The controversy regarding Rape Day has once again brought into question the problem with Steam quality control.
Note: I will not use any screen shots of Rape Day, just enjoy the clips form other games.
For the last few months, Steam has been in an unexpected situation. The emergence of the Epic Store has became a threat to its almost monopoly of the PC games digital distribution market. Thanks to its generous revenue share policy, numerous major titles have jumped ship to sign an exclusive deal.
PC gamers have responded by coming to the defense of Steam by showcasing its vast community. They have also highlighted how it has given indie studios a platform to thrive. However, many critics have made the counter argument by pointing out that its revenue share has been unfair towards indie developers.
Now the controversy surrounding a now removed title has only solidified the case for publishers to jump ship in favor of the Epic Store.
Another Troll Game
Rape Day is a narrative driven experience that follows a survivor of a zombie apocalypse as he rapes and kills women. It’s presence has once again brought in to question Steam’s hands-off policy in regards to content curation (or as Jim Sterling has called it, “Doing f*** all regarding quality control“). Valve announced that the game will not be sold on Steam but this is not the end of this problem.
The game has reminded indie developers of who they will be competing against in Steam digital market, total and utter garbage. This is not about if Rape Day should be allowed on Steam, instead this is a look at why this hands-off policy could push indie studios to the Epic Store.
For indie studios; it costs $100 to put a game on Steam and it will most likely generate between $15,000 to $30,000 in the first year (with Valve taking 30%). In theory, that 30% cut would be acceptable because Steam allows quality games to thrive. In practice, indie title are not competing against AAA titles or other indie titles but troll games and asset flips.
A History of Trolling
This is not the first time a troll game has put the “hands-off” policy into question. The most notable examples of games that tested this policy are Bolsomito 2K18, Active Shooter and AID’s Simulator(all three were also topics on Jim Sterling’s channel). The run down for these titles are as followed:
AIDS Simulator was a shooter that has players embark on a killing spree in Africa after contracting AIDS. This was one of several troll games developed by BunchOD00dz that was removed from Steam following the public backlash.
Active Shooter is a shooter that allowed players to participate in a school shooting. In response to the backlash, the game was pulled from the Steam store only a few weeks before its official launch.
Bolsomito 2K18 is a beat-em up that was released during the 2018 Brazilian Presidential Election. The game has players take on the role of (then candidate) Jair Bolsonaro as he beats-up waves of minorities, feminists and people of the LGBT+ community. The game was investigated by the Brazilian government for promoting bigotry. Unlike the other two entries, this one is still being sold on Steam and has been praised as either “a brilliant work of political satire” or “the best way to own the libs”.
If it isn’t a troll game then chances are the problem is from asset flips or broken titles that are still in the Alpha stage. Thanks to Early Access, anyone can dump garbage on the store and sadly too many hacks are doing just that (Earth: Year 2066 being the best example).
Quality Control Matters
Indie developers want their game to sell, what they don’t want is to be buried under a pile of troll titles and asset flips. The lack of any quality control is going to push more indie studios to the Epic Store. Given how much it costs to sell a game on Steam, dedicated developers want to compete with the likes of Toby Fox rather than the creators of Rape Day.
The lack of quality control has always been a problem for Steam but Valve will need to get its act together soon as the Epic Store is becoming a major player.
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