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Steam to Approve All The Things

This is going to end well. Steam's Erik Johnson published this article on the Steam Blog today.

In an effort to reduce the frustration and overhead surrounding the approval process of content submitted to the Steam platform, Valve has decided to offload that burden onto the customers.

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.

I completely disagree with the assumptions and mistargeted assertions.

I believe they absolutely should be choosing what content I can or can't buy -- ON STEAM. The choice of what a developer can or can't create has never been a choice of Valve's. What content the developers have been allowed to create and then sell on STEAM, however, has.


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.

I feel more comfortable when garbage games aren't allowed on Steam and I don't have to sift through a hot mess to find something good that isn't a complete scam. I feel more comfortable when the platform is held to a higher standard and I can shop in confidence.

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.


Ignoring the extremes like school shooting games, etc., not necessarily falling neatly into a category, I'm mostly worried about the extreme volume of garbage. Graev and I were talking about this together and he's of the opinion that  Steam has been a garbage heap already for quite some time and not he doesn't think it'll change anything. They seem to have given up.

He might be right, but I tremble at the possibility that it could be worse. Unless the toosl Valve is developing to give me control over what types of content I see includes a "NO CRAP" filter, I'm probably not going to be satisfied. I'm also not satisfied with their mentality as a company currently in control of a widely recognized and accepted leader in this space. I expect more than a laissez faire attitude.

So what does this mean? It means that the Steam Store is going to contain something that you hate, and don't think should exist. ... It also means that the games we allow onto the Store will not be a reflection of Valve’s values ... There will be people throughout the Steam community who hate your games, and hope you fail to find an audience, and there will be people here at Valve who feel exactly the same way.

It's not April Fools Day. I checked.

Count me among the fans disappointed in your change of policy, Valve.

  • You have to look at this from a free market standpoint. Yes YOU will have to do a little work (ffs it’s on a computer it’s not really work) to find gems now, but meanwhile something that seems risqué to some but totally appeals to others won’t be censored out – like the recent attempts to remove anime boobies while allowing Witcher 3 nudity for no reason. And like he said now the “Steam store may contain something you hate”. You really want more Google gestapo-like YouTube censoring and demonetizing of vids they consider harmful in our lives? Or Facebooks removing Diamond and Silver because their page was considered dangerous (a pair of black girls who have conservative viewpoints and often give props to Trump). It’s the right move. Giving users more sorting options would be great but be honest – when was the last time you did more then tab thru the featured games and scrolled down curator suggestions….

    • I don’t think this is a debate about free market principles. That’s really not relevant in this situation since Steam has never been a free market, nor has it ever tried to be. Prices have never been determined by unrestricted competition. It has always in the past tried to be a platform that provides curated content while providing a platform to play many of those games connected to other players making similar buying decisions. By its very nature, Steam has been exclusive and selective. Whether that’s by choosing titles themselves, or allowing their customers to vote on games that get admission to the platform.

      There are several underlying motives on Valve’s part to negate the criticism of taking a (political, etc) stance one way or another.

      Whether it’s blocking free speech by disallowing games about shooting up schools, or filtering out anime porn, they don’t like the labels. This way they can say, “We allow everything equally so deal with it.”

      They also must see the writing on the wall: They haven’t been doing a good job anyway with filtering. As many will point out, Steam has been a mess for some time now in terms of quality control.

      Whether it meant anything to try, I still expected more from them as a company than capitulation.

      • Capitulation to whom exactly? This move by Valve reverses that very recent oddball turn of theirs to censor content not based on quality but some singular hatred of anime boobs, while still hosting games with realistic boobs and sex scenes. Nothing else of what Erik Johnson writes deals with game quality – the whole issue was whether to edit controversial content. Is that not obvious to you? And Valve has the balls unlike leftist leaning organizations like Facebook and Google to allow differing opinions on there platform it seems. It’s the right thing to do. Your library should carry Mein Kampf and writings by liberals and the Bible and the Koran – the only decision of what content you choose should be up to you. This is what Valve decided – to be a library of content. If you pick up something that offends you it’s on you. Put it down, move on – it may be for someone else’s tastes and that’s not your place to judge what they should be viewing/playing.

      • I’ll simply say I disagree on the premise of the entire debate. I believe a company providing a platform has a duty to police the platform and control who is and is not allowed onto the platform if their presence will impact the average user. Those who use the platform agree inherently (and often in user-agreement) that this is the way it is, or they don’t use the platform.

        They say there will be games on the platform that do not coincide with their values, and games many of them wish never existed, but are happy to collect a check and benefit directly from it. To me, that’s hypocrisy.

        I’m of the mindset that Valve has every right to restrict content on its platform and control the narrative. I’m also of the mindset that Apple has every right to control their platform despite the “How dare you tell me what I can and can’t do on MY phone” crowd. I also like that my housing complex restricts smoking anywhere within the facility. I also like that Disneyland prohibits alcohol. I like consistent, protected, and curated experiences. I’ve always been willing to pay for it.

        Steam wasn’t editing content or choosing what you are allowed to believe. They were reserving the right to refuse service. No shoes? No shirt? No service. There was a standard. There was a brand expectation. As a customer who enjoyed that, I’m simply saying I’m disappointed in their decision to lower their standards.

        Does this mean I won’t use Steam? Not really. Sadly it’s still the only source to get many games — though other platforms like GoG Galaxy and Origin ARE rising. If I were given the chance to never use Steam again (and still get all my games I’ve purchased as well as be able to buy any games elsewhere) I’d probably take it.

      • Hurrah, finally a meaningful thread in your video game blog hitting all the talking point that hold meaning to me, the gestapo, black girls, Trump, leftist leaning organizations, Mein Kampf, writings by liberals, and the Koran.

        …the only thing that confuses me is how poor Mr. Trump got embroiled in such contentious issues?

      • You’re debating a weeb who is directly comparing his need to jerk it to “anime boobs” to people with dissenting political viewpoints.

    • “Yes YOU will have to do a little work (ffs it’s on a computer it’s not really work) to find gems now”

      Or, you know, I could just get off the platform instead of doing the work. I value a service by the amount of convenience it provides, as well as the products. If the new products are not of any interest to me, while they also cause the quality of the service to go down, I’ll just leave.

      Maybe I’m in the minority, but are people that like “anime boobies” enough to catch up? The only thing that changes for them is the fact that they don’t need patches from the developer’s website any more.

  • Go steam! This is awesome. Steam should be open for all games and all developers.

    I think many more people will come to steam as its open. Completely disagree with you keen.

    • Who would those people be? What games will they be playing? IF there are “many more” then certainly they can be identified.

  • As a big user of Steam I’m pretty ambivalent on this. As long as it doesn’t clutter up the “front page” of Steam too much I don’t think I’ll notice.

    I don’t “discover” games on Steam. I go to Steam to purchase a game I already know about, and to see what titles are on sale. Honestly all the ‘browsing’ I do on Steam is just taking 10 seconds to look at the top sellers list and current sales. I assume that won’t really change since the cream tends to rise to the top anyway.

    • I’ve made the mistake of becoming an explorer and trying to discover many games. I thought to myself that maybe the only way to find that gem was to branch out. Thankfully, the refund policy has been there to help me out when I get taken for a ride.

    • It is a straw man argument to say Keen is pro-censorship when he has clearly stated his concern is over the lack of quality control that may ensue.

      He could do the same to you by saying, ‘now there won’t be as strict control over games that may sensationalize rape, Adam, you never struck me as a pro-rape kind of guy’.

      • So because Steam hasn’t made a positive statement with regards to game “quality” (whatever that means), they’re taking an.. anti-consumer stance?

        I’m just not seeing how that reasoning works.

        I’d rather risk not being able to recognize an asset flip game to worrying if Valve, like Apple, is going to refuse or remove a game under the myriad specious reasons they so often do.

        Keen’s stance is lazy at best.

  • I think there’s a place in the world for all sorts of markets– totally open ones that have tons of crap but also hidden gems you can’t find anywhere else or that appeal to only a niche group of people that the majority of us find repulsive– as well as safe, familiar, mainstream outlets that don’t have anything objectionable and it’s pretty easy to find quality experience on. Valve deciding to be the former doesn’t bother me at all and I applaud them for it. Let or Origin or somewhere else be the latter.

    • That’s fair. I hope this allows for platforms like GOG Galaxy to really rise above the noise and set a standard. If Steam wants to be everything from a front-page AAA developer only shop down to the back-alley swap meets, they certainly have that right. This opens up for someone to step into where Steam used to be.

  • I’m 100% on board with you on this, this is an awful turn. Steam was already suffering from being dragged down with terrible quality games already even while curated. Opening the door to everything means it’s going to get that much worse.

    Surrendering to the gamer gate type vocal minority that whines about “censorship” means the rest of us lose. I can understand why they made this choice in that they don’t want to have the burden be on them to provide a quality service after Steam has grown so much, I just disagree with them that this is a winning play. I’d prefer a more exclusive experience that loses those people but continues to make sure the chaff doesn’t proliferate.

  • This is pretty in line with what Valve has always done. They’ve made it clear they think all the problems of their platform can be solved either with tech or crowdsourcing, and anything that can’t be solved with that isn’t worth dealing with.

    Curating content on your platform is an inherently manual process (and will be until we have waaaay better AI), every other store (App Store, Google Play, GoG, Origin, Xbox/Playstation stores, etc.) has fleets of people who do nothing but this to keep out not just the porny stuff, but scamware/neo-nazi simulators/etc. Valve hates that kind of solve. That’s why they originally tried to crowdsource a fix for this with Steam Greenlight. Now they’ve decided they’d rather just punt on the whole issue.

    Steam curation will continue to suck for the same reason that Steam customer service has always sucked: Valve refuses to throw bodies at the problem.

  • It probably is a way for them to increase their profit margin.

    I hope there will be more filters to weed out the deluge of shovel-ware games with only a few user reviews.

    I can see how this decision can be misinterpreted as one of censorship, but STEAM isn’t a public reading library, and no one is treading on my’s freedoms by keeping me unaware of poor quality products.

    By analogy, over the last couple of years I have noticed Amazon being flooded with poor quality Chinese products associated with false reviews and even false customer questions, and trying to sort through all of the 5 star crap options is frustrating.

    In no way do I feel my buying power is actually increased by having to weed through hundreds of inferior purposefully misrepresented product options, and if I was to wave a flag of patriotic recognition to celebrate their laissez faire attitude, it would contain 45 less stars than the one we are most familiar with, and not contain blue or white.