Silicon Echo's reputation is "destroyed beyond repair" after Steam's fake game crackdown

Studio "forced to give up game development" after its entire catalogue was removed from leading PC marketplace

The developer that had its complete portfolio pulled from Steam has complained that its business has been "completely destroyed" without warning.

Last week, it was reported that Valve has removed 173 games, mostly from a single company as well as a few separate accounts allegedly associated with that publisher. Most of the titles were deemed to be 'asset flipping' games (i.e. built from pre-made assets), something Valve has previously called 'fake games'.

The firm in question was Silicon Echo Studios, which has spoken to Polygon about the damage Valve's actions have caused.

"This situation has completely destroyed everything we have been working for in the past 3 years and we are forced to give up game development at this point for more that [sic] one reason," the studio said.

"Mainly because our reputation is destroyed beyond repair, but also for financial reasons. We wish we have been warned about this before, in that case we would focus on a different business plan of development."

Polygon has also shared an email between Silicon Echo and Valve where it insists it did not get any warning about the removal of every game it had published, and defending the way it ran its business.

"Everyone who has ever bought our games did it by their own choice and everybody knew exactly what they were buying," the developer wrote. "People who are calling us asset flippers are correct only partially because we always made our own levels using the basic assets provided for us when we bought the asset kit and all of the kits had licenses allowing us to use them in commercial purposes. We have all the required bills to confirm our purchases on the Unity Asset Store."

It later observed that if there was a problem with the nature of the game, they should not have been approved in the first place - either by Steam Direct or the Greenlight system before it.

Speaking to Polygon, Silicon Echo acknowledged why its business model may be questioned, but insisted there was a valid reason for the way it published its games.

"We are no heroes, we have indeed sometimes been conducting our business with some practices people may call shady," a spokesperson said. "For example, creating more developer names even though they were on the same account and listed under the same publisher. This was done primarily for easier statistical tracking as we did not believe it to be a problem since all the games were publicly listed under the same publisher and there was no deception included."

None of this is likely to inspire Valve to return all Silicon Echo's titles to Steam, and the hope is that this instance sets a precedent for any other would-be asset flippers who plan to release games quickly and cheaply to maximise their profits.

Steam's marketplace is already overcrowded. Since Steam Direct released in June, more than 1,300 games have been added to the marketplace - almost a third of the number of games released in 2016, Steam's most crowded year to date.

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Latest comments (3)

Andy Carlstedt4 months ago
This should be an interesting one... and yet no comments... @editors; any clues...?
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Bonnie Patterson Narrative Designer, Writer 4 months ago
I always thought that the issue with "asset-flipped" games was not that they bought assets from stores or purchased other people's unfinished games (which seems perfectly fair), but that they then presented this material as examples of what they could make when presenting a game for early access.

People would buy the games on the apparent evidence that the game had talented modelers and developers, and then see little to no progress on producing a finished, releasable game, which understandably made them damn angry.

Have I understood that correctly or is there something innately shady I've missed about using third-party assets? Don't some studios usually buy in packs of trivial models to save their art teams time? I seem to remember that in the late 90s - early noughties, an awful lot of games with office scenes had exactly the same pot plants...

So were Silicon Echo one of the companies flogging early access titles that never made progress?

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Bonnie Patterson on 4th October 2017 7:06pm

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Casey Anderson Game Data Analyst, Big Fish Games4 months ago
I've seen the accusation thrown around that Silicon Echo was not merely asset flipping, but using their library of games to generate millions and millions of free steam keys as part of a Steam trading card botting network.
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