The Apple vs Epic Games lawsuit got underway on Monday, and it looks set to be the source of further headlines in the coming days / weeks. An interesting early nugget, from the documentation revealed to the court, shows how much Epic Games spent on payments for developers of the games it featured in its famed giveaways. In its first nine months of operations, it is shown that the EGS spent US$11.6 million to catch the attention of PC gamers.
In summary, it looks like the freebies attracted lots of would-be customers to the EGS, but only a small percentage have gone on to buy something from the store. Another highlight of the reveal is the breakdown revealing the disparity in prices paid to developers, how many downloads each game attracted, and the UA (user acquisition) costs calculated for the respective titles.
Want to know how much $ the devs of those 'free' Epic Games Store games got, & how many copies were grabbed? Here's the first 9 months to September 2019. pic.twitter.com/5hkLb1VEjj— Simon Carless (@simoncarless) May 3, 2021
Looking at the higher outlays from Epic, you can see that it stumped up $1.5m for Batman Arkham in September 2019, $1.4m for Subnautica in December 2018, and $1m for Mutant Year Zero in August 2019. Those are large outlays, but the games were popular (up to 6.5m downloads), so they didn't precipitate the largest US costs – between $1.74 and $5.05. The largest UA costs came from Celeste, and Inside (both August 2019) which cost Epic $750k and $800k to run as giveaways, precipitating UA costs of $12.00 and $11.12, respectively. The best title for pure UA appears to be World of Goo at $0.32. An anomaly among the figures is Metro; 2033 Redux which is listed at a zero buyout price.
Other docs shared by Simon Carless, the founder of GameDiscoverCo, show EGS daily revenue from debut to September 2019 – showing what a big deal Borderlands 3 exclusivity was. Another Borderlands 3 document shows that Epic paid Take Two $146 million in advances, and recouped the minimum guarantee for $80 million in a fortnight.
Epic Games currently has a healthy war chest, with documents showing it made $9 billion in profit for Epic during 2018 and 2019. For a more up to date figure, Epic CEO Tim Sweeney indicates that Fortnite revenue was $5.1 billion in 2020. Epic intends to reshape developer revenue sharing while it has the Fortnite-funded capacity to do so, and one might say that it already has some scalps. Recently Microsoft announced an adjustment to revenue sharing for its PC store games to match the EGS: a 12/88 store/dev split.