If you’re a PC gamer, chances are you’re in a deep and often meaningful relationship with Steam. Recently however you might have found yourself getting a little frustrated with your relationship and if so, you’re certainly not alone. Valve’s digital store has becoming an open publishing platform, which is a positive step in increasing the variety of titles on the store, but leaves us with the unfortunate consequence of having notoriously bad titles on the platform too.
“On Steam, developers make their own decisions about promotion, features, pricing and publication,” Valve said in a community post. “However, Steam does require honesty from developers in the marketing of their games. We have removed Earth: Year 2066 from Early Access on Steam. Customers who purchased the game will be able to get a refund on the store page until Monday May 19.”
The War Z previously had the dubious ‘honour’ of being pulled off the store for much the same reason. This isn’t so much a case of “the game sucks” but seemingly more a case of “well, you guys misrepresented your product” (both were a broken buggy mess from all accounts).
While it’s a positive action Steam have taken in removing both offending titles from Steam, it begs a few questions we as customers and Valve should start asking ourselves.
The first is should Valve allow games developers the option to effectively “silence” critiques of their titles. In the case of Earth: Year 2066 the developer Killing Day Studio goes by the name Muxwell on Steam. He’d been deleting dozens of complaints on Steam’s community forum pages, and eventually renaming the forums “The Trolls Tavern” in protest.
Of course there should be some level of moderation on a forum so real trolls can’t simply advertise / run amok, but let’s face it crippling and silencing critiques of a game who’re asking why they’ve just spent $20 on a broken mess isn’t quite right either. You could argue early access, and that’s fine – if you know you’re paying for an unfinished product that’s having features added. But not in the case of a title that’s clearly there to grab the cash from the public.
The said cause of contention would be levelled at Steam’s lack of quality control. Some would argue that Steam cannot judge if a game is “bad” (everyone likes different games), but again I feel there should be some middle ground. Steam’s front page is often littered with titles from developers / publishers back catalogues and they’re listed right alongside the newest titles. Because of the speed Steam’s front page (of newly released titles) moves it isn’t good for smaller indie developers. It means their new games are competing with a game from say the late 90’s.
Another point – while Steam clearly can’t check each and every title out, early access games should surely go under some type of scrutiny. At least to demonstrate that the game lives up to the sales blurb the developer / publisher pushes on the front page.
I don’t think we’re asking much as customers, and considering the rather large stake in PC gaming Steam has I feel it’s good for the whole platform. Early access is already becoming the next “big thing” like DLC was several years ago. We don’t want it to get to the point you download your game and the only access you get is the title screen, options menu, intro cut scene and 5 minutes of gameplay. I jest of course, but my point remains.
I, like most PC gamer’s love Steam. Sure it had bad moments (for example it was notoriously clunky at its initial release) and right now the platform is and works beautifully. I (and seemingly many other) gamer’s just wish Valve looked into these few issues.