I’m not really sure what’s going on with Valve, but lately they’ve been making some rather questionable business decisions seemingly devoid of any foresight. Not too long ago, Valve made headlines when they decided that instead of trying to manage the type of content that makes its way on to Steam, they were just simply going to allow anything and everything onto its game-sharing platform. In a side-step, Valve has just released a new content policy update that will restrict the number of achievements of some games to only 100. This is specifically a counter measure to combat the huge rise in “fake games” that have been appearing on Steam.
Steam first tried to combat these fake games last year. With the introduction of Steam Trading Cards, a system in which gamers get trading cards while playing supported titles, people could earn money by selling cards to other users. Aside from selling the cards, they could also be exchanged for all sorts of rewards including game discounts, emoticons, and game badges. A number of ambitious Steam users discovered a loophole in the system and started to upload “fake games” onto Steam. They set up bots to download and run their games to essentially “farm” the trading cards. Even though the number of users doing this was small, the massive number of bots they had running their fake games caused the store to think the title was insanely popular. Due to the Steam system, these games would then be promoted over legitimate games.
In an effort to curb this, Valve announced that games would be subjected to a “confidence metric” which would measure whether or not a title uploaded to Steam was in fact a real game before allowing it to be affiliated with the trading card system.
The new changes first posted in the private Steamworks group on Reddit, indicates that Valve will also be applying this confidence metric to control “achievement spam” games – titles that are uploaded to Steam with intentionally easy to reach achievements. People playing the game would then be able to pimp out their Steam profiles with lots of badges and bling.
As with the Steam Trading Card fiasco, this incident seems to indicate that Valve will only take action if games uploaded to the store are having both a negative and unexpected effect on their Steam system algorithms. Ultimately, I have to question whether or not it would’ve just made more sense to focus on controlling the type of content that makes its way onto the store, rather than haphazardly trying to patch up injuries the system receives because Valve decided to let everything on.