The Steam Store is going to contain something that you hate and don’t think should exist…
-Erik Johnson, Who Gets to be on the Steam Store
It has come to this. In the face of some questions and minor controversies Valve has decided that they won’t judge what goes on their Steam service. Aside from items that are “…are illegal, or straight up trolling…” anything goes on Steam now.
I have to admit that my initial gut reaction was one of surprise at the idea that the barrier to entry for getting a game on Steam could be any lower or, in a situation where something like 35 new titles show up on the service every day (up from 25 a day in 2017), that more titles would in any way be better for anybody. The Steam store is already full of titles I don’t think should exists, not because they offend me, but because they are just poorly conceived and badly executed. Adding the loathsome and offensive is not going make things better.
I suppose I can appreciate Valve’s issue. The whole Steam thing seems to have gotten away from them. It has gone from a service to host their games to DRM for some quality titles like Civilization V to a way for some select outsiders to get onto a popular online service to a desire to be the biggest source of unfiltered video
garbage games on the internet pretty fast as the platform seems to be an unending source of success (and revenue) for Valve, to the point that they just don’t make games anymore so far as I can tell.
They’re a victim, in a way, of their own success and now the idea that they can police every bit of software is daunting as subjective decisions can’t be made by Gabe, or people who report directly to Gabe, or people who report to people who report to Gabe any more. Now there are a bunch of people, distant from the core of the company, charged with making value judgements that no doubt vary wildly with the personal context and experience of each individual.
You probably have to either reign things in drastically or just let go at this point.
Still, I don’t buy into everything they’re saying. This for example:
It also means that the games we allow onto the Store will not be a reflection of Valve’s values
That is going to prove to be some prime, grade A bullshit in the long run. If you sell porn, cigarettes, or alcohol in a store that you own, if you make money off of those items, while claiming that they don’t reflect your values, that is a straight up self-deluded evasion. The owner of the store doesn’t get to distance themself from the items they sell like it was all happening to somebody else. At best, it says that money is all you value. Cashing the checks while saying you don’t support something is just hypocrisy.
And since Valve has pretty much declared open season for things that will offend, things that do not reflect their values, I am going to bet that somebody is even now planning to see just how far that sentiment goes. I hesitate to speculate as to what somebody might try to pass off as a game, but somebody will come up with something so horrible that it will make the press and cast Valve in a bad light. Some people just want to see the world burn.
And then the policy will change again. Something will come along that will force them to change. Something will be bad enough to cause internet level outrage and then the change will be forced upon them. I give it until September 1, 2018 before something like that happens.
[I’m going to put that in my calendar so I can come back to it if I am wrong.]
[Addendum (June 25, 2018): Since Steam showed just days after this post that they were set to use “trolling” as their loophole to reject games they do not like, I will just admit that this isn’t going to happen right now. More the fool I for believing them I suppose.]
[Addendum (March 8, 2019): Well, the horrible title I predicted showed up and Valve didn’t play their “trolling” out card, so bad press and outrage came to pass.]
In the mean time, if I were running Origin, and I could get my mind off of how to screw over the customers for just a bit, I might think about running some easy ads about how “family friendly” the service is relative to the cesspool that is Steam.
I might even think about really pushing a 3rd party program for the service with an eye to maybe poaching some studios from Steam with the promise of both not being lost in the forest of endless titles and being on a wholesome service that doesn’t include whatever edge cases people are going to try to push onto Steam now.
It has come to this, a viable plan to push Origin as a good alternative to Steam.
I will say, if nothing else, that Valve has shown itself to be adaptable in the past and generally doesn’t double down on decisions that go bad. They might change course before the inevitable bad press, like when they really get down to having to decide what is illegal in every jurisdiction they serve, a problem they cop to in that blog post as well. It might end up being better to just make some value judgements, protect the brand, and not try to be the sales point for all possible video games.
Also posting about this news from Steam:
- Ars Technica
- Keen & Graev
- Rock, Paper, Shotgun
- Massively OP
- Blizzard Watch
- In An Age
- Hardcore Casual
- TAGN – More on the topic
- Kill Ten Rats