doesn't ring true.
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