While much of the press coverage dedicated to Epic Games focuses on the ethical merits of tempting developers with lucrative deals and community backlash to exclusivity, the company is knee-deep in a cleverly orchestrated campaign for the hearts and minds of gamers – free games.
Approximately each Thursday, a pop-up appears on the Epic Games Store launcher announcing a bundle of free games for that week. This week, for example, we have Celeste and Inside.
Acquiring the games is incredibly simple, and there are no hoops to jump through or email lists to join. It’s a case of downloading the Epic Games Store, hitting the boldly highlighted link to the free games on the launcher, and clicking ”Get”. The games are genuinely free and are yours forever, or at least until EGS packs it in.
Epic Games Is Banking on Quality
More often than not these are indie titles (with the odd double-A thrown in), often overlooked by swathes of the gaming community drawn to the lights and well-lubricated PR hype of triple-A titles. These seemingly inconsequential titles are quietly, yet steadfastly, working away to tempt players over to Epic Games’ digital storefront.
Since launching the scheme back in December 2018, the Epic Games Store bundles have featured games such as Subnautica, What Remains of Edith Finch, The Witness, Rime, Enter The Gungeon, Limbo, Moonlighter, Hyper Light Drifter, and Fez.
Anyone versed in the vibrant indie scene knows that that list is nothing to scoff at; on the contrary, it represents the cream of the crop of indie games released in the past few years.
The Allure of Free Games
The tactic appears to be working. A growing majority of the gaming press now willfully dedicates a few hundred words a week to share the latest free games with their readership much like it does with the well established monthly lineup of free PlayStation Plus games. The word is getting out.
I, for one, hadn’t until recently even considered using the Epic Games Store, but the opportunity to play Moonlighter for free – a game firmly rooted near the top of a lengthy list of games to explore – was enough to prompt a download of the launcher.
Once in Epic’s ecosystem, the inevitable happens. You start trawling through the available titles, checking prices, comparing them to Steam, and at some point parting with cash.
Furthermore, the prospect of keeping games forever, as opposed to the prohibitive free weekends run by rival Steam, is a powerful incentive to stick around.
The allure of free games can’t be understated, and Epic Games is playing a shrewd game.