Meanwhile, Epic Games has Fortnite. The online battle royale game has exploded in mainstream popularity, generating $2 billion in 2018 alone, and helping transform Epic into an $8 billion company.
Epic Games is actually older than Valve by five years, and its engine, Unreal, is a cornerstone of modern video game development. It's the software that powers hundreds of games and franchises, including Mortal Kombat, Mass Effect, Tom Clancy, Batman: Arkham, Borderlands, Rocket League and BioShock.
"You can't walk into a Gamestop and throw a rock without hitting a game made in the Unreal Engine, so it's pretty safe to assume they are going to be around for a long time," Refenes said. "Just with the Unreal Engine alone, Epic is as important to the gaming industry as Valve is. So right there you have a solid foundation to build a store on."
"What happens when the Epic Games Store gets its footing?"
This month's Valve-Epic rivalry isn't a matter of life or death for either company. The Epic Games store can't cannibalize Steam with a few exclusives, and Steam can't stop Epic from snagging new games by offering a better revenue share. Both companies are bigger than their launchers: Steam is the sole proprietor of a handful of illustrious franchises, plus it's dabbling in hardware development and VR, while Epic has the Unreal Engine and Fortnite. This is a battle between two multi-billion-dollar companies. However it shakes out, they'll both likely be fine.
But, with billions behind it, the Epic Games store represents the first real competition for Steam in more than a decade, and that means PC gaming is about to change in a major way.
"Competition is good, but the PC market has no competition. There is only Steam," Refenes said. "But what happens when the Epic Games store gets its footing and grows into a PC marketplace powerhouse? What would that force Steam to do? It would force them to improve. Then that would, in turn, force Epic to improve, and then you have two large companies fighting to retain customers and developers. That's going to motivate innovation. That is a healthy marketplace, and that is good for everyone."