An Open Letter To Steam From a Dev (and a gamer).

Dear Steam,

Before I make any remarks that you may consider offensive or inflammatory, let me first express to you my deep and undying love.  Since you came into my life all those years ago you’ve brought me joy unimaginable.  Your staggering game selection, incredible sales, and unmatched download speed have made purchasing games digitally my primary means of purchasing.  Plus, your willingness to support indie developers has made you the go to place for interesting games.  If you were here I’d wrap you up in my arms, gently caress you, and tell you how wonderful you are.  I’d want you to know that everything I’m about to tell you comes from a place of love and compassion, not of anger or hate.  I want the best for you Steam, but some of the decisions you’ve been making recently make me wonder if you’ve started running with the wrong crowd.  For years now, you’ve been not just my darling, but the darling of all PC gamers, and the envy of console players everywhere.   Before you lose your way completely, I implore you to simply listen to what I have to say.

First off, we need to address your recent loss of self-esteem.  You are beautiful; there is no reason to feel like you have to accept every single submission made to you.  “No” is a word that you’re allowed to use.  Not every game needs to be on your platform.  Games that began their lives as free-to-play mobile games might be better off simply staying that way, especially when their mobile-centric controls haven’t even been retrofitted to work well on anything but a touch screen.  You’re better than this Steam.  You sell Grand Theft Auto V, and The Witcher 3.  You don’t need to sell all of these quick-buck ports.  It’s not that there is anything inherently wrong with mobile games, but we both know full well that you don’t belong with them.

These decisions are yours to make, I can’t stop you.  But your recent willingness to accept virtually any game submitted to you has some concerning implications for us developers.  Your new releases queue used to be filled with interesting titles, and we were all eager to see what you’d deliver to us next.  These days it seems like we need to weed through an endless array of demos, DLC, and mobile ports just to get to the good stuff you used to be so proud of.  Developers, especially small indies like me, are getting scared Steam.  We’re worried that our products — the hand-crafted independent titles that we used to see on the front page right next to the triple-a’s — are getting swallowed up.  If you want to see the destructive results of this behavior, you need only look to your mentally challenged little brother, the iOS App Store.  There you can still find more knock offs of Flappy Bird than any of us would ever care to play.  Look at the App Store my dear, is that what you want to become?  You’re no app slut, so stop acting like one.

I believe that the above problem is merely a symptom of your overall disease.  I’m sorry to say but you are being overcome by greed.  Your cavalier willingness to start charging money for mods seems to be more than enough evidence of this, but if you’re looking for more, consider the completely useless system of Steam Trading Cards.  Over the last few years you have seemed more than willing to add feature after feature that all aim towards bringing you more money; money that you clearly don’t need.  We love you, and we want to buy our games from you, so why not just stick to what’s always made you so perfect for us?  We need you to be the Steam we fell in love with, the Steam that was content to rake in boatloads of money by simply providing us with the best platform for our digital game purchases.

I understand that you removed the paid mod system, and it’s much appreciated that your father took the time to address the issue with us directly.  It’s still concerning though.  The things you do affect all of us, and you’re developing a reputation for being very sly and deceptive in the way you gouge customers.  Things like paid mods and trading cards don’t necessarily hurt anyone, we don’t have to participate after all.  They damage your image though, and by doing so they damage the community and the marketplace.  That has a very clear negative affect on my possible sales.  It makes me less likely to want to sell my game on your platform.

To be fair, you’re still leaps and bounds ahead of anyone else in the market.  You are most certainly still the belle of the ball when it comes to buying games digitally.  It’s because of this that I feel like this etter is so important.  It’s definitely not too late to change, and it really wouldn’t take much.  The recommendation and curator systems both work fairly well, and could be stellar with a bit of tweaking.  The review system is relatively helpful or at least entertaining.  Most of what you offer is pretty good, in fact.  You’re the big kid on the block now though, so every tiny thing that you do is analyzed, scrutinized and turned into the week’s biggest news.  You’re a bonafide celebrity, Steam.  You can’t sneeze without it making headlines.  Whether or not you mean to, these changes that you make have drastic impacts on the landscape of the digital distribution economy.

What you have to offer is amazing, and we all love you, but there is a growing darkness in you that we’re all beginning to sense.  Your greed has begun to motivate decisions that are hurting all of us, and though you tend to err on our side when those decisions turn out to be bad ones, I think we’re all on edge when it comes to how you’ll handle the next situation.  When you refund money for games that developers lied about, you go a long way to make us feel loved and wanted.  But when you subsequently flood us with unneeded games, and attempt to quietly implement new systems that pad your pockets even further we get nervous.  I’m nervous, Steam.  You’re great, and I love you, but it’s time for you to do a little soul searching.