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If you’ve ever wondered what it actually costs when one of these big video game services are giving away “free” games, well, the bill for the Epic Games Store was $11.6 million for the first 10 months of its existence.
The information came to light on Monday as part of Epic Games’ lawsuit vs. Apple Computer. Writer and video game historian Simon Carless said a spreadsheet showing 38 titles, given away between December 2018 and September 2019, was “accidentally published early” as part of a trove of lawsuit documents and exhibits.
The giveaways released during that period reveal interesting data points about how much Epic Games paid for the privilege to hand out free games in an effort to lure in new users. The first game released as part of that promotional push, Subnautica, proved to be one of the store’s most popular, with 4.6 million entitlements, netting Epic more than 800,000 new accounts. Subnautica was also one of the most expensive buyouts for Epic at $1.4 million. That worked out to a cost of $1.74 per new Epic account, which would appear to be a solid return on Epic’s investment here.
Other games, like Super Meat Boy, Rime, For Honor, World of Goo, and the Jackbox Party Pack, earned Epic new users for about 50 cents each — in part because Epic paid far less (between $45,000 and $63,000) for those older titles than it paid for games like Subnautica, Mutant Year Zero ($1 million), or the Batman Arkham series ($1.5 million).
Metro: 2033 Redux is listed as costing Epic zero dollars to buyout, but that apparent anomaly seems to be a result of Metro Exodus’ Epic Games Store one-year exclusivity in 2019.
More interesting than the amount of money Epic threw around for these freebies, though, is the "UA Cost" column (aka user acquisition), which is the buyout price divided by the number of new Epic Store accounts that each game attracted. That metric, indie developer Rami Ismail said on Twitter, demonstrates that indie games are a very big part of attracting audiences: Big releases like the Arkham games draw huge raw numbers, but games like Oxenfree, Hyper Light Drifter, Super Meat Boy, and Fez add up—and at a fraction of the cost, too.
In spite of all that expense and the number of users who have created accounts in exchange for free games, the actual impact of the regular givaways seems relatively minimal. The document indicates that only about 7% of EGS users who have acquired at least one free game have also made a purchase through the storefront, which does not strike me as a very impressive conversion rate.
The numbers only go to mid-2019, which mean the doc doesn't tell us how much Epic spent for some of 2020's high profile giveaways, like Grand Theft Auto 5, and whether Epic's UA costs started to climb noticeably over time. If the chief goal is to attract new users, diminishing returns means it's going to become increasingly difficult to do so—and, you'd have to think, too costly to continue doing so at some point.
Regardless of how it decides to proceed with weekly giveaways in future years, there's still a long way to go before the Epic Games Store stops burning money: CEO Tim Sweeney acknowledged in April that the Epic Store isn't currently profitable because "it has front-loaded its marketing and user acquisition costs to gain market share." He doesn't expect it to start making money until 2027.
Speaking in David Jaffe's latest interview video, Days Gone director John Garvin has strong feelings on the sequel situation.
"I do have an opinion on something that your audience may find of interest, and it might piss some of them off," Garvin admits. "If you love a game, buy it at fucking full price. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen gamers say ‘yeah, I got that on sale, I got it through PS Plus, whatever.’"
Garvin's argument is that by buying a game at full price, you're showing direct support for the developer — you're doing your part to maximise profit. And in the case of Days Gone, Garvin's suggesting that if more people grabbed the game at launch, Sony may have been more open to a potential sequel.
Jaffe asks how buyers would know if they love a game before they've even played it. Garvin replies: "I’m just saying, you don’t, but don’t complain if a game doesn’t get a sequel if it wasn’t supported at launch."
Garvin continues: "I think the uptick in engagement with the game is not as important as, did you buy the game at full price? Because if you did, then that’s supporting the developers directly."
Of course, it's not always that simple. The obvious truth here is that not everyone can afford to buy games on release. For many, gaming is an expensive luxury — and suggesting that these people are, in part, at fault for Days Gone's lack of a sequel is a slippery slope. We would hope that Garvin knows this, and he's just trying to make a point, but it doesn't come across particularly well.
The staff of LeSean Thomas and MAPPA's Yasuke anime announced on Tuesday that the anime will debut on April 29 worldwide on Netflix. The anime will have six episodes.
Netflix describes the story:
In a war-torn feudal Japan filled with mechs and magic, the greatest ronin never known, Yasuke, struggles to maintain a peaceful existence after a past life of violence. But when a local village becomes the center of social upheaval between warring daimyo, Yasuke must take up his sword and transport a mysterious child who is the target of dark forces and bloodthirsty warlords.The story of Yasuke, the first African samurai who actually served the legendary Oda Nobunaga, will be released to the world.
The story's protagonist is based on the historical figure Yasuke, a samurai of African origin who served under Oda Nobunaga during Japan's Warring States period in the 16th century.
LeSean Thomas (Children of Ether, Cannon Busters, The Boondocks) is credited as creator, director, and executive producer for Yasuke, and Flying Lotus is composing the music and serving as executive producer. Takeshi Koike (Redline) is designing the characters. Lakeith Stanfield (Atlanta, Sorry to Bother You) is voicing Yasuke. MAPPA (Yuri!!! on Ice, Kakegurui) is producing the animation.
Falcom has announced a The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel TV anime project. It will air in 2022.
The original series depicted the story of protagonist Rean Schwarzer and his companions throughout four titles set in the giant military nation of Erebonia, but the anime series will depict a story based on the original series, set in the western part of the Zemurian continent.
The TV anime project is a global project by four companies: UserJoy Technology, a major game company that has released Falcom products in Taiwan and Asian countries; Funimation Global Group, a global distributor of anime; SYOU, a content fund; and NADA Holdings, an anime product planning company.
Further details were not announced.
Square Enix will release Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 + 2.5 Remix, Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue, Kingdom Hearts III + Re Mind, and Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory for PC via the Epic Games Store on March 30, the company announced during the Epic Games Store Spring Showcase.
“It is truly a great pleasure to bring so many Kingdom Hearts adventures to PC gamers around the world,” said producer Ichiro Hazama in a press release. “Our collaboration with Epic Games is one that stretches back to the development of Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue, and as part of this ongoing relationship, the team at Epic Games have been incredibly supportive in helping us make this a reality. I’m incredibly excited for so many new players to discover and enjoy the action, magic and friendship of Kingdom Hearts on PC.”
Each title is currently available for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory is also available on Switch.
Here is an overview of each game, via their store pages: