Techdirt Podcast Episode 171: Debating Steam's New Hands-Off Policy

from the content-moderation dept

Recently, Valve sent waves through the PC gaming world by announcing an upcoming policy change for its Steam platform: it will no longer enforce specific content rules and will allow all games as long as they aren’t illegal or “straight-up trolling”. Though it’s not exactly clear what this means, the reaction from the gaming press has been largely negative, and it’s hard to say how the new policy will be implemented — so this week myself, Tim Geigner and Cathy Gellis join the podcast to discuss just what’s going to happen on the biggest platform for PC games.

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Comments on “Techdirt Podcast Episode 171: Debating Steam's New Hands-Off Policy”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Here’s my two cents on this:

This is the culmination of years of Valve trying to abdicate responsibility for basic quality control because they care more about making money than they do having a functional store that makes discovery easy.

Discovery on Steam has two separate issues: Having to sift through games that look good but may not be your particular cup of tea, and sifting through games that absolute trash and are made with the bare minimum of effort and flipped or flat out stolen assets.

Valve knew that the latter was a problem back in the Greenlight days. Instead of working to fix the problems with Greenlight, they quadrupled down and make it a bigger problem with Steam Direct. More games are now releasing onto Steam every day than ever before in its history. Valve, a billion-dollar corporation, wants countless hours of free labor from its users to make the store usable by having them review, tag, filter and curate games themselves. I can’t see them farming out any curation or filtering duties to other groups or smaller companies and paying them to do so because that would cut into their profits.

Steam managed to delay this discussion about curation long enough for the narrative to become about free speech rather than quality. Now anybody who wants Valve to do more curation of their store regarding trash asset-flips and broken games assembled in less than a day gets ever-so-conveniently lumped into the same group of people who want controversial games to be censored. The “We want quality control” people’s concerns can be easily ignored by Valve as a result.

Valve’s blog post co-opts some of the same kind of language and talking points that genuine free-speech supporters use. Valve is hiding behind said language and talking points as an excuse to further remove themselves from managing their store. The only thing that modern Valve cares about is making lots of money. They should just come out and say it to our faces instead of trying to dupe people into thinking that they as a company actually value free speech and free expression.

Anon says:

Re: Re:

I have to disagree. When purchasing a game on steam I’ve generally found the user reviews more helpful than anything else in making a purchasing decision. (not the xx% rated this game pos, but reading the actual reviews) And seeing as there is now a refund policy in those rare cases I misjudged I’ve been able to get my money back. From a customer standpoint I currently like the system. There was a period early in greenlight where I didn’t – but refunds didn’t exist back then and I still had to get used to the fact that there was going to be absolute trash among the games sold on the platform where before you could expect a minimum quality when randomly purchasing games without doing proper research.

If you don’t notice a game is trash before you’ve played 2h of it, you deserve to get swindled imho.

What will be very important góing forward on the part of valve is fighting developers who fake reviews on the platform because theyve made the user feedback so important. But as I’ve mentioned, even if they trick you into buying the game – unless they’ve made at least two hours of worthy content, you can just refund it.

bkBqPUA says:

Re: Re: Re:

The issue isn’t mainly money, but time and attention. Anyone looking to experiment and try a new indie game, still has to sift through a rapidly growing mess of asset flips, broken games, and trash.

When brand-new games are put on equal footing with countless easy-to-quickly-manufacture trash, they’re far less likely to get noticed.

The platform hasn’t proven to have a solution for this besides treating steam users’ collective attention as an unlimited resource.

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