Too much work on Valve’s end, and too much confusion and finger pointing on the consumer’s end has led to some changes on Steam.
Valve announced today it will stop “trying to police what should be on Steam.” Instead, the company will allow everything onto the Steam Store, under the condition the content isn’t illegal, or “straight up trolling.”
According to a post made by Valve on Steam, the team has struggled with trying to monitor which games should or should not be available on the store. This could include everything from extreme forms of “adult or violent content”, or topics. The task became even more onerous when territories were taken into account. Subject matter deemed acceptable in one region, may not be acceptable socially or legally in another territory.
Because laws vary around the world, Valve will still handle those situations on a case-by-case basis. To help matters on this front, Valve will “push developers to further disclose any potentially problematic content,” during the submission process. Those who refuse to do so honestly, will no longer be able to sell games through the store.
Such decisions can be a task all unto themselves, and the reaction from the community when a decision is handed down can be brutal.
“The harsh reality of this space, that lies at the root of our dilemma, is that there is absolutely no way we can navigate it without making some of our players really mad,” wrote Valve’s Erik Johnson in the blog post.
“In addition, Valve is not a small company – we’re not a homogeneous group. The online debates around these topics play out inside Valve as well. We don’t all agree on what deserves to be on the Store. So when we say there’s no way to avoid making a bunch of people mad when making decisions in this space, we’re including our own employees, their families and their communities in that.
“This resulted in a bunch of confusion among our customers, developer partners, and even our own employees.
“Recently there’s been a bunch of community discussion around what kind of games we’re allowing onto the Steam Store. As is often the case, the discussion caused us to spend some time examining what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and how we could be doing it better.
“Decision making in this space is particularly challenging, and one that we’ve really struggled with. Contrary to many assumptions, this isn’t a space we’ve automated – humans at Valve are very involved, with groups of people looking at the contents of every controversial title submitted to us.
“Similarly, people have falsely assumed these decisions are heavily affected by our payment processors, or outside interest groups. Nope, it’s just us grappling with a really hard problem.”
Due to what sounds like a massive headache, if we’re being honest, Valve said it will go “back to one of the principles in the forefront of our minds when we started Steam.”
From now on, Valve said it will not be “choosing” the content players can and cannot purchase. It also will not “choose what content a developer is allowed to create” in order to be available on Steam.
“Those choices should be yours to make,” said Johnson. “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.
“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.”
To make this easier, Steam will allow users to “override” the recommendation algorithms and “hide games containing the topics you’re not interested in.”
“We already have some tools, but they’re too hidden and not nearly comprehensive enough,” Johnson continued. “So if you don’t want to see anime games on your Store, you’ll be able to make that choice. If you want more options to control exactly what kinds of games your kids see when they browse the Store, you’ll be able to do that.
“And it’s not just players that need better tools either – developers who build controversial content shouldn’t have to deal with harassment because their game exists, and we’ll be building tools and options to support them too. This means that the Steam Store is going to contain something that you hate, and don’t think should exist.
“Unless you don’t have any opinions, that’s guaranteed to happen. But you’re also going to see something on the Store that you believe should be there, and some other people will hate it and want it not to exist.”
Johnson concluded saying in the short term, Valve won’t be making significant changes to what’s arriving on the store until the tools are put into place.
“Countries and societies change their laws and cultural norms over time,” he said. “We’ll be working on this for the foreseeable future, both in terms of what products we’re allowing, what guidelines we communicate, and the tools we’re providing to developers and players.”
If you head through the link to the Steam page where Johnson discusses the changes, you’ll find more detailed information than what we pulled from it.