Steam's Desperate need for Quality Control
Steam has always been a platform for many indie developers and Triple A companies over the years. it has become increasingly popular in the later 2000's. With gaming development becoming more and more simplier as technology grows, and the constant exploitation that many gamers have seen since the near dawn of Next Gen gaming in 2014, there has been more and more practices going on Steam that needs to be spoken about.
What is Steam?
If you're new to Steam, or are reading this out of sheer curiosity, this text capsule will tell you all you need to know about Steam and what it does.
Steam released in the September of 2003, it is an internet based digital distribution platform developed by Valve Corporation, it offers as well social networking, and multiplayer services.
Steam is a host of thousands of games produced either by independent (indie) companies or bigger Triple A companies (Ubisoft, Bethesda, Treyarch). Steam provides users with various things such as installation, updates, community features, in-game voice, cloud saving, and multiplayer servers. Steam houses over 125 million active users.
For developers, Steam offers Greenlight, Early Access, and a popular storefront that can make your game the cream of the crop.
Greenlight - Greenlight is a way for developers to show their early work of a game, Greenlight is a system where they must pay 100$ dollars to be accepted into the system. This price ensures there won't be people there to make a silly joke, or waste everyone's time with getting excited about a fake project. For those that do enter Greenlight, they must describe their game a bit, feature several screenshots, and a video game trailer. The community of gamers and other users who are looking at their product can submit a vote of if they'd like to buy it or not. If the game gets many "I would buy this" Votes if will be allowed on Steam. Users can also follow, and favorite the post of the game to follow its development.
Early Access - For developers interested in getting feedback/help from their communities, they can put their game up on Early Access. This will let you know that the game they are currently selling is in the various stages of development, Early Alpha, Alpha, Beta, etc. This allows users to purchase the game in its early state and play it and provide their feedback.
Some indie developers have stated the importance Steam was to their game's popularity, if a game does not get on steam now-a-days, the lifespan of that game can be greatly reduced, or not see any results at all. The same goes for how important it is for your game to be on the Featured tab on Steam's Store.
Steam offers its storefront with many features, users can search by Genre, tags, and browse the Featured front. The Store's featured presents games on Sale, newly released, and out of early access. Steam is famous for its Steam Sales during holiday months, mid week, and weekend deals. All of these sales include games that can have 75%, 50%, 25% off prices that even Triple A games follow.
As a participant in some of these sales, I managed to snag Antichamber which is a 20$ game on its own, but during the Steam Summer sale I got it for 1.74$. This is a great example of why Steam became so popular.
Here lies the issues of Steam
Now with 125 Million users, Steam either cannot, or chooses not to have any quality control.
Though, they did attempt one aspect of quality control when the video game Hatred attempted to get on Greenlight but they provided no reason for its takedown. The co-founder of Valve Corporation, Gabe Newell contacted Hatred's devs and placed their game back on Steam for them.
Steam also has presented some troubling mistakes that can really hurt its users. With the gaming industry being on a foundation of trust with its fans these days. Steam helps sever that trust even more at times.
Green Light - Greenlight does help a lot of devs out with their games. Though there are many developers who put games up that look far from being in a playable state, and certainly in a state where asking for money in return for your product, can be asking for too much.
Its also famous ground for a term coined by Jim Sterling called Asset Flipping. He also covers Greenlight Trailers that stick out to him.
Assest Flipping - Is where a developer will purchase assets off of a game engine's storefront, such as Unity's store. Here people can purchase things such as: Audio clips, models, buildings, shaders, etc. These are there to either enhance and/or act as a base for your game's development. It is where developers will purchase many things from these stores and cobble it all together into a game, these games feature enough coding just to get the game to work how they want and that's all they will develop, their next step is to get through the Steam process and eventually begin selling their product on Steam. These games tend to lack artistic cohesion, depth, and basic functionality at times.
An example of Asset Flipping would be most of Digital Homicide's work The Slaughtering Grounds, Temper Tantrum 1 and 2. There is also an entire Asset Package called UnitZ for sale on Unity's Store, Jim has covered 5 different games that have solely bought this Asset Package and attempt to re-sell it on Steam as a legitimate game they produced.
There have been many cases uncovered of developers attempting to earn easy popularity and Greenlight votes by bribing people with free steam keys or free games.
Early Access - This can also be a good way for a game to get exposure and allows users to help in the development, there have been games in the past that were allowed by Early Access to essentially become a scam or the game's development can crash, leaving the people without a game they'd like to have and spending their money on a project that'll never exist. Early Access is certainly a platform that requires high trust. I would suggest to use it sparingly.
Jim Sterling who is a game critic likes to cover many games with his youtube series Early Access Squirt, Here he covers games that are currently on Early Access and attempts to play them.
Steam's Forums - Steam's forums contain probably one of the worst mistakes I have ever seen. Developers are in ownership of their game's forums. What this means, they are in full control of their forums, this has allowed countless indie devs to control criticism in their forums. Silencing, banning, and deleting comments are just a few actions that are often reported to critics like Jim Sterling, Totalbiscuit, and many others.
Steam's Store - While it does sell a large number of well created and crafted games. Without any quality control there are several games that can slip by that are blatant copyright infringements. Steam has also sold games that were created back in early 2000s, but are stated that they came out only recently within the last few months. Steam desperately needs to clear away the smoke and mirror's some of the companies try and pull out to earn themselves an easy buck.
Hatred Back on Steam & The Slaughtering Grounds
All of Steam's issues under 9 minutes
UnitZ (5 games of this)
A game from 2003, released as a new title in March 2014
Thanks for reading!
With this, I hope that anyone who's reading this that is new to Steam, or haven't seen the type of decisions that are made to allow some of these blatant exploits. I hope to have informed you about this kind of stuff, to help protect your wallet.
If you do however find yourself caught into one of these exploiting games, you can happily refund a game on Steam as long as you owned it for less then 2 weeks and put in less then 2 hours of playing it.
I truly hope one day Steam will either decide, or will be able to have better quality control of their store, early access, and greenlight fronts. This stuff is unacceptable and Steam's quality state continues to degrade as more and more people get the ideas that they can get away with this.
I do know that a few games have been removed in the past such as Air Control. This however takes a great effort and the game must earn a lot of infamy before Steam will even lift a finger of removing it. But it's something to start with.