Steam – Grab that money and run!

Alright lads, time for a rant.

I´ve worked in the games industry for nearly 6 years now and I have been part of some big companies and titles. Players still complain about the likes of EA a lot for example. EA has been titled as “greedy”, “money hungry bastards” or “rip off” by gamers across the world for years now. That´s easy because EA have made serious mistakes in the past and it´s super hard to red of a stigma once it´s there. Also they´re the biggest games publisher and their customer service used to suck back in the days. But be fair: They´ve worked their butts off over the past 6 years, built an amazing customer service team, changed their whole game production approach to be one of the most engaging and innovative I have ever seen. They involve players unlike any other company I know by having huge influencer, champion and game changer programs but yet still get flak every single time a tiny thing goes wrong. Hordes of self entitled virgins, addicted to instant gratification crawl out of their parents basements and flood EA´s Forums, Twitter and Facebook with their pathetic and puny “issues”. Millions of ´em I´m telling you.

On the other hand you have the never ending circle jerk that is the Steam Fandom. Steam seems to be the best thing that has ever happened to the games community. Or is it?! Let´s take a look at something super simple yet extremely shady and profitable:

Early Access

Initially this model was supposed to help indie studios and developers to produce a playable version of their game, sell it and re-invest the earnings to finish the game production. Sounds good and fair, right? I thought so, too. Unfortunately one thing was hidden very well: Steam does not and will never make sure nor care if any of these games sold on their platform are ever going to be finished or leave the Early Access state. There is simply no control and also no responsibility. And here´s the sentence that makes it possible, look at the way they put the word release into quotation marks: “Its up to the developer to determine when they are ready to ‘release'”. Here´s the full text.

Figuratively that´s the same scenario as if you would go to an electronic market, buy a TV but the market says that they will deliver the remote control at a later point. You can use the TV, yes, but not in its full functionality. Then the market never delivers the remote and deflects to Samsung for not producing one while they already got the full payment in their pockets. Then you want a refund for the TV because it´s not the promised product but you at this point you watched more than 2 hours on it so you can´t get your money back and are stuck with it.

Fair enough, so the money is gone. Can´t really blame Steam for meaning well and supporting indie studios, can you? Oh, wait a second, here´s some news for you: Games that are in Early access for 3 years and more now are suddenly selling 20€ DLC packs. Their game is not finished according to their store page but they sell addons and DLC. And Steam fully supports and encourages it. Every single store page on Steam goes through an approval process by Steam and part of every sale go into Steams pockets. They created this system to make a lot of easy and quick money. Unfortunately they are also the biggest games provider and online platform for games in the western hemisphere and likely in the world. So they have the Monopoly and can basically do whatever the hell they want. And with that one little sentence from above nobody can legally touch them.

I fell for this myself and purchased DayZ in 2013 just when Early Access became a thing. These days the game is dead, 27% on recent review score, it never left Early Access and major Developer Bohemia siphoned all the money off the project and put it into Arma instead. Rust, same story, in Early Access since 2013. Ark, Early Access since mid 2015, selling 20€ DLC. The list is long but you get the shady scheme, right? Not only did they steal our money by false advertisement but they ruined the Early Access model for honest indie developers and studios for the future by lying and ripping people off.

Maybe it´s time to look at who the real “money hungry bastards” are. I tell you one thing though: I will not buy an Early Access title ever again.

Catch ya later,

Stefan 

 


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