This article was originally published with wording indicating that multiple developers were behind the games removed by Valve. It is instead the case that Zonitron Productions produced these games under a host of different developer aliases. We apologize for the error and have corrected the article as well as assigned proper accreditation to the researchers that helped bring this situation into the spotlight.
Valve has taken on “fake games” by removing more than 150 games from their Steam Store. These games, with titles like Why So Evil, TOREj 2, and Staplers!, come from an array of puppet developers all under the control of the entity most commonly known as Zonitron Productions. This group is known for pumping out a staggering number of titles and their copy and paste releases were derided as shovelware. As calculated by SirViolentDeath on Twitter, Silicon Echo’s total output at one point represented 3% of the games released in 2017. By removing the “fake games” produced by Silicon Echo, Valve appears to be stepping up enforcement of its storefront.
Valve has long struggled with “bad actors exploiting the store algorithm for financial gain,” as we reported back in May. Previously, Valve detailed how developers make money off of unpopular games on the store by farming trading cards. Valve explicitly called out “fake games” in the original post, condemning abuses of their algorithms. This fight was further compounded in August, when a leaked post from Steam’s developer forum suggested that Valve would be restricting the number of keys that it hands to developers, depending on sales.
Which returns us to the present day with Zonitron Productions. While it’s unclear how many trading cards were being sold, clearly the volume was enough to draw Valve’s attention. Multiple videos have been produced detailing the impressive volume of games released by Zonitron. Additionally, users on Reddit noticed that stat pages for the games were missing too, though their library entries still remained. This is not the first time that Valve has removed games from Steam before, though Zonitron appears to hold the distinction of having the most games removed by a single developer.
One thing to note: Zonitron launched a successful Kickstarter earlier this year under the Silicon Echo name for The Herbologist, which later made its way onto Steam Greenlight. With Silicon Echo’s games removed from Steam, it’s hard to say what the future of The Herbologist might be. Polygon talked to Valve, the latter declaring that “the business relationship has been ended.” I have reached out to Zonitron Productions for comment and will update this story, should they respond.