DARQ, launched earlier this week on Steam, is quite the unique game. It’s a psychological horror side-scrolling game with puzzle and stealth elements, featuring sound design by Bjørn Jacobsen, whom you may have already heard in games like EVE Online, Gwent, and HITMAN.
While it’s early days still, the reception has been great so far. More than due to the overwhelmingly positive (90%) user reviews, though, the game garnered visibility on the Web after Unfold Games CEO and Founder Wlad Marhulets revealed to have turned down a proposal from Epic Games to publish DARQ exclusively on the Epic Games Store.
In a lengthy blog post published on Medium earlier today, Marhulets shared the three main reasons that led him to this choice.
- I like money, and getting some upfront payment on top of guaranteed revenue sounds great. But although I’m a first time developer, I’m very serious about working in this industry for a very long time. I had just announced DARQ release date on Steam – pulling the game off Steam a few days after Steam release date announcement would forever ruin the credibility of my studio. I woud like for my customers to have confidence that my word means something, especially when making announcement as crucial as release date / platform. Turning down the Epic exclusivity offer might have been a foolish decision in the short term, considering the amount of money that might have been involved. When thinking long term, however, this was an easy & obvious decision to make (in my case).
- DARQ was listed on Steam since late 2018. A lot of Steam users added DARQ to their wishlist and patiently waited for its release date for almost a year. Pulling the game off Steam, especially so close to the release date, would surely make a lot of DARQ fans unhappy. Apart from the moral issues involved, would it be worth it if given a large sum of money? Consider Amazon’s history — the company remained unproffitable for many years by ALWAYS putting their customers first. They had made many decisions in the past that were extremely pro-customer, even if it meant leaving money on the table (for which they got a lot of criticism from Wall Street). Now, Amazon is one of the biggest companies in the world, and it’s because customers know Amazon will always be on their side. Their refund policy has always been the industry standard, and their delivery promise was always fulfilled to the best of their ability. Will I make less money on Steam than I would have by accepting the financial guarantee from the Epic Store? Probably. But it’s a fair price to pay for establishing an ongoing trust between my studio and its customers. Unfold Games (my studio) is here to stay, and DARQ is just the beginning.
- It was important to me to give players what they wanted: options. A lot of people requested that DARQ is made available on GOG. I was happy to work with GOG to bring the game to their platform. I wish the Epic Store would allow indie games to be sold there non-exclusively, as they do with larger, still unreleased games (Cyberpunk 2077), so players can enjoy what they want: a choice.
Marhulets also shared a screenshot that proves how the Epic Games representative was only interested in adding the game to the store as an exclusive. The representative literally said:
We aren’t in a position yet to open the store up to games that simultaneously ship [on other stores]. In exchange for a year of exclusivity, we do negotiate some sort of minimum guarantee based on sales projections for year one. You would recoup against that guarantee, but it’s a way to mitigate any sort of launch risk you might have.
Except that, as pointed out by the CEO of Unfold Games, there are indeed several games that are shipping simultaneously on the Epic Games Store and other PC stores. They are, however, bigger games than your average indie title.
Should Epic respond in any way, we’ll update the story.
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