In light of recent controversies surrounding the availability of certain games on Steam, Valve has altered its approach to content policing and will begin to "allow everything" on the store, as long as it isn't illegal, "or straight up trolling".
Last month, there was much discussion after Valve began removing visual novels with adult themes from Steam. Shortly after, there was an outcry following the discovery of Active Shooter, a school shooting game, on the digital store. "As is often the case," Valve's Erik Johnson explained in a new blog post, "the discussion caused us to spend some time examining what we're doing, why we're doing it, and how we could be doing it better."
"Decision making in this space is particularly challenging, and one that we've really struggled with," Johnson continued, "Contrary to many assumptions, this isn't a space we've automated - humans at Valve are very involved, with groups of people looking at the contents of every controversial title submitted to us. Similarly, people have falsely assumed these decisions are heavily affected by our payment processors, or outside interest groups. Nope, it's just us grappling with a really hard problem."
"Unfortunately, our struggling has resulted in a bunch of confusion among our customers, developer partners, and even our own employees. So we've spent some time thinking about where we want to be on this, and we'd like to talk about it now."
According to Johnson, "The harsh reality of this space that lies at the root of our dilemma, is that there is absolutely no way we can navigate it without making some of our players really mad." As such, Valve has now elected to return to "one of the principles in the forefront of our minds when we started Steam [...] Valve shouldn't be the ones deciding this. If you're a player, we shouldn't be choosing for you what content you can or can't buy. If you're a developer, we shouldn't be choosing what content you're allowed to create."
With this in mind, Valve has decided to "allow everything onto the Steam Store", unless deemed illegal or "straight up trolling" - presumably a reference to comments it made about Active Shooter creator Ata Berdyev last week. Valve's new approach, it says, will allow the company 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."
Although some will undoubtedly be delighted to see Valve loosening its restrictions on what sort of content can and cannot be published to Steam, the company warns that, once the changes are implemented, the store "is going to contain something that you hate, and don't think should exist." Crucially, Valve also adds the disclaimer that "the games we allow onto the Store will not be a reflection of Valve's values, beyond a simple belief that you all have the right to create & consume the content you choose."
Johnson concluded his post by noting that there will be no significant changes to Steam "in the short term" until the company's new tools are complete. "We'll be working on this for the foreseeable future, both in terms of what products we're allowing, what guidelines we communicate, and the tools we're providing to developers and players."