It’s been a heck of a week for everyone involved with post-apocalyptic survival shooter series Metro. On Monday, the latest game in the series, Metro Exodus, became an Epic Games Store exclusive, prompting Valve to call the sudden departure “unfair to Steam customers.” For some Steam users, that’s served as a rallying cry.
While Epic plans to honour all Steam pre-orders, and Deep Silver is selling the game at a lower price point than it would’ve on Steam (thanks to Epic’s more favourable 88/12 revenue split), this does mean fans will have to play Metro Exodus on another PC game launcher that is, for now, barebones bordering on straight-up bad – a wrinkle they weren’t expecting just a couple weeks from the game’s February 15 release date. This has led to sustained outcry in the form of everything from review bombs of previous series entries Metro 2033 and Metro: Last Light to irate comments on every possible social media post associated with the game.
The Steam review bombs, especially, have been vicious, with over 3,000 negative reviews being posted to the Steam store pages of 2033 and Last Light in the past two days.
“This game is actually good, but f**k Deep Silver for their [censored by Steam] actions regarding Metro Exodus,” says one of the most highly upvoted.
“Let me just rate this game negatively while Deep Silver sucks Epic’s [censored by Steam] in the next room,” says another.
“Am gonna buy the game next week, but greedy publishers don’t want me to buy it, so am gonna pirate it,” says a third.
It is, unfortunately, not a surprising response given the audience Steam has cultivated over the years by implicitly and explicitly advocating an irresponsible hands-off approach, allowing a pervasive player-vs-developer atmosphere to develop, and failing to consistently safeguard against review bombs and other forms of toxicity. What’s surprising here is that Valve chose to make a public statement that would, almost without a doubt, rile these people up. The company either chose to play dirty by kicking the hornet’s nest and then chucking it out the door alongside Metro Exodus, or it’s woefully naive about its audience’s behavioural tendencies.
Metro fans also took to blaming publisher THQ Nordic for things suddenly going off-rails, but it clarified that Koch Media, a subsidiary whose gaming division is Metro publisher Deep Silver, made the call. Yesterday on Twitter, THQ Nordic said it won’t rule out future exclusives, but that it wants to “have the players choose the platform of their liking and make our portfolio available to as many outlets as possible.” However, CEO Lars Wingefors later walked that back in a statement on THQ’s investor site, saying that he “fully” supports “our sub-groups’ autonomy to run their respective businesses” and is in “full” support of this decision in particular.
Kotaku reached out to Deep Silver and Epic for more information on why the deal got made when it did and what the companies plan to do about the backlash, if anything, but the former didn’t reply, and the latter declined to comment.
“I think Epic will [do] everything to help, and I did not have an impression that Steam gives a shit.”
In a press release about the deal, though, Epic CEO and founder Tim Sweeney made its appeal at least partially apparent when he said that Metro Exodus will be “underpinned by Epic’s marketing support and commitment to offering an 88% revenue split,” which Deep Silver CEO Klemens Kundratitz said will allow his company to “invest more into the future of Metro and our ongoing partnership with series developer 4A Games, to the benefit of our Metro fans.” It remains to be seen, however, whether or not things will actually play out that way. What happens, after all, if Metro sells like a busted gas mask in an irradiated wasteland instead of a hotcake in an anywhere?
People have also swarmed on the game’s official social media accounts and even those of some individuals, including Dmitry Glukhovsky, who wrote the book series on which Metro is based and also helps pen the games’ narratives. Initially, people believed that Glukhovsky, in an unexpected twist, was also outspokenly against boarding the Steam-less train, but despite screenshots of an either now-deleted or never-existent Instagram comment in which he purportedly said he was powerlessly “standing by” as his series was being “killed,” his available Instagram comments suggest otherwise.
“I am not responsible for publisher’s business decisions, I do my own little thing – imagine worlds,” he said in response to one person shoving blame onto him.
“Why?” he asked someone else, who said that the deal was a bad decision. “I think Epic will [do] everything to help, and I did not have an impression that Steam gives [a] shit.”
Kotaku reached out to Glukhovsky for clarification, but he did not reply ahead of publishing.
Doubtless, the Epic Games Store needs work, but Steam’s stranglehold isn’t good for anyone, and competition – something people have been begging for for years – isn’t always friendly. Is Metro Exodus’ exodus to Epic Land inconvenient? Definitely. Is it worth this much fuss? Probably not. And while many of the hundreds of responses to Glukhovsky’s post either (wrongly) chastise him or fan the flames of arguments, a few attempt to put things in perspective.
“All these hate comments referring to Dmitry and 4A are the stupidest thing that I’ve ever seen, not counting the review bombing on Steam (good way to show at Epic Games how ‘useful’ are the user reviews),” reads one response. “Yes, the Epic Store has its problems and certain things are fishy, but they’re working on that (like giving the price difference of Hades back, at least here, and the refund policy). There are other ways and more intelligent to address the problems to publishers.”