Epic is adding five new PC apps to its Epic Games Store launcher today, in a fresh bid to offer more than just games. Indie game store Itch.io is arriving on Epic Games Store today, alongside open-source browser Brave, streaming radio app iHeartRadio, 3D model tool KenShape, and open-source painting app Krita. These are Epic Games Store’s first new PC apps since Spotify launched in December.
Epic Games is promising to add more PC apps in the future, including communications app Discord. There’s even a new section in the Epic Games Store dedicated to PC apps, so it’s clear Epic has ambitions to run its own Windows store here. That’s not entirely surprising, as Epic CEO Tim Sweeney has long called for open app models and stores on Windows. Microsoft’s own Windows store has failed to become a popular location for the vast amount of Windows apps and games, and popular apps like Adobe Creative Suite, Chrome, Discord, and Zoom aren’t even in the Windows app store.
Epic will face similar challenges to Microsoft in convincing developers to list their apps in a store, but it’s taking a slightly different approach. Epic doesn’t take a cut from any purchases made inside any apps, so if you download Itch.io free from the Epic Games Store then nothing goes to Epic when you purchase an indie game.
Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney (2019).Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge
This approach is also what Epic Games wants to see elsewhere with app stores. Sweeney was impressed by Microsoft’s new open model for Windows and HoloLens 2 a couple of years ago, but Apple is firmly in Epic’s sights right now.
Epic’s antitrust trial with Apple begins on May 3rd, after Epic sued Apple for removing Fortnite from the App Store. Epic added a direct payment system to the battle royale shooter that avoided Apple’s 30 percent cut of revenues, which violated Apple’s policies. Epic is now challenging Apple’s entire App Store model, in the most significant legal challenge Apple has faced since the Xerox days.
At the heart of the battle is the 30 percent surcharge, or “App Store tax,” Apple imposes on in-app purchases made through the App Store. Epic accuses Apple of using its iOS market power to dominate the secondary market for app distribution, and it wants to see Apple allow competing app stores on iOS and changes to the App Store tax. If Epic is successful, there’s a chance we might see an Epic Games Store on iOS with apps and games much like how the PC version is expanding.
Epic’s PC apps expansion also arrives just days after rumors surfaced about Microsoft’s plans for a new Windows app store. Microsoft is reportedly working on a big overhaul for its app store on Windows that could pave the way for developers to be able to submit any Windows application to the store. That includes browsers like Chrome or Firefox, and Microsoft may even allow third-party commerce platforms in apps.