The internet is a place that fairly consistently surprises me. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. Almost two months ago now, Phoenix Labs announced that they would be joining the Epic Games store in an effort to bring cross-play to Dauntless when it comes to consoles and mobiles. This was met with general good feelings and feedback. This week they reiterated their plan, advising players that would be removing the Dauntless Launcher, and instead would be using the Epic Games store as their launcher. The vitriol and negativity was swift and violent. Almost every post I read was that players would stop playing or that they thought Phoenix Labs had sold out. I imagine this is often a surprise for developers, where people can do a 180 turn and they are instantly the monsters.
I want to break down some of the benefits and disadvantages of this decision. Is it enough to stop me playing? Hell no, if anything it’s actually a huge boon for me, but that doesn’t mean I can’t see why it could be bad. Epic Games probably gave a good incentive for Dauntless to join their store; I’ll talk more about the advantages of the store later, but Phoenix Labs removing their launcher was very likely a big part of their deal. If it wasn’t, then only having the one Epic Games launcher is just good user experience. I personally have issues with some of Epic games frankly anti-consumer practices around monopolies on games, and especially around having no user reviews, but that’s a whole different kettle of fish. First, let’s break down the disadvantages.
The number one reason people don’t want the Epic Games launcher is that they don’t want extra software on their PC, or that they don’t want to get brought into a new infrastructure. I get it. Between Uplay (ha), Origin, Steam, GOG Galaxy and who knows what else you’ve got installed it gets obnoxious. Admittedly you’re already using a Dauntless Launcher to launch the game, but there’s a large difference between a single studio and a (now) huge giant like Epic Games.
I saw some claims of the Epic Games launcher being malware, which I found one IT person say on a forum but couldn’t find much more evidence around it. I’m not saying it’s wrong, I’m just saying the evidence isn’t exactly swelling in favour of that claim. There is also the concern that a major shareholder of Epic Games, Tencent, is sending information to the Chinese Government. I am ruling this under “possible but unlikely”. The Chinese Government definitely had a role in Tencent’s rise to power through the banning of other apps, helping Tencent monopolise the social network space with their WeChat app. This in turn gave them a tonne of capital to invest in games and other areas, which made them the giant they are today.
Truth be told though, almost everything you use is sending your information somewhere. If you think Steam or any other of your game launchers aren’t gathering info and using it for metrics, which gets on sold as data to various company, you’re mad. Doesn’t happen in every instance obviously, but we’re in a world where data on people is king. Apple and Google are already harvesting data on you, this is just a fact of life. I totally agree with being security and privacy conscious, but the difference between a potential government taking data on your gaming habits and a marketing company are pretty negligible. The marketing company might actually be worse, as they can directly use that data in a way that directly affects you, where the government of another nation has lesser influence there. I am not dismissing these claims, or trying to make light of them; but you do have to have a sense of perspective.
Security. This is something I feel pretty strongly about. My Origin account has been hacked more times than I can count, despite me having a complex and changing password, and 2-factor authentication. Because Fortnite is currently one of the biggest games in the world, the Epic Games store attracts a lot of hackers and scammers. There’s a risk in moving over to this launcher too. This risk is prevalent everywhere, but because the Epic Games store is newer, there’s more likely to be more exploits in this. This one I fully understand. The storefront has 2FA which I always recommend (and it uses Authy!) but my recommendation will always be “Store as little data as you can in any app, and never banking information”. Then if you get hacked, the fallout is less. Be vigilant, be wary and always pray for a better security system. Is it enough to stop me using the launcher? No, but I am cautious.
Names are a huge part of what identifies us online. With the change to the new store, people have to reserve their nicknames. Current Dauntless players (especially Founders) have been using a set nickname for a long time now and if that name isn’t available in the Epic Games store, which let’s be fair, Fortnite’s a big game and has been for a long time, so nicks are going to be a hot commodity, they will lose it. I don’t know what to say here, honestly. This one really sucks. You paid (at least it’s part of what you paid for) the privilege of reserving a nickname, and now it might potentially be gone. I’d love to see a goodwill gesture from Phoenix Labs here for Founders (full disclosure, I am one but my name was not taken) who are put out by this gesture. Nothing as sweeping as the “I want a full refund!” that people are exclaiming on the forums, but still. Yeah, this one hurts but big migrations will almost always cause some pain.
The other thing that was mentioned is that the Dauntless currency, Platinum, will be unique to each platform. This one I don’t totally understand. I imagine it’s because platform owners like Sony/Microsoft take a cut so keeping them separate means that it can be more easily managed, or it’s part of agreements in place. This one is annoying, but it’s not awful. Hopefully they can work out some way in the future to keep it all standard across the platforms.
Let’s talk about the benefits though, because there’s plenty. Like it or not, Epic Games is a giant, and they’re pushing hard to become a big competitor for Steam. Money is changing hands left and right to secure timed exclusivity deals, or to offer free games. Epic Games wants you to start using their store for everything, and they’ve got the capital to grease the wheels of transition.
I don’t know if this is true or not, but the Epic Games launcher means that it’s likely that if the launcher is open Dauntless will keep itself up to date, in the same way that Steam does now. Having to patch when I open the launcher currently is kind of a pain, but if you’re playing very frequently this is less of an issue. It’s also possible that Epic Games will handle being the CDN (content delivery network) for the game files, which could increase the speed at which they’re delivered. Phoenix Labs already has a very good server structure, but there’s always the chance to be better.
As Epic Games grows, it also means your friends lists will be consistent and visible across the platform. This is one of the things people love about Steam currently; that their friends can see what they’re playing and when they’re online. It encourages a mentality of “Oh hey, Person X is playing Game Y, maybe I’ll jump in too.” Not to mention visibility in the Epic Games launcher; well, if you consider how easy it is for anything in Steam to float to the top (which is to say, not very). At near ground level though, where are are now, the visibility is a lot higher.
These are all small benefits, the biggest one is easy. Cross-progress, and especially cross-play is something that Epic Games have helped paved the way for (especially against the prior staunchly anti-consumer decisions of Sony). I had complained before about the limited playerbase in my region for Dauntless, and this helps with those issues. Bigger playerbase is a huge boon for everybody involved, and opening it up to also playing with consoles and mobile is great. Without Epic Games’ assistance, I imagine Phoenix Labs would have a lot of trouble making this dream a reality. It’s a big dream too, it’s one of the major, major issues I had with Monster Hunter World when switching across to PC.
It’s not a painless process. Oftentimes, it isn’t. I truly feel bad for the Founders who will lose access to their online names; it’s a huge part of your identity. People hate change, and they can be instantly reluctant to accept it. Honestly though, for me I think the blessings outweigh the disadvantages. For those with privacy concerns, whilst you will have to stop playing once the migration happens, on the bright side Phoenix Labs won’t be sharing any info with Epic Games if you don’t choose to migrate, so you’re protected there. They’re also keeping their independence, which is reassuring. I have little doubts that Dauntless will lose some players over the move, but hopefully it paves the way for a lot more really cool stuff to come. Me personally, I’m really keen to the chance to play with even more players when they come in.
Time will tell.