Valve, owner of digital distribution store Steam
Valve Corporation

Valve Clarifies Steam Content Policies, Allowing More Games On Store

by Imran Khan on Jun 06, 2018 at 01:33 PM

In recent weeks, Valve has been embroiled in a confusing mess of content policy changes, having seemingly arbitrarily decided to remove adult content from the Steam store. The Washington-based company's definition of adult content was broad and subjective, giving developers sometimes as little as a week to patch their games before they were removed from the store.

After a public outcry, mostly centered around the abruptness of the request rather than the nature of it, Valve backed off from the new adult content policy and quietly stepped away from it. Now, Valve has issued a statement about their content policy, and the policy itself seems to have become as hands-off and broad as possible.

The blog post, written by Valve's business head Erik Johnson, goes deep into the issues with policing content on Steam and seems to settle on the idea that there is no policy that won't upset people. With that in mind, Valve's new content policy is to accept everything with some exceptions.

"With that principle in mind," Johnson wrote, "we've decided that the right approach is to allow everything onto the Steam Store, except for things that we decide are illegal, or straight up trolling. Taking this approach allows us to focus less on trying to police what should be on Steam, and more on building those tools to give people control over what kinds of content they see."

Valve making the laissez faire doctrine more concrete comes at an awkward time, as the Bellevue company was recently forced to remove a game called Active Shooter, which allows people to play as a mass shooter in a school, after public pressure. It is important to note Johnson's wording about trolling, however, as Active Shooter was not removed for being offensive, but due to a seeming lack of sincerity. Valve's Doug Lombardi told CNN that the game was removed because the developer was "a troll, with a history of customer abuse, publishing copyrighted material, and user review manipulation."

Johnson closes the post saying the new changes will occur once the tools to implement them have been finished, but did not have a deadline for when that may be.


Our Take
The blog post feels fairly tone deaf and comes off as as Valve doing their best to limit their oversight rather than do what they think is best. The stubborn belief in the power of the invisible hand of the market to solve all of Steam's problems is in practice not much better than the vague and abrupt decision to take control of it. People were asking for visibility and discussion and Valve's response was a declaration and a smoke bomb.