2017 has been a year of change for Valve. From eradicating Steam Greenlight and replacing it with Steam Direct to making vital changes to its trading card and gifting systems to discourage bad actors and their “fake games”, the PC games distributor has tried to clean up shop and prove that its algorithm first method to curation could win out in the end. At first glance, it seems that another change was afoot today, as Steam Spy’s Sergey Galyonkin tweeted out a post from a developers-only forum that seemed to indicated that Valve would be hampering free access to Steam keys for developers.
Valve will no longer automatically fullfill key requests from the developers to combat game sales outside of Steam. pic.twitter.com/Gp1TyivEeO
— Steam Spy (@Steam_Spy) August 17, 2017
The post sparked lots of talk regarding the death of bundle sites like Humble and Groupees, as well as genuine concerns about the new restriction’s effects on competition. Thankfully, all that was a bit of an overreaction. Steam has a policy for developers where “large amounts of keys will need to be manually reviewed” for a long time, so the possibility of denial in certain cases was already a possibility. This change will also put smaller repeat requests from those who might misuse the store into closer scrutiny.
We reached out to Valve’s Doug Lombardi to ask if any new policies were truly being put into place. What follows is his full take on the matter.
Steam keys have always been available for free to our partners to help them sell PC games at physical retail and on other digital stores. In return, we’ve asked that partners offer Steam customers a fair deal, similar to what they’re offering on other stores. None of that is changing.
But over the last few years, new features and additions to Steam have changed the way Steam keys were being used, for instance as a means for game-shaped objects to monetize on Steam through methods other than actually selling fun games to customers. Most notably, this meant farming Steam Trading Cards. We shared a lot of info about that issue, and our response to it, here: http://steamcommunity.com/games/593110/announcements/detail/1954971077935370845
While our changes did impact the economics of trading card farming for new products coming to Steam, there are still a lot of games and game-shaped objects using Steam keys as a way to manipulate Steam systems. As a result, we’re trying to look more closely at extreme examples of products on Steam that don’t seem to be providing actual value as playable games-for instance, when a game has sold 100 units, has mostly negative reviews, but requests 500,000 Steam keys. We’re not interested in supporting trading card farming or bot networks at the expense of being able to provide value and service for players.
It’s completely OK for partners to sell their games on other sites via Steam keys, and run discounts or bundles on other stores, and we’ll continue granting free keys to help partners do those things. But it’s not OK to negatively impact our customers by manipulating our store and features.
So, in short, this isn’t an attack on bundles and developers needn’t worry if their games are actually games. Valve confirmed to us that the only real effect this will have is to continue the fight against asset flippers and other so-called developers who throw nonsense onto the store page to make a quick buck through the Steam Market.
What is your take on Valve continuing its crusade against the worst developers on its platform? Have you ever been tricked by a so-called “Fake Game”? Let us know in the comments below!