The battle of the PC clients has not benefited spending on the platform during 2019, according to analyst Mat Piscatella.
Epic’s arrival on the scene was, obviously enough, extremely divisive. The additional competition it provided was seen as a potential benefit for the PC gaming industry, particularly considering Valve’s overall dominance. Epic’s big selling point to the industry was a bigger cut for game developers on the Epic Games Store. However, it would appear the wider choice in game stores and greater competition hasn’t translated to a greater spend from PC gamers - quite the opposite, in fact.
“The great PC distribution platform wars of 2019 did not do consumer spending on PC content any favors by the way,” said Piscatella on Twitter. “Priorities of enhancing consumer experience & choice and minimizing confusion were all deemphasized in 2019, contributing to lower overall consumer spend on PC content.”
Piscatella is a video game industry analyst who works for The NPD Group, the de facto official trackers of video game sales in North America.
It’s really hard to pull any affirmative data from his standpoint but there are certainly signs that Epic’s aggressive tactics to expand its user base wasn’t necessarily a huge benefit to the health of the PC gaming industry. Piscatella will have access to whole swathes of data on sales figures, although even NPD Group will have incomplete data sets. However, Piscatella said “PC content sales were down in 2019. Data suggest to me that all the movement with distribution platforms contributed to that, as did a number of other factors. I wouldn't point to a single platform. PC was a rocky market in '19 with quite a bit of disruption.”
The Epic Game Store is the obvious standout here. A number of big titles were snapped up with exclusivity deals on the storefront. This would’ve undoubtedly led to lower sales than a concurrent Steam release. Epic also gave away more than 70 games for free. Far from Epic making PC a more profitable platform for PC developers, it actually ensured it’s never been easier to play on PC without spending a single penny.
Outside of this, it could be argued that 2019 lacked big tentpole PC releases. Red Dead Redemption 2 came in at the tail end of the year, of course, while Call of Duty: Modern Warfare likely had a strong start. Outside of this though, there was a distinct lack of commercial smash hits (such as Fortnite and PUBG in 2018), all of which could've resulted in this decline in consumer spending.