When I first heard about the “Paranautical Activity” controversy, I immediately thought about how stupid the game’s creator was.
Here’s a quick summary. Code Avarice is a small six-person game studio that slaved over its game for years. It managed to get through Steam’s Greenlight program, which is basically a competition against hundreds of other small, indie game producers. “Paranautical Activity” finally managed to get on Steam, the biggest PC platform.
Then, one of the developers, Mike Maulbeck, decided to send a death threat to Gabe Newell, the co-founder of Valve (which owns Steam); Valve proceeded to pull the game from the store after one day of release.
Steam allows a single client to house all games, and offers plenty of sales to entice the PC gamer. Because of these things, Steam has become so popular that it has effectively monopolized the industry for PC games. EA, Blizzard and Minecraft are the only companies that have managed to survive by pulling their games from Steam. They can do that because their games will sell no matter what. Every other developer is out of luck if they want a viable non-Steam platform.
The team’s dreams and livelihoods depended on this game. I hate to be callous about death threats but people on the Internet get death threats all the time””gamers, artists, reviewers, YouTube stars. I am not defending death threats in any way””they are always awful and should never be directed towards anyone””but the blood, sweat and tears of a group of people should not be thrown out of the window because of a tweet.
I care less about this specific incident and more about the bigger picture. It is slightly worrying that the only pushback I have seen from Steam is from a handful of developers like Randy Pitchford, founder of Gearbox Software. Just two years ago, Gearbox put out “Borderlands 2″ on the PC that worked with Steam-specific features thus making it exclusive to that platform. Even Pitchford, who said that Steam will be a problem, I guess had to go back on his word since Steam sells.
Valve is a notoriously difficult company to communicate with. It was understandable when it was just a video game developer, but they now provide a service to thousands of consumers so they have to be responsive and receptive.
There are a lot of what-ifs, but there shouldn’t be so many scary what-ifs. Having your entire collection of PC games at the whim of some random company is terrifying. The lack of transparency and due process with the decision regarding “Paranautical Activity” is worrisome. Valve is the judge, jury and executioner in this realm.
More people will use Steam. I personally will keep using Steam because it is just so convenient and I already have a huge stack of games on there. That said, I have now started to buy my new games via other platforms or, better yet, straight from the game developers.
Valve has created an extremely competent service with their Steam program, and their position in the industry.
Ultimately, I think every PC gamer should be wary and should not be so trusting with a company that is ultimately looking out for itself. We should hold Valve to a higher standard because ultimately we””especially our wallets””wield the power.