Itch.io founder Leaf Corcoran has described Valve's new open-door policy on Steam content as "ridiculous" and "out of touch", voicing concerns that the shift will result in a variety of problematic content proliferating on Valve's store.
Valve announced its new outlook yesterday, in a statement on the Steam blog that said it would, "allow everything onto the Steam Store, except for things that we decide are illegal, or straight up trolling." The shift followed a variety of incidents that created uncertainty around content standards, most recently a number of visual novels with adult themes receiving official warnings.
However, Valve's response has attracted criticism from the founder of itch.io, an indie-friendly storefront intended to be an alternative to Steam. Speaking on Twitter yesterday, founder Leaf Corcoran pulled no punches in his assessment.
"A platform that allows 'everything, unless it's illegal or straight up trolling' is ridiculous," Corcoran said. "Please keep your malicious, derogatory, discriminatory, bullying, harassing, demeaning content off [itch.io]. Our ban buttons are ready."
After seeing responses to his post flood in, Corcoran added: "It's sad that most of the people in that thread are worried about asset flips. What about the fact that Valve is effectively authorizing toxic people to exist on their platform? It's so out of touch."
Indeed, when we spoke to Corcoran in May last year, he anticipated just this kind of shift on Valve's part. "I have a strong feeling that Steam will probably be completely open sometime in the future," he said, "but they're just trying to work up to that."
In an article published yesterday, we spoke the developers caught up in Valve's recent crackdown on games with adult themes, many of which had been on Steam for a long time, and had milder adult content than other games that escaped warnings. In every case, the developers were critical of Valve's "ad hoc" approach to content standards, and suggested it has a "chilling" effect on the kind of games being made.
"I've talked to one Valve rep, and I'm like, 'I want to put this kind of content on Steam,' and the Valve rep responded, 'Yeah, that seems okay, I'll let you know if we change our mind.' Which doesn't provide any certainty," said Robert Yang, a developer whose games explore gay culture and gay experience. "It puts developers in a weird position because we have to guess how Valve's mind will change on something. It's like three layers of guessing.
"I almost kind of wish Valve would tell me 'no, that content will never be allowed on Steam ever', because at least that would be certainty. That's the reality; they don't want to do heavy content moderation, but then they end up making these random decisions that don't benefit anyone."
This new development is apparent proof that Steam does not want to "do heavy content moderation". However, in stepping away from the issue entirely, Valve is responding to games about school shootings and games about consensual sex and desire as if they present the same problem.
Our North American editor, Brendan Sinclair, explored this issue in more depth in a column published yesterday - you can read that by following this link.