While the Epic Games Store doesn't support Linux or Steam Deck officially, this industry news is something we should all know about with Epic now opening up self-publishing along with some new rules for their store.
Just like Steam, developers will be able to put their games up on the Epic Store for $100 per-game. However, they have a rather interesting rule when it comes to multiplayer games. In their announcement, they mention how multiplayer titles "must support crossplay across all PC stores" so that "any store can easily connect with other players, regardless of where the game was purchased".
Their reasoning is sound, as there's no good reason to lock online play per-store, and on Linux in the past the problem was even worse, with certain ports from Aspyr Media and Feral Interactive having multiplayer locked to Linux or Linux and macOS with Windows being by itself. I have absolutely no problem with Epic's online play rule at all, as it's actually great for us players.
Developers publishing on the Epic Store are free to use whatever method they wish for this, which is obviously good but rolling your own cross-play can be expensive and difficult. So, this will be another way for Epic Games to push their Epic Online Services which supports Linux, macOS, Windows, consoles and mobiles and provides the likes of voice chat, achievements, matchmaking and more. Compare that to Steamworks from Valve which, while feature-filled, is for Steam directly.
So for developers publishing on multiple stores for online games we're likely to see a lot more of Epic Online Services, or various other launchers and services being used even on Steam directly. We've already begun to see more of that and it will only continue to be a bigger thing now.
In a chat with PC Gamer, Epic's Tim Sweeney noted: "They have a classic lock-in strategy where they build these services that only work with their store, and they use the fact that they have the majority market share in order to encourage everybody to ship games that have a broken experience in other stores," Sweeney said. "And we were bitten by this early on with a number of multiplayer games coming to the Epic Games Store. Steamworks didn't work on our store, so they had either a reduced set of multiplayer features or none, or they were just limited to a much smaller audience back in the launch days of the Epic Games Store, so you had a lot of multiplayer games that really felt like they were broken. And remember, Call of Duty went through a debacle launching on the Windows Store a while back in which you could only matchmake with other Windows Store players, and that is not how PC should work.".
Not just an issue for Epic, it's a problem GOG have too and they're much smaller so this rule Epic have is likely to benefit GOG releases as well (as long as their Galaxy API plays nicely with others…).
It will be interesting to see if Valve have any plans to expand Steamworks to be more cross-platform. I've reached out to Valve press to see what they have to say, if anything. Will update if I get a reply on that.
What are your thoughts?