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An incredible amount of digital ink continues to be spilled over Fortnite, the 100-player free-for-all that slowly but surely became a cultural force in 2018. The game functions as a sort of social network of its own, luring players to return with a constantly rotating array of features and upgrades. It has earned its maker, Epic Games, billions of dollars. And it is increasingly apparent that Fortnite is not only a major economic force on its own, but a Trojan horse for a broader shift in the PC-gaming market.

In early December of last year, Epic announced the launch of the Epic Games store, a digital storefront for PC games. It’s a relatively simple concept, except that the company faces a strong incumbent: for more than a decade, digital game sales have been dominated by one service, Steam. Run by Valve Software, the developer of games like Half-Life and Portal, Steam has for a long time been the only digital store that mattered. Steam was an app store before app stores existed. Anyone remotely interested in computer games probably owns a collection of dozens or hundreds of games on the service (usually acquired through occasional sales offering steep discounts).


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