Valve’s Steam platform has been under fire for years now in regards to the quality and content of the games that make it onto its digital storefront. Rather than buckle down on moderating, though, the team recently announced it will basically allow anything and everything to hit the market moving forward.
A statement went up on the Steam blog this week explaining the company’s stance on controlling what games do and do not get to be added to their virtual shelves. We’ll dig into the background and reasoning in a moment but, for now, this quote pulled from the announcement sums everything up quite nicely.
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 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.
It sounds like the Steam team is tired of trying to figure out what should or should not be allowed on its platform. While Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo have more walled-off marketplaces subject to pretty strict guidelines, Steam has always flown a bit more loose and free. That’s primarily because of the sheer volume of games being developed for PC, though admittedly many would argue a large quantity of those are not fit to be published anywhere.
And that gets to the heart of Steam’s problem. According to their statement, it’s impossible to please everyone and, no matter what they decide to do, someone always gets upset about it.
Last September, for instance, they removed nearly 200 games deemed “spam,” though the developers certainly didn’t feel that was a fair assessment. Adult-themed, sexual games have come under fire more recently and, within the past week, Steam opted to pull a game that simulates a school shooting.
In short, Valve feels it is wasting time and resources trying to police the games that get submitted to the Steam service so, instead of trying to create more thorough guidelines and sticking to them, they will instead be going back to the Wild West of publishing. Yes, there will be some form of quality control preceding a game’s launch, but it sounds like it will be little more than a reliance on developers/publishers to “be honest” about what their game is and what kind of content (particularly potentially offensive content) it contains. Steam also claims it will stop doing business with companies that are not forthcoming with those types of details.
In other words, it will be up to the players to flag games and file their complaints, and then games will be looked at on a case by case basis after the fact. In the meantime, Steam plans to create more tools to keep players from seeing games they have no interest in or might find offensive.
Some users are siding with Valve, applauding the company for it’s stance that it should not be the judge of what types of games should be made. Others, though, feel the company is shirking a very important duty. Valve shouldn’t judge what games should be made, they are arguing, but they absolutely have a responsibility to judge what they are willing to sell on their platform.