Steam Will No Longer Remove Games From Store
What is my crazy reasoning behind this? First, Valve has some big news that I think is worthy of discussing in a much larger frame than keeping it bundled in the Weekly Link Round Up. Second, most of the funny gaming news out right now has to deal with E3 and predictions. We did that last week. Let's not sully the good name of the Weekly Link Round Up.
On Wednesday, longtime senior engineer Erik Johnson posted to the Steam community that Valve will be updating it's Steam Direct policy. In a post titled 'Who Gets To Be On The Steam Store?', Valve is doing something we didn't expect: the policy will be that all games will be allowed on the store. Valve will not remove games without community feedback.
"[w]e ended up going back to one of the principles in the forefront of our minds when we started Steam, and more recently as we worked on Steam Direct to open up the Store to many more developers: 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."
There will be exceptions, of course. If Valve deems the content of a game illegal or a method of trolling, it will not be allowed. Active Shooter, for example, wouldn't have been approved for the platform. However Johnson does not elaborate on what content is illegal or trolling. We, the developers and gamers, have to fill in those gaps.
The response to this change has been polarizing. Comments from the community on the post seem to be leaning more towards the positive. Why should it be left up to Valve to moderate what games players can choose from? In the end, our wallets decide what we like and don't like. But some critics have pointed out that this is a way for Valve to absolve ownership of any wrongdoing and put the blame back on the gamers. Valve has made a decision to not take sides.
The debate on the type of content made available on Steam has been ongoing for years. Games that would sit on a WalMart shelf would not fly under Steam's old policy for one reason or another. With the more recent controversies on the games that were approved, Valve needed to step in and come to a clear consensus on how their platform should be moderated. In this case, they are choosing to let gamers act as the moderators - a very Wikipedia-like mindset.
Pros and Cons. On the one hand, this type of gamer moderation would allow more independent products to flourish. Because we are deciding what content should be allowed on the platform, we have more say in which developers get highlighted - which games are showcased - which games are going to represent our community. Steam has a rich history of supporting independents. Gamers have embraced this and I think having an open system for games that are no longer locked behind Valve's rules will really allow both the developers and gamers to flourish.
On the other, we have a few bad people in our community who will quickly abuse these new rules. Harassment, racism, sexism. In a platform that now allows everything, we will see games that support inappropriate actions. Leaf Corcoran, creator of indie game storefront Itch.io, has already called out Valve for their "everything and anything" policy. While the number of good gamers vastly outweigh the bad ones, they exist. They will want to cause chaos. They are going to shake up the system by promoting games with harmful content. According to the new policy Valve won't step in until the damage is done. Gamers will need to police themselves. Given the popularity and growth of gaming, it's too big of a task for the good gamers. We need Valve to act as a moderator.
As a business, you have to think about your customers. There's an expected fiduciary duty to ensure customer's safety while promoting the values of the company. Valve needs to make it clear that hate, racism, sexism, etc. is not allowed. Until they do that, Steam is going to be a messy, messy place from here on out. I support the Valve's concept. There are a number of games that should be on their store but are not approved for silly reasons. But the execution leaves much to be desired.