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Epic Steamrolled Through 2021 Giving Away $18 Billion in Games

Epic Games
(Image credit: Epic Games)

The Epic Games Store (EGS) appears to have enjoyed a banner year in 2021. For many, the EGS is better known for its giveaways than for being a game buying destination, and the figures show this feeling rings true. To sum up its extraordinary year, Epic Games says that it gave away 765M games (with an average price of $23.82), which means it gave away about $18 billion worth of games. However, its income from game sales in 2021 was just $840 million – which is less than 5% of the total giveaway value it claims.

While we might have nitpicked at the giveaways versus cash generation figures in the intro, the EGS has some great numbers that it can boast about for 2021. To grow and compete with the likes of Steam on PC, the EGS obviously needs to be 'stickier' so those millions of freebie seekers stick around to play the games and add paid titles to their collection.

"There are now over 194 million Epic Games Store PC users, an increase of 34M from 2020," boasts Epic in its year in review blog post. "Daily active users peaked at 31.1M, and peak concurrent users reached 13.2M. December's monthly active users peak reached 62M users, an increase of 11% from last year's peak of 56M." 

As a point of reference, earlier this week, we reported that Steam achieved a record 29.2M+ concurrent users. So, EGS is where Steam was (using this metric) in Q3 2016.

(Image credit: Epic Games)

On the topic of free games, Epic Games gave away 89 free games during 2021, which it says were worth $2,120 in total – an average of $23.82 per game, as we mentioned in the intro. With over 765 million free games claimed by players, we calculate an incredible giveaway total value of somewhere around $18 billion. Epic seems to be particularly happy about its most recent sale over Christmas and New Year's, where it saw 31 million people participate in the event. Gamers acquired 159 million items, which was 14% better than the previous year's sale event.

Improvements Delivered in 2021

Epic set aside a portion of its blog to talk up the EGS platform and its development. The immaturity of the EGS client and limited features compared to competitors are frequently highlighted as criticisms. Critical introductions in 2021 include improved navigation, social panel tweaks, improved wishlist support, fuller product previews, and new views to discover new releases, among other highlighted store sections.

Weekly Free Games Will Continue in 2022

In 2022, Epic wants to reassure gamers that "weekly Free Games will continue." Remember, last year we got 89 giveaways, which is more than once a week, due to special events timed with sales and holidays. The better, bigger name giveaways tended to also tie in with these events. We would wager that this promotional giveaway activity will follow a similar pace in 2022. In fact, there is yet another sale now celebrating the Chinese New Year period.

(Image credit: Epic Games)

Lastly Epic promises the release of "a number of huge games," through 2022 to get you to visit its store. It name checks the likes of Forspoken, Dying Light 2 Stay Human, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2, and Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Extraction. But of course, some of the biggest games of the year are still probably yet to be revealed.

Is Steam Your Biggest Foe – or Xbox Games Pass?

It would be ironic if, as Epic almost grasps Steam's coattails, the industry and gamers pivot to gaming subscription services. Whenever news about Microsoft's Xbox Games Pass (for example) bubbles up, it always seems relatively positive, and Microsoft's investments in it look to have paid off over recent years. If the games industry is going to finally have its Blockbuster Netflix moment with games subscriptions and streaming, Epic better start making some Plan B and Plan C contingencies, and it isn't the only one that needs to do this.

Mark Tyson
Mark Tyson

Mark Tyson is a Freelance News Writer at Tom's Hardware US. He enjoys covering the full breadth of PC tech; from business and semiconductor design to products approaching the edge of reason.

  • Heat_Fan89
    That's interesting because Epic has said, in order to make money you have to spend money. I wonder if Epic feels the same way after giving away $18 billion in games? Gog.com from what i've read is getting out of the business of selling games from their Store. Gog.com and Epic Games both wanted to take away business from Steam but at this point, Steam is too much of a known entity, warts and all. Microsoft also tried about 10 yrs ago going up against Steam with Games For Windows Live and that bombed a few years later.

    The other factor is, gamers who spend money on digital games, know there's a very good chance Steam will be around in the next few years and they will have access to their games. Although Steam has said before that if they were to close up shop, they would remove DRM from every game on their Store.
    Reply
  • -Fran-
    I still don't understand how this is legal... I truly don't.

    I mean, sure, they're dumping a lot of money on people and whatnot, but if EPIC goes down or the store closes, people that has actually spent money in it will lose their libraries and all.

    There's a good saying which goes: "if it's good, be suspicious; if it is too good, get worried".

    Regards.
    Reply
  • ezst036
    It would be nice to see Epic bring the Store to Linux natively. Unfortunately, from what I understand a short time ago Tim Sweeney decided to drink the kool-aid.
    Reply
  • TerryLaze
    Heat_Fan89 said:
    That's interesting because Epic has said, in order to make money you have to spend money. I wonder if Epic feels the same way after giving away $18 billion in games?
    Just because the retail price of all the games they gave away totals 18 billion doesn't mean that they spent that much.
    I'm pretty sure the deals epic make covers a whole lot of exposure for the game studios and that they only pay pennies on the dollar for each game they give away.
    Game studios often enough give away games completely for free for promotion.
    Reply
  • wifiburger
    ok... they gave $18 billions worth of games; you can rest assured it didn't cost Epic anywhere close to that amount !

    I like Epic store, one of my favorite stores; I hate everything Steam
    I have most of their free offers since they started and a few purchases.
    Reply
  • thisisaname
    "There are now over 194 million Epic Games Store PC users, an increase of 34M from 2020,"
    I wonder how many of them are just there for the free games and have not spent anything.
    Reply
  • WarWolverineWarrior
    That's cool but when is Epic Deck coming out? I think Steam Deck is going to steam roll right through.
    Reply
  • GenericUser
    thisisaname said:
    I wonder how many of them are just there for the free games and have not spent anything.

    I can only speak for myself, but I've gotten dozens of free titles off Epic and have spent 0 dollars there. I imagine there's quite a few.
    Reply
  • TerryLaze
    thisisaname said:
    I wonder how many of them are just there for the free games and have not spent anything.
    Doesn't matter, I mean it does but high user numbers are still a good bargaining chip for epic and a good incentive for publishers, it's a target group, I mean how many people watch an add on TV millions of times but never buy the product?! Same thing, as long as some (enough) people buy it it's still a win.
    Reply
  • Mandark
    Yeah, they can say it’s worth 18 billion all they want if nobody’s buying it it’s worth zero so far return of almost $1, billion off of zero that’s not too bad

    Most of those free games I wouldn’t touch anyway so to me they’re worth zero dollars
    Reply