Upcoming Ultra Online Game Store Aims to Undercut Steam

A New Kind of Online Store

Tallin, Estonia-based startup ‘Ultra‘ is set to launch their online app and game store this fall. What sets them apart from others however, is the fact that they are taking aim squarely at the biggest online stores. That includes Valve‘s massively popular Steam platform. They intend to compete not strictly by enticing consumers, but rather by courting developers and publishers.

Valve for example, takes a 30% cut with every game sold on Steam. The same is true for Apple‘s App store and Google‘s Play store. What Ultra intends to do, is to only ask a 15% cut.

“There’s no reason why such a big fee should be taken,” says Nicolas Gilot, co-CEO of Ultra. “The business model is totally viable without that.”

“The success of Steam, Google, and Apple’s app stores over the last decade means that users have grown to expect and demand the kind of ease-of-use and seamless purchasing experience that these platforms provide.

This effectively means that developers are having an increasingly difficult time selling their software outside of these walled gardens, which results in large commission fees and loss of control over their own customers.” Gilot adds.

Is There Room for A New Distribution Platform?

Ultra is launching their beta client on PCs in November. However,  it begs the question of whether it will actually survive. After all, developers themselves have been pushing back heavily against distribution platforms like Steam.

The success of Epic’s Fortnite has shown that it is not necessary to rely on Valve’s platform to reach a wide audience. Publishers and developers have also been launching their own direct distribution platforms to undercut 3rd party stores.

The Estonian startup promises that they will have 150 to 200 games available on launch day. Although they are still in the process of raising funds, they have reportedly amassed $10  million from private investors already.

Considering the gaming market will reach $137.9 billion this year, the move by Ultra is a daring but very understandable strategy.

Humble Bundle actually has an even lower cut at 5%. However, Ultra intends to offer more advanced features for both developers and players. Ultra’s software streaming technology in fact, is already used by other publishers. This includes Zenimax/Bethesda, Bandai-Namco, and 343 Industries.

Ron Perillo

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