5 letters with huge power. If you want to play games on a PC, it will be hard to avoid them. Valve did not only create it as a first but also established it as THE platform for the distribution of digital games. Remember: With great power comes great responsibility. But when it comes to that, it seems that Valve isn’t very keen.
Valve, a multi-million dollar company who flails its arms in the air and denies any responsibility if criticised, but also it lets games through its doors with topics like mass shootings and rape. Steam likes to make itself seem like the freedom loving platform without any limits, but it should not be allowed to deny any kind of responsibility.
Valve does not like any type of confrontation. What they do love is another C-word: customers. So they don’t want to upset them under any circumstance. Which is logical, but that is still a questionable stance. As the owner and operator of such a huge platform, Valve has to take at least some responsibility for its customers. If they want to or not.
It’s all business
Any other business will take great care of what they offer and that it meets its customer’s needs and requirements and not sell random things that don’t or even worse products that are so far removed that they shine a negative light on the whole business.
The thing is that Steam does not have a defined target audience. Valve wants to be able to speak to, if possible, any type of customer. The most current example is the game “Rape Day” and because I do not want to talk about the disgusting creation more than I have to, I will summarise it as “Rape women during the zombie apocalypse”. That is the content of the game, which was listed for weeks but not buyable during that time. The following outcry about this “thing” on the web was huge and the criticism of Steam loud. Valve took its time to react to the situation and removed the game from the store. The late reaction had a bad after taste, due to the wishy-washy statement that followed. “We respect developers desires to express themselves”. or “ (it could) cause unknown costs and risks”. WTF???
Where is the open and honest statement saying that games like this software-shit are pure and utter filth that should not be on Steam? Exactly with such soft statements Valve is trying to not offend any of their customers. Another example is a game called “Active Shooter”, which was a game with mass shooting theme, for which Valve earned major criticism and only reacted after realising the outcry will cause them financial issues. Ethics? Who cares, right?
This seems to have seeped deep into the philosophy of the company. A few days after the mass shooting game was taken off of Steam, Valve opened the doors even more. Via “Steam Direct” all games are allowed to be distributed and sold on Steam, as long as the developer is willing to pay 86€. The only exceptions are games which Valve deems illegal or straight up trolling. The decision is being made internally. Both of the named games seem to have passed this hurdle.
From a business standpoint “Steam Direct” is a smart move. Developers can enter the platform quick and easy, which increases the number of available games and Valve gets the submission fee on top of the 30% they take per sale. The problem here is that the game library is now more made up of games that don’t even meet the quality of shovel ware. That a customer has to differentiate between “real” games and “those” games, is only one of the annoyances. There are also titles that are generally in bad taste or at least should not be easily accessible for a younger audience. Please don’t come along with the piss-poor excuse for age verification of Steam. “Yes I am 16”, “No I am not 16”, is not secure.
There may be a space for these types of games in the deep dark reaches of the internet, but that place is just not for me. Which is totally OK, but many gamers may feel just like me. Which was shown by the shitstorm both of the above games have caused. Some customers no longer seem to feel at home on Steam, due to those type of games. Others, who want a completely open platform are also are pissed off because Valve does react to critique when they remove games.
Valves constant slow dance between all possibilities seem to be causing the exact opposite of what they are trying to achieve and just annoy most of their customers.
Now let’s look at the competition. The EPIC games store has started to put some pressure on Steam and that is fantastic. You don’t have to like the new client and yes EPIC is also definitely interested in your wallet. That is really un-important, as long as both competitors have to up their game to get us to buy from one and not the other.
Currently EPIC is only offering a curated selection of games and the review feature is not active, which currently is prohibiting review bombing. No, I do not want to say that the EPIC games store is the better service. Steam currently still has the lead which is shrinking. This can only be an advantage for us the customers and has caused Steam to react in the recent past.
Competition drives business also applies here. Although EPIC is not the “good guy” it wants to be, it is helping to regulate the market. In the end, it is up to the customer and their wallet who’s approach is supported. That way, even a giant like Steam has to bend to competition and public opinion. If Valve wants to keep its position as market it leader it will have to do at least one thing “Start taking responsibility”.