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8.36

Ex-Valve employee Richard Geldreich has weighed in on the Epic Games Store debacle with some scathing words for his former employee. Geldreich’s career has taken him to a number of AAA publishers as a graphics programmer, finding a home at Valve between 2009 and 2014, working on CSGO, Portal 2, Alien Swarm and Left 4 Dead 2. He’s now working at Binominal making texture compression products for games and streaming services, but it appears he’s not overly enamored with the way Valve’s been doing things.

In what can only be described as a tirade on Twitter, Geldreich claims “Steam was killing PC gaming” and that we can “Thank the gaming gods for Epic.” Those are some bold claims coming out of an ex-Valve developer, and an opinion that’s sure to ruffle a few feathers in the gaming sphere.

“Steam was killing PC gaming,” said Geldreich. “It was a 30% tax on an entire industry. It was unsustainable. You have no idea how profitable Steam was for Valve. It was a virtual printing press. It distorted the entire company. Epic is fixing this for all gamers. It’s not potential spyware, that’s insane. Anyone with procmon and some knowledge can see this. I worked for Valve and believe me they gather huge amounts of data about virtually everything you do with the Steam client. Yet no one calls Steam spyware.

“If it wasn’t for Epic the entire industry would still be crunching away to support Valve’s 30% revshare. Most of these profits went to a tiny handful of people who couldn’t care less about the industry or working conditions. Thank the gaming gods for Epic.”

Of course, all of this, no matter how you look at it, only services as a direct benefit to publishers rather than gamers, in the short term at least. Looking further afield, Gelreich believes Valve’s time as the dominant force in PC gaming is coming to an end. He believes AAA gaming is pretty much dead on the platform, with publishers either heading to the likes of the Epic Store, or increasing numbers building their own launchers. Steam will become a haven for “indies/2nd tier/shovelware/porn”, according to Geldreich.

“Gamers believe that the PC is somehow special and immune to market dynamics and market forces. It’s not,” continued Geldreich. “It’s been de facto monopolized by a single greedy storefront for a long time and gamers grew used to it. Change was inevitable. Even if EGS fails something else will pop up.

“Developers and publishers wouldn’t take these deals unless they were excited to do so. Clearly, Epic has cut them a fair deal, and Valve didn’t. Gamers have been blindly supporting a corporation (Valve) that eventually started to take its partners and employees for granted.

I think gamers are going to remain mad for a long time, as these exclusives won’t stop anytime soon. Could last 1 year or more. Steam will be for indy/2nd tier/shovelware/porn; Epic and other launchers for AAA. This seems to be where the market is heading at the moment.”

For all this bluster though, Valve’s stranglehold is going to be mighty difficult to break even with these timed exclusives. The sheer weight of numbers behind Steam makes it a powerful platform for any big publishers to launch their games on, and it’s going to take some convincing to get committed Steam users to jump ship.

On that front, Geldreich reckons Epic will be pushing full-force to achieve feature parity with Steam over the coming year, although this doesn’t necessarily mean Epic's stpre becomes the breakout success. The likes of Discord and Twitch are quietly waiting in the wings, and it’s surely only a matter of time until we see even greater fragmentation in the market.

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