Friday, June 8, 2018

Valve Wide Open

Steam has gone full libertarian with regards to policing their distribution platform.  Any software that isn't illegal or simply trolling is A-okay; according to a blogpost by Valve executive Erik Johnson.  From a purely business standpoint, I can see where they're coming from.  As is Steam makes money hand over fist and the cost of enforcing some kind of quality assurance in their store is almost certainly greater than lost sales from bad PR.  They have a total monopoly over the distribution of a lot of games (complete list here), and a market revenue share vastly greater than GoG,, Uplay and Origin (their four biggest competitors) combined.  Because so many players are heavily invested in their service via Steam gaming libraries, the prospect of users backing out now en mass for any reason is dicey...and Vales knows it.  Aside from the really vile junk that gets published on Steam with the sole intent of offending/pandering to one social group or another, I think there's a universal problem that continues to plague Valve.  It's a problem that will probably continue to fester for the foreseeable a word - shovelware.

Asset flips are the worst of this, and as far as I can tell remains a big universal concern of the Steam community.  There is so much trash being dumped on the Steam store everyday it has become practically impossible to find something worth playing unless you already know exactly what you're looking for.  So much bug-riddled garbage.  So many scammers trying pass their products off like they're worth paying actual money for.  It might help if the search filter has a more robust set of options, but even then it would only be a partial solution.  Whatever algorithms Valve has been using certainly don't work.  Curation has largely been forgotten, and the reviewing system remains vulnerable to metabombing (or boosting).  Also, what is up with that trading card stuff?  It's like a shady marketplace for people who want to launder money or something...

I don't have any elegant solutions to Valves issues.  In fact, I'll fully admit that the situation they're in is a tricky one.  At the same time I don't like the idea of customers being systemically stripped of their agency by obscenely wealthy corporations.  On the other hand though, I guess fans of dystopian cyberpunk futures can get excited because the world continues to head full speed in that direction.   

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