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Studios commit to removing Red Shell due to player complaints

Dead by Daylight, Elder Scrolls Online and other Steam games will remove alleged spyware that tracked advertisement efficacy

Data collection is everywhere, even in a goofy Steam indie about selling weapons to potatoes.

Following an outcry from audiences across Reddit and Steam forums, multiple developers and publishers on Steam have committed to removing an alleged spyware program called Red Shell from their games.

Red Shell claims on its website to be "a software package used by game developers and publishers to help them measure the effectiveness of their marketing campaigns." It does this by tracking device information including OS, browser version number, IP, in-game user ID, and a bit more, but states it does not track personal information of any kind.

The idea is that Red Shell can determine whether a person purchased a game after clicking on a certain advertisement for it. It does not track information across games and it is not used to show targeted ads.

PC Gamer reports that player concerns regarding Red Shell began several weeks ago, when complaints first began to arise about the program's tracking of information without user consent. Games that use Red Shell can offer an opt-out, but players are not directly told about Red Shell and must find the information themselves if they wish to do so, and the option may not even be available on certain games. There is also an opt-out on the company's website, but again, that requires player knowledge and action.

Games such as Dead by Daylight, The Elder Scrolls Online, Conan Exiles, and Civilization VI saw audiences take to Reddit and Steam forums to complain about the presence of Red Shell in recent weeks, with a full Reddit thread detailing games that have been found to use it and which developers pledged to remove it.

Some developers, such as Elder Scrolls Online studio ZeniMax Online made a point to defend Red Shell as helpful for marketing campaigns and nothing more, reinforcing the statement that no personal information is tracked through Red Shell and leaving the option open to re-add the program later with disclosure to users.

At the time of this writing, 17 developers and publishers have either removed Red Shell or promised to do so, while a growing list of over 40 games remain without an official response.

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Latest comments (1)

Iain McNulty Software / Game Developer, Yanxen5 months ago
Why is it not enough that consumers buy our games any more? Why is it that their usage data has to be gathered in the name of "marketing"?

If they have already purchased the game then you do not need any more of their data for marketing, especially if the data originates from the user's PC, and especially in the digital age since you can get the relevant marketing data from whatever storefront you are selling your game on anyway.

Or maybe the data is being sold on, as a minor profitable side-line. Either way, the obsession with data collection like this results in what amounts to nothing more than a completely unnecessary invasion of customer's privacy.
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