As has now been announced, the well-known online indie store Itch.io’s desktop client will become available at the Epic Games Store. This means more than 200,000 additional titles will now become available to Epic Games Store users in one fell swoop.
What is Itch.io?
Itch.io is an online platform for indie games. Similar to Steam, developers can offer their games on this platform. The highlight that sets Itch.io apart from other stores such as Steam is that the developers themselves can determine what percentage of the revenue they grant to the store as fees. For comparison, developers on Steam have to pay 20-30% of the revenue to the store platform for each copy sold. Furthermore, an one-time fee of 100$ (82.71€) has to be paid to Steam so that the games become available there in the first place – such upfront investment is also omitted with Itch.io.
Thus, many smaller developers can offer their games without being directly dependent on Steam or other large stores.
What does that mean now?
In itself, nothing will change with the Itch.io store or the way it operates. The only thing that will be new now is that you can now download the Itch.io desktop client from the Epic Games Store and thusly also use it via the Epic Games Store. Anyone who wants to buy something there, will therefore also require a valid Itch.io account.
Epic Games had promised that Itch.io would remain separately organized from Epic Games and that they would not demand any of the revenue that Itch.io makes. Conversely, developers who publish on Itch.io do not have to pay anything to Epic Games.
Exclusively for us, we have tasked some developers to explain to us what they think of this merger. Here, I would like to thank especially our indie expert Mahougao, who consulted some of his contacts for me
Firstly, the opinion of Aphrodisia, developers of Reborn in Sin:
I appreciate the question! I don’t have much of an opinion on the Epic Games Store/itch.io combination. Regarding Steam, the big thing I can say for sure is that they lack consistency. The rules get selectively enforced and sometimes, there’s no explanation at all. That’s really frustrating for devs. Steam is undoubtedly the king of the platforms, and most players will be from Steam. But they don’t seem to do much to actually help the devs sell or develop games. They just sell it and walk away with their cut. They don’t even have a phone number! It’s strange. I still use Steam because of the benefits, but I’d love to see them improve on that.
Next, I got the opinion of Far2Close, game reviewer and let’s play content producer on Youtube:
… I think it’s interesting as it will bring more indie diversity for sure, but as for the NSFW indie itch vns, I think that may be still a losing aspect. I have used epic a fair amount of times, but I absolutely despise how the user interface is, and how the store system is, so I can’t say too much about this topic.
As our third opinion, we consulted Raseruuu, Developer of SoftWar:
… Ahh, Itch and Epic hmmm, I think it’s good if it brings more audience to indies. …Also the thing I’ve loved for a long time about Itch.io is that there are no fees to get something out there. I hope that never changes, after the new partnership.
Next, we got presented with a very detailed, ranty response by sbester, Developer of Crime Opera: The Butterfly Effect:
… Oh my god, this actually flew completely under my radar, had to look it up. I think it’s pretty great though! Itch is extremely easy to use, and they have a lot of cool offerings you can’t find anywhere else. This also might explain why I am seeing a boost in views for my game this week, I was previously under the impression it was just people finding out about our launch on Xbox and Switch systems tomorrow. I still feel Steam has a huge lead in the market right now, and it’ll take more time for things to even out. A lot of people just stick with Steam because they like having everything in one place, which is totally fair. I have accounts on Steam, Gog, Itch, and Twitch (Amazon) Games and it does tend to get kinda hectic remembering which game I have on which account. But yes, Nai is correct in that I’ve had a rough time with Steam. Valve is not nearly communicative enough about their rules, and we were never given clear guidelines as to why our game was banned, nor the opportunity to make changes. I don’t feel they are indie game developer-friendly at all, so the rise of these other platforms would be a great thing for us. I’ll, of course, try my best to put Crime Opera 2 on Steam when the time comes (because a lot of fans are adamant about it), but I won’t hold my breath that it’ll meet their tastes. I have lost all faith that I’ll ever be able to have a place with them, at least with this current series of VNs…I don’t think it’s a huge game-changer or anything, but every little bit helps for us indie devs who are struggling to get eyes on our projects. And yes, that’s totally fine
Fifth, we have the comment of the Chemically Bonded game developer ds-sans, who actually voiced a differing opinion:
I actually prefer Steam over itch.io, I’ve had a few issues with itch in the past in regards to getting support with releases, but the Steam staff are pretty helpful and quick to respond. I can see that a few devs aren’t happy with the NSFW rules and stuff from Steam, but at the end of the day, they should account for that as developers.
Lastly, we consulted one of Mixology’s devs Dewy, who is also known under her V-Tuber alias, Melon Gurl:
Itch.io and Epic store?? Since we have Mixology on both Steam and Itch.io, i don’t have too much of a strong opinion against Itch.io since it often does a lot of charity work and is quite friendly to the beginner or very indie games. However, games get very easily lost in the oversaturated crowd on Itch.io, and the way to download the game is quite old-fashioned with a zip folder and the exe file, unlike Steam where it’s a lot simpler to access. But it’s still easy enough to open up the game this way! I haven’t used Epic store at all but I don’t like them for their exclusive releases sometimes. For example, when Borderlands 3 came out, everyone was so excited about it but it said that it would only be released on Epic first. So everyone ended up waiting for it to get on Steam, since Epic isn’t as widely accessible or used by the public. So by the time Borderlands 3 got on Steam, the hype had already died down and was forgotten about, or a lot of spoilers had gotten online already. In terms of uploading games onto these platforms, I have no idea about Epic store as I never used it. Itch.io was very easy to upload. But Steam was incredibly complicated and difficult to upload on, using pretty unclear resources of tutorials, and has way too many steps that feel like an incredibly outdated system
With the inclusion into the Epic Games Store, it will now be easier for casuals to come in contact with the indie store Itch.io. Thus, it could also become easier for indie developers to market their titles. However, it is not possible to make a precise prediction as to how or if it will impact the online store.
The general mood in the developer community seems to be positive at least, as they seem to hope their games will have better marketing opportunities in the future due to better visibility, which could positively impact profits (e.g. through in-app purchases).
Personally, I see it as an opportunity for more indie VNs to possibly grow more prominent as a result, however, I personally don’t know if Epic Games‚ promises of zero royalties are to be trusted in the long run. Up to now, Epic Games has deliberately pursued a negative profits course with its store in order to increase its intrinsic value compared to Steam and other competitors, for example by regularly giving away games. In the long run, however, Epic Games as a profit-oriented company will also strive to generate profit with its store.