Epic’s Tim Sweeney Advocates for a Single App Store for Video Games – Bloomberg

Video games

Hey, this is Vlad in Tokyo, your substitute for Jason from a land where we worked on Thursday. Today we’re going to be discussing the lucrative fragmentation of platforms that has us spending more than we should, but first…

This week’s top gaming news:

Epic Games Inc. founder Tim Sweeney came to the eastern hemisphere this month to laud South Korea’s new law forcing mobile platforms to open their app store payments options to competition. He lobbed rhetorical grenades at Apple Inc.—a monopoly that “must be stopped”—and Alphabet Inc.’s Google, calling their practice of collecting fees for in-app purchases bad for consumers and developers alike. He also talked up the metaverse, like the one in Fortnite, as a multitrillion-dollar opportunity.

But the aspiration that most caught my attention was the idea of having a single app store that would make buying a game on one platform result in owning it on all.

Currently, you can buy a multi-platform title like the latest Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto several times over: once for your PC, again on the Xbox and a third time for the PlayStation, should you be so inclined. Nintendo Co. releases, more or less, the same retro games across several of its consoles, effectively multiplying earnings from its keenest fans. And yet, the value of the purchase is in the license to play the game, not the delivery medium. So why are we paying for several licenses to do the same thing?

The Fortnite: Battle Royale video game seen in the App Store on an iPhone. Fortnite didn’t really take off until it became free and a free-for-all.

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

The short answer is that it’s lucrative, and no one has stopped the industry from doing it. In the disconnected age of games delivered on cartridges and CDs, there was a cost associated with each copy, so an argument could be made for paying every time. But now that every game system has a digital-only purchasing option, and many of them have cross-platform accounts that keep track of a player’s progress and achievements, there’s really no defense for keeping this archaic practice going.

“What the world really needs now is a single store that works with all platforms,” Sweeney told my colleague Sohee Kim in Seoul. Epic is working with developers and service providers to create a system that would allow users “to buy software in one place, knowing that they’d have it on all devices and all platforms.”

Alongside John Carmack, co-founder of Id Software, and Gabe Newell of Valve Corp., Sweeney is among the most influential people who have helped shape the video game industry of today. Epic’s Unreal Engine powers not only the global sensation that is Fortnite but also classics like Gears of War and BioShock. Sony Group Corp. invested in the company as part of a close collaboration around the use of its game-making software on the PlayStation 5. In simple terms, he’s influential and has shown the courage to take both Apple and Google to court over their platform fees.

Of course, Sweeney’s musings on a one-stop gaming shop are self-interested. Epic doesn’t have a big console or app store platform to defend with digital walls, so he’s keen to see them torn down. The less friction there is between a player and a game, the more opportunity a company like Epic has to monetize the experience.

Fortnite is free to play for precisely that reason. It aims to get more people in the door and then capitalize on their presence with in-game purchases, much in the way that Valve’s Dota 2 and Riot Games Inc.’s League of Legends do.

Most of the mobile gaming sector already operates on the basis of so-called freemium experiences that make money from selling in-game perks, cosmetics and subscriptions (dubbed “battle passes” in multiplayer fighting games). The broader trend is, indeed, toward a wider adoption of the free-to-play, distribute-everywhere model.

That ongoing shift, paired with Sweeney’s influence, has me believing we may be heading to a gaming world with fewer artificial walls to paper over with our hard-earned cash. Companies like Sony will, of course, still create their own exclusive games that differentiate their consoles. But when a game becomes available in many places, we can hope, and ideally expect, that it will only ask us to pay for it once. —Vlad Savov

What to play this weekend

Adobe’s Lightroom CC application.

Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

Adobe Inc.’s Lightroom. Yes, it’s a photo-editing program, but Lightroom gives me exactly the same chemical stimulation that games do. Every new photo I put into it is a puzzle—to be pieced together by playing with the adjustment sliders and spot-manipulation tools on hand. It’s reminiscent of those games where you have to trial-and-error your way to figuring out how to optimally grow a plant. Only instead of balancing soil nutrients, sunlight exposure and hydration regimes, I’m tinkering with color balance, highlight intensity and shadow depth. It’s immensely satisfying to come up with a combination that radically improves an image and, unlike most of my gaming feats, I can show the product to my mother and get a smile instead of a frown.

In other gaming news

Peloton is getting into gaming. Peloton Lanebreak, a rhythm-based game, will become part of its subscription service for Bike and Bike Plus members in early 2022, the Washington Post reported.

Sony Interactive Entertainment is facing its own gender discrimination lawsuit, filed by former employee Emma Majo, who claims she was paid less than male counterparts and was fired for speaking up, Axios reported.

Star Citizen has raised more than $400 million. The game, from the creator Wing Commander, is free to play until Wednesday, PC Gamer reported. Star Citizen has been under development for about a decade and, as Kotaku noted, is still not technically “out.”

Microsoft is offering a special Xbox bundle—including game and extra controller—for its “valued” customers. Check your inbox for an email, the Verge reported.

You can reach me at [email protected] or confidentially at [email protected]


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