Epic vs Apple court battle reveals the true price of free PC games

Ever since its inception, the Epic Games Store has given away free games frequently as a way of enticing PC gamers to create accounts. The hope, of course, is that the people who show up for the free games stick around and spend money on the Epic Games Store later, but of course, these promos cost Epic a fair amount of cash since developers need to be reimbursed for the copies that are claimed. If you've ever wondered how much Epic is paying for these free games, newly-surfaced court documents are shedding some light on just that today.

These court documents are being made public as part of Epic's legal feud with Apple. They were uploaded to the Box account being used by the Epic vs. Apple trial and spotted by GameDesignCo founder Simon Carless on Twitter. One of the pages contained within shows us how much Epic paid for each free game offered in the first nine months of the Epic Game Store's existence, through September 2019.

The prices that are listed might be something of a surprise. For instance, we learn that Epic paid $1.4 million for Subnautica, which was the very first game offered for free through the Epic Games Store, while it only paid $50,000 for Super Meat Boy. Epic paid at least tens of thousands of dollars for every game listed with the sole exception of Metro: 2033 Redux, which has a listed buyout price of $0.

This document also tells us how many new Epic accounts were created while each game was free. Subnautica takes the cake there, which isn't a surprise given its popularity among survival fans and the fact that it was the first free game offered by a fledgling Epic Games Store. We also get a breakdown of how much Epic paid for each new account on a game-by-game basis. Epic only paid $0.70 for each new user while Polytron's Fez was free in August 2019, while the Celeste giveaway that came a few weeks later had Epic paying $12 for each new user.

All in all, Epic paid $11.66 million for these exclusives over the first nine months of the Epic Games Store's existence. That's a drop in the bucket compared the amount of money Fortnite pulled in over its first two years, so it seems that Epic can afford to keep paying for these freebies for quite some time to come.