(Credit: Supergiant Games)

Fortnite's battle royale mayhem may be the hottest thing to hit gaming in years -- but PC gamers won't find it anywhere on the Steam store, despite Valve Software's business being the de facto market leader for well over a decade. Instead, Fortnite's maker Epic Games offers the title through its own desktop app, and now the company is going whole-hog with an online store to compete against Steam itself.

Hot on the heels of announcing the very concept of the store -- where publishers will pay just a 12 percent cut to Epic instead of a 30 percent cut like they would on Steam -- Epic has launched the store itself, where customers can buy and pre-order a variety of games ranging from indies to major publishers. Supergiant Games -- the makers of Bastion, Transistor, and Pyre -- are also offering their latest title Hades in early access for $19.99.

SEE: How to play Fortnite Mobile and win: A guide for beginners

Hades is rogue-like dungeon crawler, a subgenre that's gotten a little over-crowded lately, so it's not clear yet how the game will distinguish itself. But evidently, Epic already has an early access program in place, which is an unexpected bullet point for a game store on day one -- and the privately-owned Supergiant is a potentially major partner with several acclaimed titles under its belt.

One other bargaining chip in Epic's favor is that a game publisher has complete control over what content appears on the store page. So unlike Steam, there is no recommendation engine that could list and link to direct competitors. While this can be a welcome convenience for users, publishers are understandably resistant to giving ad space to their rivals.

Of course, the Epic Games Store will not have a deep library on day one, but they are advertising imminent releases for popular franchises like Darksiders, Super Meat Boy, and World War Z. Plus, they have publicly committed to giving away one game every two weeks, from December through the end of 2019.

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The first Epic Games Store giveaway is Subnautica, a mostly underwater survival crafting game that's done well both commercially and critically. That will be available for free from December 14 to 27. Then Super Meat Boy will be given away from December 28 to January 10.

Epic says that it's funding these giveaways out of its own pocket "so you always have something new to come and check out" -- and thanks to the intergalactic success of Fortnite, they have the cash to burn.

Up until now, regularly scheduled giveaways have normally required a subscription fee, such as we see with Xbox Live Gold or PlayStation Plus; the games are a fringe benefit of the service that lets Xbox and PlayStation users participate in multiplayer games, and they can receive special discounts on other titles.

We'll see in 2019 how Microsoft, Sony, and Valve Software respond to the addition of a serious-looking contender.

Takeaways

  • The Epic Games Store, created by the makers of Fortnite, has launched today as a direct competitor to Steam. Notably, the store's participating game publishers will pay only a 12 percent cut to Epic, versus the 30 percent normally given to Steam.
  • Epic has also committed to giving away one game every two weeks on its now store, from this month through the end of 2019. The first one up for grabs is Subnautica, a popular and mostly underwater survival crafting game.

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Tom McNamara is a Senior Editor for CNET's Download.com. He mainly covers Windows, mobile and desktop security, games, Google, streaming services, and social media. Tom was also an editor at Maximum PC and IGN, and his work has appeared on CNET, PC Gamer, MSN.com, and Salon.com. He's also unreasonably proud that he's kept the same phone for more than two years.