When Epic announced that Metro Exodus would be a year-long Epic Store exclusive, it was close to release and had already been taking pre-orders on Steam. At the time, I said it was an act of war.
A panel of Epic Store leaders were asked during an Epic Store Q&A at GDC 2019 today if, given how much rage the move caused, they'd ever do something like that again. Steve Allison, head of the Epic Games Store, responded immediately: "We don't want to do that ever again."
"We had been talking to those guys for a number of months," he said, "and they made some decisions on their end—this is not a throw under the bus thing, it's just the timing of where that came together and what was important to their business—we decided to do it together, we both knew there was the potential for the thing that happened in terms of communication. I think it felt way worse and was bigger than we thought, and in real-time, we spent time talking ... 'we will never do this again in this way.'
"And I think we're not in a situation now where that could ever happen, because now we're live and we have a view out in time, and we can work with everybody ... We have a case study where it says 'maybe we should make our decisions earlier,' and we will."
Epic says that Metro Exodus sold pretty well despite the anger, but Allison says he doesn't want developers to go through what 4A did after the announcement.
As for whether Epic will continue grabbing exclusives in general, the panel said that its current strategy is about getting the 88/12 revenue split out there—a way to get off the ground—and that Epic won't be negotiating exclusivity deals at this rate forever.
"We could go to zero, or we could go to very very few major exclusives within a given year," said Allison. "We will definitely not be doing them on the scale we're doing them now."