A week ago, indie developer Tyler Glaiel suggested a new method to estimate the number of copies a game had sold on Steam. He did so via a Medium blog post, which gathered a fair amount of interest.
A week on, Steamed reports, onlookers suddenly noticed Glaiel's method was no longer working. Valve had quietly taken action to render it useless. At no point had the company commented on Glaiel's method, or explained what and why it was changing its systems to block it.
In brief, Glaiel suggested using the percentage of people who had unlocked a particular achievement to then estimate a game's overall userbase. Steam counted achievement percentages to 16 decimal places.
Now, however, Steam rounds this up - a change which looks a deliberate move to nip any sales estimating tech in the bud.
Developers are trying to estimate Steam sales figures because Valve does not disclose them itself. It never has done - but up until recently most relied on third-party site Steam Spy to gain a general picture of the market, and of their own title's success compared to others.
Of course, Valve neutered Steam Spy in April as part of a wider move it said was designed to enhance Steam's privacy settings - something linked at the time to GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation). Steam Spy owner Sergey Galyonkin spoke to Eurogamer about his site's demise - and how Valve had never spoken to him about it.
"For a moment I was thinking that it was related to GDPR laws going live in Europe in May, but if they wanted to be compliant with those laws they should have hidden all profile information." Galyonkin said at the time. "Right now they have sensitive information exposed by default and only the game libraries are hidden. It doesn't really make sense."
When Glaiel published his Medium blog post, he said he'd emailed Steam about his method a week before publishing and had got no response. "I'm assuming they just don't care," he wrote at the time. "They shut down Steam Spy because of GDPR not cause they didn't want Steam Spy to exist."
Oh we emailed steam about it a week ago and got no response, so I'm assuming they just dont care. They shut down steamspy cause of GDPR not cause they didnt want steamspy to exist.— Tyler Glaiel (@TylerGlaiel) June 29, 2018
A week on, with his method disabled, Glaiel no longer thinks this is the case. "And yup they're rounding numbers now," he noted. "Looks like the GDPR thing was just an excuse after all."
and yup they're rounding numbers now. looks like the gdpr thing was just an excuse after all— Tyler Glaiel (@TylerGlaiel) July 4, 2018
Valve has recently suggested it might launch a Steam Spy-style tool of its own to help developers track sales of their games - but there's no word on when this might arrive, and this latest move again paints Valve in anything but a transparent light.