Why I turned down exclusivity deal from the Epic Store (developer of “DARQ”)
I had no intention of turning this into a news-worthy story, but seeing new articles coming out every day quoting what I said on reddit, it seems that the news is very much out there. I thought I’d give you a bit more insight into what actually happened so my words aren’t quoted out of context.
A bit of background
I’m an indie developer, just launched my first title “DARQ.” I worked on it for over 3.5 years, mostly solo, with occasional help of a few talented contractors. It was in top 50 most wishlisted games on Steam before it launched.
On July 27th (Saturday) I uploaded a new trailer anouncing Steam launch date. On July 30th (Tuesday) I was contacted by the Epic Store, proposing that I enter into an exclusivity agreement with them instead of releasing DARQ on Steam. They made it clear that releasing DARQ non-exclusively is not an option. I rejected their offer before we had a chance to talk about money.
[I will share a screenshot of this communication below- I hope the Epic Store won’t mind, since the exchange was polite and professional, and I was not asked to keep it confidential]
Why I rejected their offer
Before I get into this, I would like to emphasize that I’m not speaking on behalf of other developers. Every indie studio has a unique story and has to deal with unique set of obstacles. The following reasons are mine and mine only. Rejecting such offer happened to be right for my game, but might not be right for other games / studios, as their goals and long-term plans might differ from mine.
- I like money, and getting some upfront payment on top of guaranteed revenue sounds great. But although I’m a first time developer, I’m very serious about working in this industry for a very long time. I had just announced DARQ release date on Steam - pulling the game off Steam a few days after Steam release date announcement would forever ruin the credibility of my studio. I woud like for my customers to have confidence that my word means something, especially when making announcement as crucial as release date / platform. Turning down the Epic exclusivity offer might have been a foolish decision in the short term, considering the amount of money that might have been involved. When thinking long term, however, this was an easy & obvious decision to make (in my case).
- DARQ was listed on Steam since late 2018. A lot of Steam users added DARQ to their wishlist and patiently waited for its release date for almost a year. Pulling the game off Steam, especially so close to the release date, would surely make a lot of DARQ fans unhappy. Apart from the moral issues involved, would it be worth it if given a large sum of money? Consider Amazon’s history — the company remained unproffitable for many years by ALWAYS putting their customers first. They had made many decisions in the past that were extremely pro-customer, even if it meant leaving money on the table (for which they got a lot of criticism from Wall Street). Now, Amazon is one of the biggest companies in the world, and it’s because customers know Amazon will always be on their side. Their refund policy has always been the industry standard, and their delivery promise was always fulfilled to the best of their ability. Will I make less money on Steam than I would have by accepting the financial guarantee from the Epic Store? Probably. But it’s a fair price to pay for establishing an ongoing trust between my studio and its customers. Unfold Games (my studio) is here to stay, and DARQ is just the beginning.
- It was important to me to give players what they wanted: options. A lot of people requested that DARQ is made available on GOG. I was happy to work with GOG to bring the game to their platform. I wish the Epic Store would allow indie games to be sold there non-exclusively, as they do with larger, still unreleased games (Cyberpunk 2077), so players can enjoy what they want: a choice.
Coincidentally, the day after I rejected their offer (July 31st), Ooblets’ developers announced that they accepted the exclusivity deal from the Epic Store, which caused quite a lot of controversy. At the time, I decided not to participate in the controversy and keep my stance on the Epic Exclusivity deals to myself. However, I noticed that more and more people started asking me if I was about to do the same. Ultimately, I decided to mention that I had rejected the Epic exclusivity deal, so the community can rest assured DARQ is still coming to Steam and GOG. I was not going to turn it into a news story and did not contact press to attract attention to this matter.
Now that numerous media outlets made my Epic’s deal rejection veeery public, I found myself tagged in a tweet addressed directly to Tim Sweeney:
Needless to say, I never intended to become the face of the Epic Store exclusivity controversy. But since I’m tagged directly in a response to Tim Sweeney’s tweet, I felt I should at least make my stance clear.
I’m seriously a little scared to share the following screenshot (given that Tim Sweeny has infinite monetary power and connections in the industry to completely destroy me and my game — which I trust he won’t be compelled to do, I’m just a first-time indie developer after all), but here’s my conversation with the Epic Store representative. It was nice, polite, respectful, professional, but it also contradicts what Tim Sweeney seems to be advocating for:
I wish there wasn’t a double standard and indie developers were given an equal oportunity to sell their games across multiple store fronts, so the players can enjoy what they seem to want the most: a choice.