The promising interstellar exploration game Outer Wilds is the latest game that Epic Games have snapped up as an Epic Games Store exclusive, much to the chagrin of some of the game’s longstanding backers. The change won’t affect console players – it will still be coming to Xbox One and Xbox Game Pass – but for those on PC with an affinity for Steam, you’re out of luck for the time being.
In an update to their Fig page, Mobius write, “Outer Wilds will first be released on XBox One and on PC via the Epic Games Store, with additional platforms coming later. Rest assured that we read all of your comments and our goal is to bring the game to your preferred platform as quickly as possible. We will keep you up to date with the latest info here.”
This certainly implies that it will eventually be coming to Steam, but timed exclusivity is something that incenses users more than outright exclusivity. The original pitch said that they were “planning” to release the game through Steam and that they were targeting a Q2 2016 release, but it’s obviously been a long time since that original pitch and funding was secured.
Since then, the developers have partnered with Annapurna Interactive, Xbox and now Epic. They say that they’ve “welcomed helpful partnerships […] to support us and keep our small studio running long enough to ship the game at the level of quality that it is today. Each of these partnerships has enabled us to make the game better and more accessible for everyone who will play it.”
These deals were absolutely necessary, since the $126,480 raised was nowhere near enough to run the studio for this amount of time, but changing the terms still means that fewer people will be able to (or willing) to play it initially. There’s a lot of vocal distaste surrounding Epic Games Store exclusivity – though the effect it has on income for developers has been net positive despite this – but it’s simply another game store client to install on your PC… as long as you’re on Windows and Mac. The crowdfunding promised Linux support, but Epic is not available on Linux, thereby cutting a small number of users off from the game.
Backer Fredrik S. wrote “As someone who backed the game due to its promised linux support I am dissapointed by this, I do hope that we will see the promised Linux version sooner than the 1 year exclusivity deal seem to indicate.”
While they acknowledge the support of those on Fig, there is an awkward grey area that needs to be confronted when exclusivity deals come into play for crowdfunded games. Often times backers have placed their faith in developers up front, putting down money years in advance on the promise of certain goals eventually being met. One of the dangers of crowdfunding is that games might not come out, or that they don’t meet expectations, but here Mobius are effectively changing the terms of the deal. In such situations, it feels only fair that developers would be up front about the change and ensure that backers are aware of or offered ways to back out and retrieve their investments, should they so wish.