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Valve's lack of a quality threshold is damaging to developers and games, says Auroch's Rawlings

Valve's lack of a quality threshold is damaging to developers and games, says Auroch's Rawlings

The changes that Valve has made to Steam over the years are potentially damaging to both game creators and the industry as a whole.

That's according to Auroch Digital's director Tomas Rawlings, who - speaking to PCGamesInsider.biz - has urged the PC games giant to better control what appears on its platform.

The studio director argues that in not having a threshold for quality, the consumer experience on Steam is much worse than it would be otherwise; Rawlings goes on to say that Valve's platform is "astonishingly brilliant", but is let down by the sheer volume of games and poor quality control.

This follows Steam opening up its platform through initiatives such as Steam Direct - and Greenlight before it - as well as Valve's decision to allow anything on the platform so long as it's not "illegal" or "trolling".

"My argument would be that not having a quality threshold is not only damaging to developers; most importantly it's damaging to the games," he said.

"I assume that Valve is looking at lots of data and I don't know its internal processes, but I'd hope someone is paying attention. As a consumer, you hand over a few dollars for a game and you've basically been ripped off as it's shovelware. It's an asset flip. Well, fine, Valve put in the method to get a refund and I think that's a good thing, but I still had the hassle of buying a game, playing it, getting stung, having to get a refund. I shouldn't have to do that. Refunds should be about it not being my sort of game or maybe my expectations weren't met, not that I have been ripped off. That's a negative experience that the consumer has had. That doesn't make them want to trust indie developers and it's a negative experience on the platform.

"Valve has created - and this cannot be underestimated enough - this astoundingly brilliant games platform. Steam is amazing. It has so many amazing features and I would just urge Valve to not let that get buried in the shit. Whoever talks about their enjoyable experience on the Google Play store? No-one. I would say that Steam has started out with much more positives because as developers they understand and have created loads of great tools. I would just urge them to say that now is the time to take action on this; not just because I want to be protective of indie developers. I'm not afraid of competition. But the bad experience of people basically ripping players off affects everybody."

Rawlings says that one solution is increasing the fee to release a game via Steam Direct. Right now this is $100, which isn't much of a hurdle to bad actors on the platform.

"Valve upping the cost of Steam Direct to $500 or $1,000, that's not going to put off the indie developer," he argued.

"Don't get me wrong, it's still a lot of money, but if you poured a year of your life into making a game and releasing it, that is not the barrier to entry. $100 is an amount of money that makes it worth your while doing an asset flip. It's also the amount of money that makes it worthwhile releasing something as a joke. It's not encouraging innovation; it's encouraging shit. Valve has the means to do it. I love Valve and what it does and I would urge them to take control of that situation."

You can read more from Rawlings in our upcoming interview about Steampocalypse


Editor - PC Games Insider

Alex Calvin launched PCGamesInsider.biz in August 2017 and has been its editor since. Prior to this, he was deputy editor at UK based games trade paper MCV and content editor for marketing and events for London Games Festival 2017. His work has also appeared in Eurogamer, The Observer, Kotaku UK, Esquire UK and Develop.

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Bill Thern CEO at The One LLC
Developers have unrealistic expectations when it comes to distribution.

Steam is threatened by the might of Chinese companies like Tencent and Netease. These companies have unlimited funds to invest for acquiring entire mature gaming ecosystems that cater to Europe, US and Japan gamers. The only companies who're not much (yet) worried are Apple, Google, Microsoft and Facebook. That's why they have so much problems setting up shop in China.

What Steam invests in distribution and its own R&D is dwarfed by what Tencent and Netease can put on the table. There's a rumor that goes that Tencent or Netease might buy Twitter -- though this might be blocked by US regulators, it is nonetheless a clear illustration of China's ambitions to conquer a medium with billions of users worldwide without much anything in the shape of regulation to stop them (as opposed to other sectors like AI and defense).

There's another sector that has suffered this fate: consumer drones. Today DJI has 90% of the entire market in Europe and the US. How have they been able to do this? simply by having 1000s of fake manufacturer companies pushing to market cheap drones on eBay and Amazon, thus destroying the profit margins of mid size US and EU manufacturers. That strategy of manufacturing and distributing cheap clones also happens... on mobile and now on Steam.

This situation is creating a vicious circle: Apple / Steam see their overall revenues grow because of the many more games being released, reaching out to every single demographic group out there, as little as they can be. On the other hand, it dilutes the entire ecosystem and what people call 'visibility', 'discoverability', 'featuring' can only profit the bigger guys out there. This allows Tencent and Netease to fight the fight for domination with only the bigger actors out there, instead of having to do it with tens of 1000s of successful indie developers.

Don't wait for Steam to give you a solution. They're also in a situation of life or death, even though it is at a much bigger scale than you.