With the announcement of Unreal Engine 5 it beckons the question of just where Epic Games and Valve Software are going to be in the next 5 years. There is nothing better than competition between companies, for consumers that is.
Steam & The Epic Games Store
Steam is a monolith in the PC gaming space, and has been the dominant storefront for PC games since Half Life 2.
Giving a space for creators in the PC gaming market to host their games in a storefront that was entirely digital instead of relying on physical retailers was revolutionary for the gaming industry… in the early 2000s.
In 2020 and beyond though, its a long-practiced standard for the industry that Epic Games wants to disrupt by providing their own alternative.
Epic Games Store
The Epic Games Store launched to some disappointing hype in December of 2018 and has been going through a lot of changes in the year and a half since its release.
Epic Games wants to be “the better storefront for game developers” rather than the consumer driven Steam.
The Epic Games Store shows this mindset with how it pays developers, featuring a better cut for developers that goes against the mold of most other storefronts in the gaming scene.
More money to keep independent developers floating after launch is something that can’t be taken lightly, and it means that AAA studios don’t need to rely as heavily on greedy monetization methods and tactics (looking at you Battlefront 2).
While Steam has to deal with a quality issue regarding the games on its storefront, Epic Games is currently invite only and every game on there is curated.
Steam also has to deal with the fact that there are just so many games on steam, with more and more launching every day. Its getting too crowded for even big budget titles, let alone indie game developers.
8,290 games were launched on Steam in 2019, that’s barely up from 8234 in 2018, as SteamSpy shows.
Epic Games is gearing up for the long battle with buying out releases of popular titles such as Borderlands 3, The Division 2, Metro Exodus, and many more to exclusively launch on Epic Games first.
As the store gets better and increases its features to match steam, I honestly think it stands a good chance of dominating the market or at the very least bringing Steam down a peg.
Unreal Engine 5 and Source 2
Valve Software developers were pioneers of story driven first person shooters with their modified quake engine called Goldsource, later upgraded to the Source engine for releases such as Half Life 2, Portal 2, and Team Fortress 2.
In its prime Valve was on the fringe of new technology, though it may not look like it today because of how old these engines are. Valve pushed the bounds of what could be rendered on-screen, but that innovation has largely gone unseen by Valve in recent years.
Though the Source 2 engine is an upgrade from the primitive Source engine, will it stack up against the latest technology in game engines like Unity and Unreal Engine?
It remains to be seen as the engine itself has no confirmed public release date as per valve culture to never talk about anything there working on.
Unreal Engine 5
Meanwhile Epic Games has taken up this mantle with new technology for Unreal Engine 5, including Nanite and Lumen.
Nanite technology basically means more detail that can be rendered on-screen, having real time rendering using 8k textures and “billions of triangles” to quote the Unreal Engine 5 release video.
As well as Lumen technology which translates to real time lighting, being able to light up rooms with a single source of moving light and have it affect and update in real time.
Half-Life Alyx and Fortnite
While the return to making games is more than a welcome sight from Valve, according to some Steam reviews of the game, its just not as good as the hype lead it up to be.
Though I’d be ignoring basic evidence if I myself said this game was bad (especially since I haven’t played it), sitting at 98% overwhelmingly positive, many many other people have enjoyed this game.
Valve is quoted multiple times to have stated that they only make games that innovate the industry and push games forward as a medium, this was very true for Half Life 1/2, Team Fortress 2, and Portal 1/2.
Whether it was pushing how far you could take physics based puzzle solving, or moving forward on how to tell impactful and deep stories, or simply innovating the online battle arena, Valve used to be innovators.
Sadly though with a strong focus on VR, how much innovation is there to be made? It remains to be seen just how innovative you can really be when your controls are your own two hands (akin to the Wii in some aspects).
Meanwhile Epic Games took the world by storm with the surge in popularity that Fortnite has seen over the last few years. Pushing the gaming scene into public domain and creating superstars like Ninja overnight.
Fortnite was a success story unlike any other in the gaming industry, what started out as a fading single player game turned into one of the most played and well known multiplayer games of all time.
Fortnite in some aspects legitimized gaming to the public (not that we needed it, games were awesome before).
Epic Games followed up this game with updates that pushed the Battle Royale genre (and sometimes blatantly stole ideas that worked from its competitors) to keep the game fresh for everyone.
Does Valve care about their old games?
Now how many years has it been since Team Fortress 2, Valve’s Online Multiplayer F2P Shooter, had any official content updates?
Well, this handy dandy counter on Creators.tf will tell you in real-time, but its currently sitting at 900+ days.
Valve has abandoned their innovative games of old in favor of flashy VR titles that bank off nostalgia for the Half-Life franchise, and it’s sad to see this from the company that was a pioneer and major innovator for the gaming industry just 10 years ago.
Its going to be a very interesting few years in the gaming space for PC gamers as two innovative long-standing giants battle it out for your dollar.
With Epic Games pushing technology forward with Unreal Engine 5, can Valve catch up and re-establish themselves as the kings of PC gaming? Either way things are going to get interesting.