DARQ Developer Unfold Games Details Why He Turned Down A Deal With The Epic Games Store

Confidence in your game, and the players who show interest in it, speaks volumes to your character as a developer.
The one-man developer of Unfold Games details how he turned down an Epic exclusivity deal for DARQ.
The one-man developer of Unfold Games details how he turned down an Epic exclusivity deal for DARQ. Unfold Games

It started out as a tale as old as time – a rather controversial storefront offers a developer with quite the clout on another prominent storefront an exclusivity deal, and this one is shaping up to be a deal of a lifetime. It basically guarantees success on your outing as a developer, as the game’s sales have been bought and paid for, in exchange, of course, for putting your work solely on that controversial storefront for the time being, in the hopes that early adopters will cave and buy it from that storefront rather than the other.

In any other timeline, this would’ve gone over the same way it always did – from titles like Metro Exodus, Phoenix Point, Outer Wilds, Shenmue III, MechWarrior 5 and, more recently, Ooblets. It seems as if this was going to be the norm from now on – a game advertises itself on Steam, the prominent storefront of the PC platform, before getting nabbed a few months – sometimes even weeks – from its release by the controversial Epic Games Store, whose efforts to “save PC gaming” have mostly resulted in vitriol due to the company basically moneyhatting exclusives to pad out its library for competition instead of focusing squarely on the features – or lack thereof – of their storefront.

This would be the norm, if it weren’t for a developer suddenly speaking out to denounce the exclusivity deal, exchanging what is basically a guaranteed payday over what seems to be lacking in the gaming industry today: respect from the playerbase. Unfold Games, the one-man studio behind DARQ, a surrealist horror puzzle game, has announced that he turned down this Epic exclusivity deal in a post on Medium, and it really is worth the read. Not only does it paint a much better light at how the developer came to this conclusion, it also provides greater insight into the Epic Games Store and their way of doing exclusives.

The first thing to note was the initial buzz surrounding DARQ. It has been in development for three and a half years as a mostly solo project with some contractors on the side, and before the game’s launch DARQ was in the top 50 most wishlisted games on Steam. This means that there is considerable interest in the game before it has released, and this aspect would come into play further into the piece.

Then there’s the set-up. As noted in the original article, the game’s sole developer shared a release date trailer for the game showing off the launch date for Steam. This was done on July 27. Three days later, he was contacted by the Epic Games Store with the exclusivity deal, with an addendum that releasing the game on the storefront non-exclusively is not an option. What follows is a well-thought out and detailed explanation into why DARQ will not be chasing that exclusivity deal, which you can check the entirety of here – it’s worth the full read.

While a lot of people praised the decision, which was not taken very lightly, what stood out to me the most was that small insight into how the Epic Games Store manages its storefront. It seems that besides some of the pretty big releases like Cyberpunk 2077 or Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2, going full exclusive is the only way to get on the Epic Games Store. There’s no in-between option for smaller independent developers who maybe just want their game on a ton of different storefronts, as it facilitates player choice. This, in addition to the lucrative and incredibly tempting deal of not having to worry about losses on your game makes going for the Epic Games Store a no-brainer for most developers who were offered such a deal.

I’ve never been one to complain much about Epic exclusives, as there is technically nothing illegal about moneyhatting games to be exclusives. It is a business after all, and Epic basically paying for the game to be a financial success can be a good thing to fall back on, confidence in your product be damned. I do, however, take issue with the fact that there are people who champion the storefront as an actual savior of the PC gaming landscape. If anything, Epic Games isn’t as interested in helping developers as much as it wants to just make sure that everything that’s popular on Steam turns into an Epic exclusive. It’s a rather ruthless corporation that uses the opposing platform to gauge players’ interest, and then buys those games in order to steal away the players.

As for Unfold Games and DARQ, there’s the ever-present certainty that the game may end up failing to meet expected sales figures to be called a financial success. The future ahead is paved with pretty hard times, especially when you factor in how much that Epic exclusivity could’ve helped. That said, there’s something to be said about integrity, and the fact that garnering good will still counts for something – and Unfold Games, despite being poorer for skipping out on all that exclusivity money, ended up being richer in terms of the trust of those who patiently waited for the game on Steam and GOG.

DARQ is now available to play on Steam and GOG.

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