Valve is making an unprecedented move to curtail the number of Steam game sales happening outside of Steam itself.
According to a post on Steam’s developer-only board, the company will no longer automatically fulfil key requests by developers who sell games on Steam.
The post is written by Sean Jenkin, one of the people at Valve who support Steam developers. A screenshot of it was shared online by Steamspy’s Sergey Galyonkin.
Instead, Valve will now “take a deeper look” at a game’s Steam sales and other factors whenever a developer asks for a number of keys that doesn’t align with how well the game is doing on Steam.
The example given was that of a developer whose game sells in the few thousands on Steam, but has nonetheless requested 500,000 keys.
The idea is to cut down on the sales of Steam keys outside of Steam, since developers who ask for these disproportionate amounts of keys are often doing so to sell them much cheaper to bundle sites. What ends up happening is that Steam bears the bandwidth costs and other expenses associated with the service, without taking a cut of the sale.
For those unfamiliar, any developer with access to Steamworks – Steam’s developer API – is able to generate keys for their games at will. Some of these keys are given to the press, friends etc. but they often go to bundle sites. That’s how you get a batch of high-quality indie games in a bundle for the price of one, and all keys redeem on Steam. In these cases, and they’re many, Valve makes no money from these sales, which the company sees as a problem.
Presumably, this is being done to combat the trend of shovelware and low-effort games that use Steam as a showroom while offering bundle sites hundreds of thousands of keys at incredibly low prices so that these sites can in turn offer ten-game bundles for $4. This is another way so called asset flippers can make money from their games, and they’re likely the target here.
However, the potential for this affecting smaller, genuine developers who rely on bundle sales to survive makes this a dangerous precedent. The only option for these developers, if their key requests are denied, is to lower the prices of their games on Steam, which in turn reduces their profits thanks to Valve’s 30% cut.