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Tim Sweeney on Epic Games Store Spyware Theories

USgamer takes a look at the gamer anger towards the Epic Games Store, noting that there are some players holding firm to the belief that this is a spyware platform for the Chinese government. This stems from Epic's partnership with Tencent, as the Chinese publisher has an investment in the store. This theory has taken enough of a foothold that the Epic CEO felt compelled to address it (thanks Gamasutra). Here's a string of Tim Sweeney tweets on the topic:

I support everyoneís right to complain about tech industry stuff. Epicís store, with exclusive games and a spartan feature set, is a fine target for ire. But please help separate facts and opinions from the lies about spyware and foreign control.

Iím the controlling shareholder in Epic Games, and have been since 1991. We have a number of outside investors now. Tencent is the largest. All of Epicís investors our friends and partners. None can dictate decisions to Epic. None have access to Epic customer data.

Tencent is a Chinese company founded in 1998. CEO Pony Ma and the other co-founders played a lot of Unreal Tournament back then, and visited Epic in the early 2000ís. In 2012 Epic was looking to move to online games, and we invited Tencent in as an investor to help us.

Iíve never regretted it, and the recent anti-China rage doesnít change that even slightly, as its completely unfounded. Epic has only had positive interactions with Tencent at all levels.

All of Epicís big decisions are made here in the USA and as CEO Iím 100% responsible for them. Iím grateful for everyone who has spoken in support. I also read and respectfully consider all dissenting arguments of fact and principle. Just please keep it real.

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30. Re: Tim Sweeney on Epic Games Store Spyware Theories Apr 8, 2019, 08:52 Beamer
 
Mashiki Amiketo wrote on Apr 7, 2019, 13:33:
Flatline wrote on Apr 6, 2019, 13:13:
And how do you get your product out to as large of an audience as you can through Steam or Epic?
Anyway you want. Remember they give you the storefront for free, you still get the advertising for free. The only time they take a cut is when the sale goes through that storefront.

To explain: Sell it and DLC only on steam, use their store? They get a cut.
Sell only on steam, use their store? They get a cut and same with DLC. But sell your steam keys through your own store? No cut.
Sell your game on steam, sell your own keys, and sell keys to resellers(GMG, Fanatical, Humble, etc). Only cut given is selling the key through steam, and the cut that the distributor and resell gets.

You're missing that the product is still sold on Steam, meaning it's still all over their storefront. No matter how much effort you put into selling the keys elsewhere, most people will still just find it on Steam and buy it there. No matter how hard you try, the bulk of your sales will still be through Valve, not some other reseller. There's far, far less friction. Buying on Valve means one click, typically. Buying elsewhere means creating an account (and giving a potentially questionable entity your email), giving your CC info (and, again, giving a potentially questionable entity your billing info), waiting for the key to come, hoping the key works and isn't grey market, entering the key into Steam. All of this after even just finding the other venue. Steam? See an add on the home page, click once. Very, very hard to get people out of that system. Again, heavy friction on one side, no friction on the other.
 
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29. Re: Tim Sweeney on Epic Games Store Spyware Theories Apr 8, 2019, 02:03 Sepharo
 
Steele Johnson wrote on Apr 6, 2019, 10:41:
I like how all the complainers (who are probably flat earthers as well) speculate how their app works without even using it. Um, the app asks the userís permission to access the steam friendís list just like a million phone apps out there that asks for permission to access your contact list. Born yesterday? Yíall sound like idiots. Give it a rest. If you donít like the store, donít use it. /tin foil hat moment

The irony here
 
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28. Re: Tim Sweeney on Epic Games Store Spyware Theories Apr 7, 2019, 13:33 Mashiki Amiketo
 
Flatline wrote on Apr 6, 2019, 13:13:
And how do you get your product out to as large of an audience as you can through Steam or Epic?
Anyway you want. Remember they give you the storefront for free, you still get the advertising for free. The only time they take a cut is when the sale goes through that storefront.

To explain: Sell it and DLC only on steam, use their store? They get a cut.
Sell only on steam, use their store? They get a cut and same with DLC. But sell your steam keys through your own store? No cut.
Sell your game on steam, sell your own keys, and sell keys to resellers(GMG, Fanatical, Humble, etc). Only cut given is selling the key through steam, and the cut that the distributor and resell gets.
 
--
"For every human problem,
there is a neat, simple solution;
and it is always wrong."
--H.L. Mencken
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27. Re: Tim Sweeney on Epic Games Store Spyware Theories Apr 6, 2019, 17:17 Mr. Tact
 
Flatline wrote on Apr 6, 2019, 13:13:
Cutter wrote on Apr 6, 2019, 00:23:
I'd fucking ban all things Chinese outright if I had the power.

We'd have to come up with around 1.25 trillion in cash if we did that, because China owns about 5% of our debt.
Actually, no. If China wanted to dump the Treasury bonds they hold, they'd have to sell them on the open market. The US government only pays out on the bonds when they come to term.
 
Truth is brutal. Prepare for pain.
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26. Re: Tim Sweeney on Epic Games Store Spyware Theories Apr 6, 2019, 17:07 jdreyer
 
Avus wrote on Apr 6, 2019, 13:52:
Nate wrote on Apr 5, 2019, 21:48:
So many online hate posts for a store which takes a significantly smaller cut from developers.

When you buy a car (or anything), do you also care how much the dealership (or the store) made their cut? As a consumer, it is a STUPID DUMB way to think. As a consumer, I would put store quality, sales price, post sales support over how much the store take the cut from the developers/producer.

How many current game developers (like Bethesda, EA, Activision...) care their game (product) qualities (game content, game play mechanics, micro-transactions, game bugs/stability, netcode...) when they sell you the game at FULL PRICE at launch?

When I buy a game, "how much cut a store will take from dev" won't even make it to my top 10 consideration.

Difference is that cool car makers aren't going out of business left and right. If they were, that might change the calculus of whether you car how much the car maker gets.
 
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The land in Minecraft is flat, Minecraft simulates the Earth, ergo the Earth is flat.
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25. Re: Tim Sweeney on Epic Games Store Spyware Theories Apr 6, 2019, 13:52 Avus
 
Nate wrote on Apr 5, 2019, 21:48:
So many online hate posts for a store which takes a significantly smaller cut from developers.

When you buy a car (or anything), do you also care how much the dealership (or the store) made their cut? As a consumer, it is a STUPID DUMB way to think. As a consumer, I would put store quality, sales price, post sales support over how much the store take the cut from the developers/producer.

How many current game developers (like Bethesda, EA, Activision...) care their game (product) qualities (game content, game play mechanics, micro-transactions, game bugs/stability, netcode...) when they sell you the game at FULL PRICE at launch?

When I buy a game, "how much cut a store will take from dev" won't even make it to my top 10 consideration.

 
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ďI am not a Mac user unless under duress.Ē - John Carmack
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24. Re: Tim Sweeney on Epic Games Store Spyware Theories Apr 6, 2019, 13:13 Flatline
 
Mashiki Amiketo wrote on Apr 5, 2019, 22:29:
Funny thing. If you sell through your own storefront, steam takes a cut of 0. The only time they take a cut is if you're using their storefront.

And how do you get your product out to as large of an audience as you can through Steam or Epic?
 
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23. Re: Tim Sweeney on Epic Games Store Spyware Theories Apr 6, 2019, 13:13 Flatline
 
Cutter wrote on Apr 6, 2019, 00:23:
I'd fucking ban all things Chinese outright if I had the power.

We'd have to come up with around 1.25 trillion in cash if we did that, because China owns about 5% of our debt.
 
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22. Re: Tim Sweeney on Epic Games Store Spyware Theories Apr 6, 2019, 13:03 Steele Johnson
 
Cutter wrote on Apr 6, 2019, 11:33:
Steele Johnson wrote on Apr 6, 2019, 10:41:
I like how all the complainers (who are probably flat earthers as well) speculate how their app works without even using it. Um, the app asks the userís permission to access the steam friendís list just like a million phone apps out there that asks for permission to access your contact list. Born yesterday? Yíall sound like idiots. Give it a rest. If you donít like the store, donít use it. /tin foil hat moment

Any why would you use any of those apps that ask for permission for things they clearly don't need except to datamine you? We're the idiots? Yeah. Sure. Any mirrors where you live? Take a good long look in one if you want to find an idiot.

Clever comeback, cowboy. I bet you had to use some serious brain power to think that one up lol Anyhow, Iím already wasting too much of my time on this silly topic.
 
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"The hardest thing to do is to be true to yourself, especially when everybody is watching." - Dave Chappelle
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21. Re: Tim Sweeney on Epic Games Store Spyware Theories Apr 6, 2019, 12:09 WaltC
 
I don't think Sweeney fully appreciates that this is less about "Tencent" (be nice if they got the grammar right) than it is about him, personally, Tim Sweeney. Sweeney and pals at Epic have said many things over the years--some of them true, some of them egregiously false--and so he appears less than trustworthy to a lot of people--especially the people buying his original Unreal software to run on PCs, who he abandoned, though the PC put him and Epic games on the map. His reasons for doing so even then were utterly spurious. He has some baggage to overcome, himself. Then there's the specter of Cliffy B, lurking in the wings. It's very hard to give Sweeney credit for listening to the generally bad advice coming from Cliffy B. 'Lot for Sweeney to overcome. Don't think he sees it that way.  
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It is well known universally that I do not make mistakes--so, if you should happen across an error in that which I have written, please be assured that *I* did not write it!...:)
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20. Re: Tim Sweeney on Epic Games Store Spyware Theories Apr 6, 2019, 12:08 Mashiki Amiketo
 
TheVocalMinority wrote on Apr 6, 2019, 02:16:

I must have forgot about that one. Linky?
No problem. Second one as well. And here. There's plenty of news articles on it, just search Cisco firmware scandal.
 
--
"For every human problem,
there is a neat, simple solution;
and it is always wrong."
--H.L. Mencken
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19. Re: Tim Sweeney on Epic Games Store Spyware Theories Apr 6, 2019, 11:53 Creston
 
Steele Johnson wrote on Apr 6, 2019, 10:41:
I like how all the complainers (who are probably flat earthers as well) speculate how their app works without even using it. Um, the app asks the userís permission to access the steam friendís list just like a million phone apps out there that asks for permission to access your contact list. Born yesterday? Yíall sound like idiots. Give it a rest. If you donít like the store, donít use it. /tin foil hat moment

When you add a friend in Epic and select from your steam list, at that point it does ask for permission, yes (or rather for authentication.)

So why does it grab your localconfig.vdf file upon installation? It doesn't need it for your friends, and why doesn't it grab it when you're adding friends then? (Ignoring the fact it need it at all.) Why does it XOR the file to try to obfuscate the fact they grabbed it? Oh wait, it's because it's "encryption." That's roughly the equivalent of turning an I into a 1 and calling it encryption.

Why does it need this file at all? Steam has an API you can access to get that information. Tim Sweeney said

We don't use the Steam API because we avoid including third-party code in our engine wherever possible, as it often brings its own privacy, security, and licensing complications (though Valve has a fine reputation).

Apparently it's much better to just grab that data and fuck what anyone else thinks about it?

Said file contains information about every game you've bought, AND every game you've pre-ordered. Might that be of some interest to a company trying to buy exclusives out from under Steam?

If you don't have a problem with giving Epic that information, great. But they never ask for permission for THAT part of it, and there are plenty of people who feel that Epic should NOT just automatically get that data because they happened to install their launcher. Calling it Spyware is overreaching, but if they want access to that data, they should fucking ASK for it.

And you know what, even Tim Sweeney now admits that this is a shitty fucking implementation:

You guys are right that we ought to only access the localconfig.vdf file after the user chooses to import Steam friends. (emphasis mine) The current implementation is a remnant left over from our rush to implement social features in the early days of Fortnite. It's actually my fault for pushing the launcher team to support it super quickly and then identifying that we had to change it. Since this issue came to the forefront we're going to fix it.

So once they fix that, that particular issue I have with the store would go away.

As for your ad-hominem attacks, eat a dick.
 
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18. Re: Tim Sweeney on Epic Games Store Spyware Theories Apr 6, 2019, 11:37 CJ_Parker
 
Well, when it comes to datamining in gaming then Steam is most definitely the undisputed king. No one else comes even close to what Valve is monitoring, analyzing and factoring into their algorithms.  
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17. Re: Tim Sweeney on Epic Games Store Spyware Theories Apr 6, 2019, 11:33 Cutter
 
Steele Johnson wrote on Apr 6, 2019, 10:41:
I like how all the complainers (who are probably flat earthers as well) speculate how their app works without even using it. Um, the app asks the userís permission to access the steam friendís list just like a million phone apps out there that asks for permission to access your contact list. Born yesterday? Yíall sound like idiots. Give it a rest. If you donít like the store, donít use it. /tin foil hat moment

Any why would you use any of those apps that ask for permission for things they clearly don't need except to datamine you? We're the idiots? Yeah. Sure. Any mirrors where you live? Take a good long look in one if you want to find an idiot.
 
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"Ah, Impressionists, the boy bands of the art world." - Sideshow Bob
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16. Re: Tim Sweeney on Epic Games Store Spyware Theories Apr 6, 2019, 10:41 Steele Johnson
 
I like how all the complainers (who are probably flat earthers as well) speculate how their app works without even using it. Um, the app asks the userís permission to access the steam friendís list just like a million phone apps out there that asks for permission to access your contact list. Born yesterday? Yíall sound like idiots. Give it a rest. If you donít like the store, donít use it. /tin foil hat moment  
Avatar 12787
 
"The hardest thing to do is to be true to yourself, especially when everybody is watching." - Dave Chappelle
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15. Re: Tim Sweeney on Epic Games Store Spyware Theories Apr 6, 2019, 07:42 El Pit
 
Tencent is great! They even gave Epic some free Huawei hardware!

Just kidding. AFAIK 10Cent did not. But it sure would be funny!
 
They're waiting for you, Gabe, in the test chamber!
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14. Re: Tim Sweeney on Epic Games Store Spyware Theories Apr 6, 2019, 06:45 Jonjonz
 
Says the salesman known for willingly selling unfinished products...  
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There is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but things that come out are what defile.
Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
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13. Re: Tim Sweeney on Epic Games Store Spyware Theories Apr 6, 2019, 05:19 NKD
 
I'm suspicious of anything China related, but so far there's no actual evidence to suggest the Epic Game Store is a Chinese intelligence op.  
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Welcome to the Retirement Home for Old People Terrified Of Change
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12. Re: Tim Sweeney on Epic Games Store Spyware Theories Apr 6, 2019, 05:06 Quinn
 
Yeah right Tim! And the earth isn't flat and isn't controlled by the extremely secret Illuminati cult that we know everything about! Haha, what a joke this man is! Thinking he could fool us with such phony candor! I bet my balls he's one of the lizards!  
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"F!#& YOU, MISSILE!"
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11. Re: Tim Sweeney on Epic Games Store Spyware Theories Apr 6, 2019, 02:16 TheVocalMinority
 
Mashiki Amiketo wrote on Apr 5, 2019, 22:29:

like Cisco saying they've only ever had positive interactions with the company that built their routers. Until it came out that they were injecting exploits directly into it, granting not only the manufacturer but various chicom agencies access. That's going back to 2010/2011 for those that forgot, and it was just cisco hardware.

I must have forgot about that one. Linky?
 
"How easily we let ourselves be taken in by partisan labels" - Solzhenitsyn
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