The Gaming Platform Wars Are Beginning To Screw Up Crowdfunding Games

We’ve talked a great deal of late about Epic Games’ kicking off a PC gaming platform war with Steam through its own Epic Store. What the whole thing comes down to is that the Epic Store offers game publishers a revenue split that takes away half as much revenue from the publisher compared with Steam, coupled with a program for gobbling up 6 to 12 month exclusivity deals on many games that keep them off of Steam during that time period entirely. While Valve responded saying this would hurt gamers, and much of the public appeared to agree, Epic’s Tim Sweeney has twice now spoken publicly about his plans, while also stating that what Epic is really after is a better gaming marketplace and to get Steam to increase its own revenue splits, promising to end the exclusivity program if its rival does so.

Many of our readers have noticed that I’m somewhat open to Epic’s strategy here, although I’m not certainly buying into it fully. Many of those same readers have rightfully pointed out that, whatever Epic’s longterm goals, the platform wars still aren’t good for the gaming public in the immediate. They’re absolutely right about that and one perfect example of how platform wars and exclusivity deals can hurt fans of PC games has shown up in the form of Shenmue 3.

Shenmue 3 was launched via a Kickstarter campaign way back in 2015. Like any Kickstarter campaign, there were different tiers by which one could support the product. Many of those tiers included day 1 Steam keys as a reward for supporting the game’s creation. Then this happened:

Last month, the makers of Shenmue III announced that the game will be a timed exclusive to the Epic Store on PC, a move that angered quite a few people who had helped crowdfund the game. After all, when Shenmue III first launched on Kickstarter in June 2015, the developers had offered Steam keys as a reward option. When the game comes out in November of this year, however, Steam keys won’t actually be available. It’ll be on Steam in November 2020.

Those who backed Shenmue III in 2015 and wanted Steam keys for their efforts have a few options. One is to take an Epic Store key. Another is to switch platforms. A third is to get a Steam key one year after launch, once the exclusivity window is up. And a fourth, the developers said today, is to get a refund.

On one hand, yes, the developer is offering a refund to backers for its inability to actually deliver on the day 1 Steam keys it promised. That same developer has also announced, however, that tiers that backed the creation of certain gameplay elements within the game cannot be given a full refund since the gamemakers did in fact deliver on those gameplay elements. That obviously sucks for the Steam gamer: great, you made the thing in the game I wanted you to make, but I cannot play it where I play my games because you’re not giving me the Steam key you promised me at the time you promised it.

And, on a higher level, it would be entirely understandable for a backer of this project that only wants to use Steam to say something along the lines of, “Screw you entirely you damned liars.” After all, the game developer entered into an exclusivity deal with Epic having already made a Kickstarter deal with the actual backers of the game. That’s pretty shitty.

And, of course, those who want a refund don’t even have a way to get one… yet.

More details on how to get a refund “will be announced in a following update,” the developers said, although they also warned backers that if they picked one of the tiers including in-game content that’s already been implemented into the game, a full refund won’t be available.

So whichever side you take in Epic’s declaration of war on Steam, it cannot be denied that there won’t be collateral damage.

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