Epic Games founder and chief executive Tim Sweeney has announced that his company will foot the bill for refunds triggered by crowdfunded titles switching from offering keys for rival distribution platforms to becoming Epic Store exclusives, after backlash from Ys Net's Shenmue III doing exactly that.
Announced back in December last year after the company raised $1.25 billion in external investment, the Epic Games Store was quick to court controversy through an aggressive campaign of timed exclusivity. Epic soon began hoovering up titles from rival distribution platform Steam, including The Division 2, Metro Exodus, Borderlands 3, and Phoenix Point - the latter being particularly interesting, having been crowdfunded on the promise of a key redeemable on Valve's Steam platform being made available to backers.
With the Epic Games Store launch still lagging behind Steam in the functionality stakes - and being a Windows-exclusive offering to boot - not everyone is happy with games previously offered as Steam titles making the switch. The issue came to a head recently with crowdfunded Japan-'em-up Shenmue III, developed by Ys Net and funded through Kickstarter on the promise of providing Steam keys to backers. A deal with Epic now means that those Steam keys will be Epic Games Store keys instead - and it has backers up in arms.
In response, Epic Games founder and chief executive Tim Sweeney has promised to front the cost of any refunds demanded by crowdfunding backers - both for Shenmue III and for any future games where promised keys for rival distribution platforms won't be made available. 'Epic is funding the cost of all Kickstarter refunds resulting from Shenmue III’s move to the Epic Games store, so that refunds won’t reduce Ys Net’s development funding,' Sweeney explains on his Twitter account. 'When future games go Epic-exclusive after offering crowdfunding rewards on other PC stores, we’ll either coordinate with colleagues at the other stores to ensure key availability in advance, or guarantee refunds at announcement time.'
While refunds are now on the table, and without cost to Ys Net, some backers are still not happy with the company's decision to partner with Epic Games for the launch. A particular thorn remaining in gamers' side is the news, broken via Kickstarter late yesterday, that the game's physical release will not include a copy of the game on disc; instead, the disc will simply be an installer for the Epic Games Store, an approach which echoes Valve's distribution of the Steam client installer in boxed copies of Half-Life 2.
September 18 2020 | 18:30