Hell hath no fury like a PC gamer scorned. If you’ve been out of the loop this week on vacation or if you froze solid during the polar vortex, you may have missed the news that 4A Games’ new Metro Exodus has been removed for sale on Steam and is now an Epic Games Store exclusive. Only two weeks aways from the game’s anticipated release date, this news predictably sent some fans into a fit, and now they are expressing their frustration in the form of negative reviews for Metro 2033 and Metro: Last Light on Steam.
Metro Exodus had previously been available through a wide number of digital game retailers, set to arrive in the form of Steam keys. The game has been available for pre-order on Steam for a while now and had been prominently advertised on the front page of the service. On Monday January 28, it was announced that the game was now exclusive to the Epic Games Store and pre-orders via Steam were halted that afternoon. Those who had previously ordered the game on Steam will still be receiving a Steam version of the game, while all current and future buyers must use the Epic Games Store.
“We are delighted to partner with Epic to bring the digital PC version of Metro Exodus to market,” said Dr. Klemens Kundratitz, CEO at Deep Silver, in the press release for the announcement. “Epic’s generous revenue terms are a game changer that will allow publishers to invest more into content creation, or pass on savings to the players. By teaming up with Epic we will be able to invest more into the future of Metro and our ongoing partnership with series developer 4A Games, to the benefit of our Metro fans.”
Since the launch of the Epic Games Store, a vocal group of PC gamers have lamented the recent wave of exclusives that were once scheduled for Steam, but now reside with Epic. Earlier this month, it was revealed that Ubisoft’s The Division 2 would be pulled from Steam and sold via the Epic Games Store, though customers can still purchase Uplay keys for the game from virtually every retailer under the sun, save for Steam. So far, all public statements from publisher and developers have been that the Epic Games Store's favorable revenue split is the reason for leaving Steam, but many assume that Epic is also offering other incentives beyond the revenue split.
This assumption was confirmed by Epic’s Tim Sweeney in a Reddit post from December where he explained that the exclusive deals “don’t come to stores for free; they’re a result of some combination of marketing commitments, development funding, or revenue guarantees.” The post was made in response to sentiment that the Epic Games Store’s use of exclusives was anti-consumer.
The backlash to Metro Exodus now includes review bombing on the Steam Store pages for both Metro 2033 and Metro: Last Light, with each game now showing “Mostly Negative” recent review status despite a “Mostly Positive” lifetime review status. The review bomb ended up with the older games as it is not possible to leave reviews on the Metro Exodus page.
Mixed messages were sent on Tuesday when THQ Nordic, the owner of Metro Exodus publisher Deep Silver, explained on Twitter that the exclusivity deal with Epic was not made by them, but by sister company Koch Media (who was purchased by THQ Nordic in February of last year).
The decision to publish Metro Exodus as a timed Epic Store exclusive was made entirely on Koch Media’s side as Metro is their intellectual property. They are a sister company of THQ Nordic (Vienna), which is the reason why we can and will not comment on this matter. We do— THQNordic (@THQNordic) January 29, 2019
In the second part of the tweet, THQ Nordic said that they would not “categorically exclude the possibility of timed exclusives for any of our games in the future, but speaking in the here and now, we definitely want to have the players choose the platform of their liking and make our portfolio available to as many outlets as possible.”
The Monday announcement of Metro Exodus going exclusive was a bit of a shock to anyone who had been following THQ Nordic over the last couple of years. The company has been expending resources to resurrect and rebuild games from IP acquisitions and fully integrate them into the Steam ecosystem. Some examples of this included updating Titan Quest and replacing its Gamespy-based networking code with a Steamworks implementation. A similar project was undertaken with Red Faction: Guerilla with the original version being stripped of its defunct Game for Windows Live code and upgraded to Steamworks.
Dmitry Glukhovsky, author and creator of the Metro 2033 franchise, made an instagram post joking about the game’s departure from Steam. In the comments of the post, a user exclaimed, “Lol you’re killing your own franchise,” to which Glukhovsky replied, “no, I am standing by and watching it be killed.” The reply has since been deleted, but has predictably been latched onto by those upset about the exclusivity deal.
Ultimately, IP owner Koch Media felt that the compensation package that Epic offered for Metro Exodus was too good to pass up and the game will remain off of Steam until February of 2020, when the exclusivity arrangement expires. Metro Exodus launches on February 15, 2019, for Xbox One and PS4. The PC version arrives the same day, exclusively on the Epic Game Store.