Monday, June 18, 2018 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Who Gets to Be on the Steam Store?

Valve:

The challenge is that this problem is not simply about whether or not the Steam Store should contain games with adult or violent content. Instead, it’s about whether the Store contains games within an entire range of controversial topics - politics, sexuality, racism, gender, violence, identity, and so on. In addition, there are controversial topics that are particular to games - like what even constitutes a “game”, or what level of quality is appropriate before something can be released.

[…]

Valve shouldn’t be the ones deciding this. If you’re a player, we shouldn’t be choosing for you what content you can or can’t buy. If you’re a developer, we shouldn’t be choosing what content you’re allowed to create. Those choices should be yours to make. Our role should be to provide systems and tools to support your efforts to make these choices for yourself, and to help you do it in a way that makes you feel comfortable.

With that principle in mind, we’ve decided that the right approach is to allow everything onto the Steam Store, except for things that we decide are illegal, or straight up trolling. Taking this approach allows us to focus less on trying to police what should be on Steam, and more on building those tools to give people control over what kinds of content they see.

Previously: Lessons Learned From the App Store.

9 Comments

I applaud the position, but the "trolling" loophole is undefined and mealy-mouthed.

Maybe they want to be Amazon for software, not a publisher of software?

The incentives for both are pretty similar: you make more money selling pretty much anything people throw at you than curating/filtering/editing, so long as your inventory space is unlimited.

> I applaud the position,

I don't. As a Steam user, I'm getting tired of all of the crap in there. It's getting as bad as the app stores on Android and iOS.

This is not a principled position in favor of free speech. The single reason Valve does this is because they're too cheap to hire humans to actually look at these submissions. And so we end up with complete crap, from achievement generators that don't do anything except give you a billion achievements, to barely working dev tutorial example games somebody took from an online course and submitted as their own, to "games" that won't launch at all because they don't even bother to include an actual exe. And all of this crud is crowding out the good games made by honest developers, which is directly negatively impacting sales numbers for indie game devs. It's ridiculous and pathetic. Valve is one of the richest companies in gaming, and they can't lift a finger to fix their sad excuse for a game store.

Steam used to be great, now it's just the pits.

PS: I would actually applaud Apple if they did something like this, because the App Store is the only reasonable way you can distribute iOS apps. So if an app isn't allowed into the App Store, it's dead. This is not the case for PC games. You don't have to be on Steam to distribute your game, so there's no reason for Valve to let all of this crap into their store.

Those are orthogonal quality control issues, not content policing ones. If Valve addresses those while sticking with free expression principles, would you support it then?

Valve has only become as rich as it has because it runs what has become THE game marketplace on PC. The PC game that can succeed without being on Steam is the rare exception, not the rule.

> If Valve addresses those while sticking with free expression principles, would you support it then?

That depends on their definition of "trolling".

> Valve has only become as rich as it has because it runs what has become THE game marketplace on PC.

And it did so back when they added maybe a dozen games to the store each week. Now, it's hundreds.

>The PC game that can succeed without being on Steam is the rare exception, not the rule.

For a lot of indie devs, Steam now makes up a less than half of their revenue, sometimes in the 10% range. The reason for this is exactly the problem I outlined above: there are way too many terrible games on Steam, and the actual good games are lost in the flood of manure. That's the irony: what you're saying is true, for all of the manipulative publishers who crap out asset flips on a weekly basis, while the opposite is true for good indie devs — they can't survive on Steam anymore.

Good games getting lost in the flood of manure is only a problem if you expect Steam to be useful as a discovery mechanism. If Steam's intent is to be merely a distribution mechanism, then it is up to developers to raise awareness of and demand for their games via advertising, social media, etc. You then go to Steam to search for and install the game that you already know you want. I'm not convinced that there's anything inherently wrong with such a model, as long as all parties are aware of it.

> Good games getting lost in the flood of manure is only a problem if you expect Steam to be useful as a discovery mechanism

It does not matter what I expect Steam to be, or what Steam's intent is. The facts are that:

1. As a user of Steam, Steam now sucks for discovery; more often than not, the games I get suggested are really, really bad

2. As one of the most important marketplaces for games, Steam no longer provides adequate revenue for many good indie games where it previously did provide adequate revenue, which means that there will be fewer good indie games, which also sucks

Steam's intents don't enter into these arguments at all. It's true Valve is not legally obligated to create a sustainable market for indie games, but that doesn't mean that I can't criticise them for failing to do so. They have a lot of power to do good, and they are choosing to do bad instead.

In this sense, this is very similar to what happened to the iOS App Store, and the results there are strikingly similar: there is almost no sustainable market for good iOS games, or for good iOS apps in general. Apple's intents don't matter; what matters is the outcome, and the outcome is that this is bad for Apple's developers and customers, just like Valve's behavior is bad for indie game devs and for Steam users.

Here's a GDC presentation on the real-world implications this complete lack of filtering has for serious developers:
https://youtu.be/WycVOCbeKqQ

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