If you’ve been traversing Twitter you may have spotted a leaked post from Valve’s developer forum. In the post, an image of which was tweeted out by Steam Spy, a Valve employee says that key requests developers make will no longer be unlimited. Instead these requests will now take into account sales numbers and other factors to prevent codes from being sold outside of the Steam ecosystem. On face value this looked like Valve flexing their muscles and restricting how many keys smaller devs could receive in order to keep all sales through Steam, and continue to make Valve more money. Valve has since reached out to several outlets to state that this is simply not the case.
Valve will no longer automatically fullfill key requests from the developers to combat game sales outside of Steam. pic.twitter.com/Gp1TyivEeO
— Steam Spy (@Steam_Spy) August 17, 2017
In the statement Valve clarifies that the change in policy is going after games that attempt to manipulate the Steam trading card system. Games with very few sales that request hundreds of thousands of codes are usually trying to make money through the Steam marketplace. It’s a strange loophole that can be abused in several ways to make money for nefarious developers or wily consumers. This is an issue Valve has tried to stop before and this key policy change is just another step in the process.
What Valve’s leaked announcement does reveal is a fear among consumers and developers about the power Valve has through Steam. Steam operates like a console manufacturer does except without hardware. For every game sold on Steam, Valve gets a percentage of the sale. Add on the legions of fans selling cards and Dota hats on their marketplace and Valve has found a nifty way to make extra cash besides selling $400 hardware. But they are also a closed, DRM focused, system that does have the power to strong arm devs onto their platform, away from third party sellers or bundles, and manipulate the market. It could force these games to stay on a crowded storefront with little hope of standing out or selling well.
This leak is an opportunity for Valve to take a step back and look at the service they’re truly providing. Maybe the problem isn’t with the unlimited supply of keys Steam is producing for developers but rather the types of games they’re allowing on their service in the first place.