505 Games, the publisher of Remedy Entertainment’s paranormal action thriller Control, has made explicit the details of its exclusivity agreement with the Epic Games Store. According to an Italian disclosure (warning: PDF link) from 505 Games’ parent company Digital Bros, Epic forked over 9.49 million Euro, or $10.49 million, for the exclusive rights to sell the PC version of Control, in addition to another upcoming 505 Games release developed by Typhoon Studios, Journey to the Savage Planet.
Based on the terms of 505’s publishing agreement with Remedy, it seems that 55 percent of that $10.49 million in Epic money went directly to Remedy Entertainment, while the remaining 45 percent went to 505 Games.
Since the disclosure from Digital Bros is in Italian and will take some time to translate, it’s unclear whether the payment from Epic was solely to obtain distribution rights, or if it also served as an advance against a minimum number of guaranteed future sales.
Advances against future sales have long been common in the music and paperback publishing industries, but they’re a relatively new addition to the world of digitally distributed video games. Ooblets developer Glumberland, who faced absurd backlash over its decision to do business with Epic, has previously said that it received an advance against Epic’s minimum sales guarantee, which allowed it to hire additional staff and further polish the game.
Glumberland and Remedy Entertainment are not equivalent studios in scale or reputation, so it’s difficult to assume that Epic would provide the same sort of deal to both developers. It’s possible that 505 Games was able to negotiate the tremendous sum of $10.49 million just to cover Control‘s exclusive existence on the Epic Games Store. Either way, it seems like a smart investment for Epic to make, given the glowing reception that Control has enjoyed since its launch late last month.
Between the constant deluge of free games on EGS, the weaponization of advanced payments to indie developers, and working to secure triple-A marquee releases from folks like Remedy, it’s clear that Epic is willing to ruffle a few feathers in order to get more than just its foot in the door.
The key for Epic, at this point, is retention. It has to make sure that the people who come to EGS for a single game — Control, Tetris Effect, Untitled Goose Game, whatever — those people have to stay there and purchase more games later, otherwise EGS is ultimately be a flash in the pan. Epic seems to think that the most effective way to do this is by securing further exclusive games, thereby reducing the likelihood that one might spend time on another platform.
But right now, even if you own a few games on EGS, you might still spend most of your social time on Steam or Battle.net, since that’s where your established friends list is. This is bad for Epic, since people tend to spend money where their friends spend money, and unlike the army of Fortnite devotees who prove this constantly, Steam users like to play more than one game.
The Epic Games Store has a long way to go with regards to community and social features, but it’s already providing a more polished and attractive consumer experience than Steam has been able to crap out in the 300 years that its dominated the digital distribution space. There’s no reason to believe that Epic can’t outflank Steam on the social side of things as well, and when Epic has the games and the infrastructure, why would anyone use anything else unless they had to?