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Will Epic Games Always Give Away Free Games? An In-Depth Look

The short answer is yes – Epic Games will absolutely continue offering free game promotions for the foreseeable future. As a tech geek and avid gamer myself, I‘ve been following Epic‘s free games program closely since it launched. Based on their history,stated intentions, and the clear benefits, Epic has no reason to stop giving away free games weekly. Read on for an in-depth look at why free games are here to stay.

Free Games Are a Key Part of Epic‘s Long-Term Strategy

Epic shook up the gaming world when it began giving away free games every week shortly after launching its Epic Games Store in 2018. This free games program has been core to their strategy for competing with gaming juggernaut Steam ever since.

As of February 2023, Epic has given away well over 100 free games totalling over $2,500 in value! This includes massive AAA hits like GTA V, Borderlands 3, BioShock Collection, Civilization VI and many more.

Over 19 million gamers have claimed these free games so far. Clearly, free games are winning over customers in droves. It‘s a smart loss leader and marketing tactic that has paid off big time for Epic.

The Math of Why Free Games Make Sense for Epic

Let‘s look at some rough estimates to see how giving away even costly titles like GTA V can pay off:

  • GTA V Regular Price: $40
  • GTA V Free Downloads: Over 7 million
  • Potential Revenue Loss: $280 million

But if just 5% of those new users spend $60 per year on average, that‘s $210 million in new revenue for Epic. And this doesn‘t factor in all the benefits of acquiring more users like network effects, branding, and getting them into the Fortnite ecosystem.

Overall the free games are likely increasing Epic‘s annual revenues, not costing them – all while taking market share from Steam. Pretty savvy!

The Network Effects of a Growing User Base

Like all social platforms, Epic benefits tremendously from network effects. The more users they acquire, the more valuable and "sticky" the platform becomes.

A larger user base leads to things like:

  • More social sharing and word of mouth
  • Multiplayer communities with healthy player counts
  • Developers bringing more games to the platform
  • Increased brand awareness and loyalty

These network effects compound, creating enormous upside for Epic. So bringing in millions of new users via free games offers benefits far beyond just the games themselves.

Free Games Counter Steam‘s Dominance

Let‘s not forget that Epic is the new challenger entering a space dominated by Steam. Free games are a clever way for Epic to quickly lure users away from the incumbent.

Steam commands a massive 75% market share in the PC gaming space. But Epic has already grown to about 15%, thanks largely to tactics like free games and exclusives. Free games help them steadily convert more of the entrenched Steam audience to their platform.

And once users link up their Epic account and build a library, they‘re much less likely to leave.

In-Game Purchases Are Where Real Money Is Made Anyway

Modern games now make the bulk of their revenue from in-game purchases, season passes, DLC and other incremental monetization. The base game is almost a loss leader.

So giving away the base game for free – then hooking players on in-game purchases – is a valid strategy. Epic earns extra when people load up their free game and buy fancy skins, loot boxes or battle passes.

For example, Epic makes billions on Fortnite microtransactions alone, despite the free base game.

Owning Game Distribution Is the End Goal

At the end of the day, Epic‘s long-term ambition is to control game distribution on PCs like Steam does currently. They want to own the dominant PC games storefront.

Free games are just one part of this long-term strategy. Other prongs have been exclusives, the Epic coupon program, integrating with Humble Bundle, and more.

Epic is leveraging their Fortnite war chest to buy market share now. This will pay off greatly if they own the keys to PC game distribution in the future.

Think of free games as a gateway drug to get people hooked on Epic.

Free Games Encourage More Activity

An additional benefit of giving away games for free is increased engagement and activity. Epic wants to drive more constant usage of their platform.

When a new free game drops, it brings lots of players to the Epic Games Store. They claim the game, install the Epic client if needed and maybe begin playing right away.

This recurring activity helps keep the Epic ecosystem and brand front-of-mind. It gets people opening and using their app.

More activity means a healthier platform. So free games essentially "prime the pump" to get people engaged with Epic weekly.

Free Games Will Likely Continue Forever

Based on all the above, free games are undeniably a winning strategy for Epic. The costs are low compared to the many benefits. Free games attract users, counter Steam, increase engagement and position Epic for long-term dominance.

Epic has openly stated they plan to continue free games throughout 2023 and beyond. With so many clear upsides and no signs of slowing down, I expect the free games to continue indefinitely.

The Epic Games Store launched only in 2018, so they are still in aggressive user acquisition mode. As the underdog versus Steam, they have every reason to keep leveraging free games as a key growth driver.

As a tech industry observer and lifetime gamer, I‘d bet my fancy RTX 4090 graphics card that the free games aren‘t going anywhere! Epic has committed to giving away free games every week for the foreseeable future.

So game on and be sure to grab your next freebie! Let me know on Twitter @cooltechguy which upcoming free Epic game you‘re most excited about.