Epic spent at least $11.6 million on free games and gained 5 million new users in return

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A new document released as part of Epic’s legal battle with Apple has revealed how much Epic paid developers to give away their games for free following the launch of the Epic Games Store in December 2018. The document, which was spotted by writer Simon Carless, covers the 38 games given away free between December and September the following year. We already know that Epic is spending millions on its giveaways, but the new document reveals how much that translates to on a per-game basis.

Epic CEO Tim Sweeney previously revealed that the company pays a flat fee to each developer to give away their games, rather than paying per download. Over the period covered by the document, Epic paid over $11.6 million in total for the games. In response to the deals, almost five million new users signed up to the store, which translates to Epic paying $2.37 for each new user it signed up in this period. That’s money which the company would theoretically make back if each new user went on to buy just one $20 game, based on the 12 percent commission Epic takes on new purchases.

A table showing how much Epic paid for each free game.
Image: Epic Games

Beyond the ten months covered in the table, Epic says it’s acquired a total of 18.5 million new users via free game giveaways, and that around 7 percent of them, or about 1.3 million people, go on to make a purchase.

A summary of how many total users Epic’s giveaways have attracted.
Image: Epic Games

There’s a huge amount of variance between how much Epic paid for each giveaway. At the top end is the $1.5 million it paid to give away the Batman Arkham trilogy games, but it also paid substantial amounts for Subnautica ($1.4 million) and Mutant Year Zero ($1 million). In comparison, the company paid much less for indie titles like Super Meat Boy ($50,000), Jackbox Party Pack ($60,000), and Fez ($75,000).

At only 38 titles, the list covers less than half of the 100+ games Epic has given away on its store since its launch. It also doesn’t cover one of Epic’s biggest giveaways from May 2020 when it made GTA5 free on its store. Rockstar’s title proved so popular that the store was knocked offline for several hours as everyone tried to claim their free copy.

As well as paying to give away existing games for free, Epic has also paid for upcoming games to be released exclusively on its store. Another document released as part of the legal proceedings and found by Carless reveals that Epic paid a $146 million advance for a deal that included Borderlands 3 exclusivity.

The new numbers were made public as part of Epic’s legal battle with Apple. The Fortnite developer is accusing Apple’s App Store of being a monopoly, and takes issue with the 30 percent commission Apple charges on many in-app purchases. With the court trial having kicked off this week, expect more of the inner workings of each company to be made public in the days ahead.

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