Red Dead Redemption 2’s Steam release may spell the end for long-term Epic Store exclusives

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Red Dead Redemption 2

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Over on Overclock3D they’ve actually come up with a very interesting theory as to why there’s only a month-long wait for Red Dead Redemption 2 to come to Steam, rather than the customary 12-month delay. 

It all stems from a change to Valve’s Steam Distribution Agreement which you may remember taking place in September. It seemed like a fairly innocuous alteration but nevertheless an important one of publishers took its wording seriously. Under the agreement, publishers on Steam now have to agree that a game and its updates must come to Steam no later than 30 days after it first arrives on other PC game storefronts. Failure to comply may mean the game is ineligible to ever release on Steam. 

Here’s the revised clause in full:

“Delivery. Company shall submit the applications to Steam for release no later than the first commercial release of each application or Localized Version, or, if already commercially released as of the Effective Date, within thirty (30) days of the Effective Date. Thereafter, Company shall submit to Steam any Localized Versions and Application Updates (in beta and final form) when available, but in no event later than they are provided to any other third party for commercial release. Company shall provide these copies in object code form, in whatever format Valve reasonably requests.”

At the time there were question marks raised over just how seriously Valve take this measure. Would they really prevent games from coming to their platform entirely, cutting off their nose to spite their face? In this game of chicken it would appear they’re prepared to do exactly that, and Rockstar has relented. 

Red Dead Redemption 2 is the first major game to be announced as an Epic Store first title since the amendment was made and, like magic, it’s coming to Steam in December, one month after the November 5th launch on the Epic Games Store and the Rockstar Games Launcher. Based on the terms of the agreement, we can then expect Red Dead 2 to come to Steam on December 30th.

If this is genuinely the reason why Red Dead Redemption 2 is coming just one month later to Steam then this would be a landmark moment. It would mark the end of the long-term Epic Games Store exclusive. Publishers and developers would be left with a choice – take a smaller chunk of cash to come one month early to the Epic Store; skip Steam entirely; or launch day and date across all platforms. A month really isn’t too long to wait so it becomes far less of an incentive to use the Epic games Store.

The decision-making is going to come down to a complex series of metrics based upon expected sales figures, the publicity (or lack of) which comes from releasing on each platform, paid exclusivity deals, and of course the differing cuts which each store takes. Rockstar’s aim here is to maximise its revenue, a feat best achieved using its own Rockstar Games Launcher for a 100% cut. The Epic Store operates on an 88/12 split, while Steam runs a shifting model of 70/30 to 80/20 depending on sales.

Red Dead Redemption 2 comes to PC on November 5th via the Epic Games Store and the Rockstar Games Launcher. The Steam launch still has a vague ‘December’ data attached. RDR2’s PC system specs will be revealed tomorrow, October 9th.