This situation has completely destroyed everything we have been working for in the past 3 years

The title is a quote from a shovelware “developer” who was banned from Steam. Now I obviously don’t miss their “games”. Sovelware means a terribly cheap game created by “shoveling” pre-existing assets into a title in order to qualify as a product and sell it to unsuspecting buyers. I agree that this studio shouldn’t exist.

The problem is the lack of due process. It is a valid point from the shovel “artists” that all of their “products” were approved, one – allegedly – on the very day they got banned. Steam, like Google and Facebook became quasi-monopolists of their fields. Unless you are a $100M+ giants like Blizzard who can develop and maintain a storefront, a launcher, server background for updaters and authentication, Steam is the only way to publish games. If Steam says they don’t like you, you are out of business – unless you happen to have $100M.

You can claim that “it’s a private company, they do as they please”, but can you imagine that all banks refuse to give you account or credit card because “reasons”? Or that hotels don’t serve some kind of people. Or groceries? Or electric utilities? In some fields there is government regulations (utilities must serve you with equal conditions as everyone), in other fields there is competition (grocery shop doesn’t serve you, you walk one street). But in the internet industry there is neither. Companies can drop anyone and everyone from existence at pleasure.

I don’t have answers. I don’t know what kind of protection would be good in this situation. Steam is still full of worthless games (I mean games that have very little content or unplayable due to bugs), some lives others get banned. The core problem is that – unlike real world industries – IT is very scalable. Serving 2x customers costs zero in development costs, you just rent some more server space and bandwidth, double your customer support staff (that’s a “hire today, train in a day” job) and you’re ready. A real world shop or factory has to invest serious money into growth, doubling operations costs nearly as much as the company is worth. So without regulations, all kind of IT services will be monopolies.

Gaming is of course the smallest problem. But exactly because of that, it would be a good place to start regulating. If something goes wrong, only some fun time is lost, not freedoms.

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Author: Gevlon

My blog: https://greedygoblinblog.wordpress.com/

8 thoughts on “This situation has completely destroyed everything we have been working for in the past 3 years”

  1. “IT is very scalable. Serving 2x customers costs zero in development costs, you just rent some more server space and bandwidth”

    And it is because of this, that those with a less than a savory nature, will find ways to make an easy buck. The problem with gaming right now is due to the focus on monetization schemes that are being used to separate gamers from their cash. When the focus should be on making good games that are -worthy- of a gamers hard earned cash.

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  2. I am starting to hold out some hope for the online distribution of games. There are some decent rivals to Steam all with unique selling points (so they aren’t just Steam-clones but worse). Two years ago I would have agreed that Steam the was a monopoly player with a dangerous level of power over customers and non-major developers. While Steam is still a key player, today’s industry has a number of established alternative routes to market.

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  3. Steam don’t hurry to take out bad games, as it gains 30% of sales through it service. But well, it can delete games of companies it doesn’t like. Lukily, we have more and more alternatives today: gog, origin, humble bundle and such. Oh, and destiny 2 will be in battle.net, so we potentially have another strong player in market.

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  4. “If Steam says they don’t like you, you are out of business – unless you happen to have $100M.”

    Nah. There are multiple ways to publish games nowdays:
    1. Sell on your own website. Lower sales, for sure, but available to everyone, and usually a lot cheaper than Steam. I’ve bought games that way, usually things in early access that eventually ended up on Steam as well (Don’t Starve I think was one, Unepic was another).
    2. Go to GoG. Assuming you have a game worth selling and not shovelware, they will host you. A lot of small indie game devs go that way, the selection of recent games used to be smaller a couple of years ago, but now all good (or at least decent) indie games get published on both platforms.
    3. If you are a 1-2 man team, develop for mobile and publish on Play or the App Store. Nowdays press, podcasts and streamers all have their eyes on mobile for worthwhile releases, so it make sense to make your first couple of games on mobile platforms and build a portfolio that way.

    If nothing else, I feel that being on Steam as a small development is a hindrance, as you are literally swept away by the Tsunami of weekly releases. It was mentioned on the Co-Optional podcast that over 300-400 games are launched on Steam each week, most of which are garbage, and shifting through the crap to find the gems is starting to get neigh impossible.

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  5. Now you are for regulation? Steam (and Google and Facebook) are private companies and they can sell (or not) that ever games they want. Steam is not a monopoly and the game developers can sell from multiple other stores, contract with a publisher like EA or set up their own website. This is no different from a pickled pig tail producer trying to get their goods on the shelves of Walmart or Whole Foods.

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  6. @Dobablo: name of these clones?

    @tithian: and anyone finds my website because? GoG, what is that? (the mobile idea is good)

    @Anon: except there is only Walmart and nothing else.

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  7. @Gevlon

    There are many alternatives to Steam. Some already mentioned are GoG and Humble bundle. They can also go with a traditional publisher like EA or Ubisoft. They can make their own website and self publish. Finally the largest alternatives are Apple store and Google Play Store. Both of those are many times larger than Steam.

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