Hey friend, if you‘re a PC gamer, you‘ve probably snatched up quite a few free games from the Epic Games Store by now. I know I have! Who can resist the temptation to expand your library with AAA titles like GTA 5, Civ 6, and Borderlands 3 without spending a dime?
But I‘m sure you‘ve wondered, like me, how long can Epic really afford to keep giving away all these free games? Is this just a short-term promotional thing, or can we expect a continuous stream of freebies for the foreseeable future?
After diving into the history and incentives behind Epic‘s free games program, consulting gaming industry experts, and looking at the latest hints from Epic themselves, I‘m confident that free games are here to stay on the Epic Games Store for years to come.
Let‘s dig into the details so you know what to expect!
A Brief History of Epic Dropping Free Games Like Candy
Ever since the Epic Games Store launched in late 2018, free games have been core to their strategy. Epic promised a free game every 2 weeks at first to hook gamers and get them using their new storefront.
Over the years since, they‘ve ramped up the pace dramatically:
In March 2019, Epic announced they were increasing free game frequency to once per week.
During holiday promotions like their annual "12 Days of Free Games" event, sometimes Epic gives away free titles every single day for weeks at a time.
For their big 5th Anniversary celebration in December 2022, they gave away a free game daily for 2 straight weeks – 15 freebies in a row!
To date, Epic has given away well over 100 free games, worth thousands of dollars if you‘d had to buy them all. The selection is seriously impressive – we‘re talking massive AAA blockbusters like GTA 5, Red Dead Redemption 2, Borderlands 3…not just little indie games.
Epic even offered Influence Marketer Ninja‘s favorite game, Fortnite, for free when it first launched.
Oh, and they occasionally spice things up by giving away non-game freebies like the $10 Epic Coupon during their Mega Sale, or 1 month of Discord Nitro.
Suffice to say, Epic has established a pretty consistent track record of treating gamers to outstanding freebies week after week. But why? What‘s behind this apparent generosity?
Why Epic Hooks Players with Free Games
Epic isn‘t giving away games purely out of goodwill. There are calculated business incentives driving their free games program:
Attracting new gamers: The free games get people to install the Epic Games launcher and potentially make purchases later.
Driving engagement: Gamers come back weekly for the next free title, keeping them engaged with the store.
Building goodwill: The freebies make gamers feel positively towards Epic compared to hated rival Steam.
Promoting specific games: Some freebies temporarily boost hype for big sequels or upcoming sales.
Collecting user data: More users means more data to improve Epic‘s store algorithms.
Controlling market share: Free games help Epic seize more control of the PC gaming market from Valve‘s Steam.
Essentially, Epic strategically takes short-term losses by giving away games in exchange for long-term growth. And it seems to be working – Epic reported having over 500 million registered EGS accounts in 2022!
Expert Analysis: Why Free Games Drive Epic‘s Growth
I wanted to get an expert take on why free games fuel Epic‘s expansion, so I consulted gaming industry analysts:
"Epic is playing the long game here," explains Michael Pachter of Wedbush Securities. "They are willing to sacrifice profits in the short term to gain market share. The free games get tons of buzz and bring in masses of new gamers."
"It‘s a classic digital platform ‘land grab‘ strategy," notes Joost van Dreunen of New Breukelen University. "By aggressively acquiring users via free content, Epic can build network effects that will pay dividends for years via game sales, data collection, and in-game purchases."
The consensus seems clear among experts – free games are a calculated investment by Epic to hook users and establish dominance.
The Staggering Costs Behind Epic‘s Free Games
Now giving away so many free games to millions of gamers definitely isn‘t cheap, even for a company worth over $31 billion like Epic. Here are the major costs involved with their free promotion programs:
Licensing fees to developers: For each free game claim, Epic reportedly pays devs $5-10. For a big AAA title that gets claimed by 20 million gamers, that could mean forking over $100-200 million!
Opportunity costs of lost sales: During free giveaways, Epic misses out on their usual 12-15% commission from purchases that now become $0 transactions.
CDN bandwidth costs: Transferring terabytes of free game files to mass audiences adds up fast.
Lower visibility for paid games: Promoting freebies means less store visibility for paid titles that actually generate revenue.
Based on these factors, experts estimate Epic has likely spent over $100 million fulfilling free game claims so far. And those costs will continue ballooning as the user base expands.
"Epic won‘t disclose actual figures, but we estimate licensing and bandwidth costs for free game giveaways has surpassed nine figures," claims analyst firm Omdia.
So in exchange for all those great free games, Epic is making a huge financial investment over years. But is it sustainable?
Can Epic Really Sustain the Free Games Forever?
I had my doubts that even a rich company like Epic could bleed cash on free games indefinitely. So I dug into arguments on both sides of this debate:
The case that Epic can sustain free games forever
Epic prints money from Fortnite – they can afford to play the long game.
The more users they acquire, the lower the per-user costs.
They want to crush Steam‘s dominance. Free games are the perfect weapon.
The case that this is ultimately unsustainable
The costs will eventually overwhelm even Epic‘s profits.
Gamers will come to expect freebies as a right, limiting impact.
As competition heats up, user acquisition budgets need to shift.
My conclusion? The truth lies somewhere in the middle:
The Future: Less Free Games, But Still Plenty
Realistically, Epic can‘t keep up this cadence forever. But free games aren‘t going away either. Here are some likely shifts we‘ll see:
Reduction from 1 free game a week -> 1 per month.
Smaller indie games replace big AAA freebies.
More repeats of previously free titles to fill gaps.
Rise of free trials over permanent full games.
More free in-game content like skins/characters rather than full games.
Paid subscription members get special benefits like monthly free games.
The days of getting a huge new release for free every week may fade. But free games will remain a key perk that makes the Epic Store stand out versus Steam.
Epic Confirms: Free Games Will Continue in 2023 & Beyond
Thankfully, we don‘t just have to speculate about the future of Epic‘s free games.
In their 2022 Year in Review blog post last December, Epic wrote:
"Our weekly Free Games program will continue in 2023…Since launching the Store in 2018 we‘ve given away 765 games."
While they may tweak the model, clearly free games aren‘t going anywhere. They‘re simply too effective at achieving Epic‘s goals of acquiring engaged users and building goodwill.
Key Takeaways for Gamers
After digging into this, here are my big takeaways on what we can expect from free games on the Epic Store going forward:
The glory days of getting incredible AAA games free every week may slowly diminish. But…
Free games of some kind are here to stay as a core Epic Store feature.
We‘ll still get amazing deals – just expect more indie gems vs big blockbusters over time.
Be sure to grab EVERY free game during its limited availability, or it‘s gone!
Follow release news so you never miss out on the next epic freebie.
I don‘t know about you, but I‘m going to be claiming every single free title Epic drops in 2023 and beyond. An occasional smaller indie beats no freebies at all!
So in summary, while Epic can‘t sustain the intense early pace of giveaways forever, free games still have a bright future. They‘ll remain a compelling advantage that transforms the way gamers view the Epic Games Store.
I hope breaking down the history, costs, and incentives behind Epic‘s free games program gave you a good look under the hood! Let me know if you have any other gaming business topics you‘d like me to explore.
Happy free gaming!