It’s starting to look like Valve is trying to murder SteamSpy on purpose

    
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No, you can't be quite this evil.

Back in April, Valve announced new supposedly privacy-oriented changes for Steam that had what everyone assumed to be an unintended (and unannounced) side-effect: It would hide everyone’s owned games by default, effectively neutering extremely useful and popular tools like Steam Spy.

Steam Spy’s Sergey Galyonkin, the Epic Games employee who ran Steam Spy on the side, hasn’t seemed particularly perturbed over the last several months since the announcement; in fact, last week, he said he was “excited” at the idea that Valve was working on its own version of the tracking tool. “The reason I opened Steam Spy to everyone was to let smaller developers make informed decisions based on data and to remove some of the information asymmetry that is so pervasive in our industry,” he tweeted last week. “Naturally, I am excited by Valve’s decision to offer a better version of Steam Spy.”

But that doesn’t seem to be what’s happening.

Indie developer Tyler Glaiel (you probably know him from Succubox) came up with a workaround to keep SteamSpy online and public using achievement stats, only to find that Valve has again changed its API – in the last week, so it’s no coincidence – to break that too. And it’s nothing to do with privacy this time either. Devs and industry watchers have begun sounding the alarm on what Valve is up to.

If you’ve found SteamSpy to be a valuable service providing data, now is the time.

Source: Twitter

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Ashfyn Ninegold

Ignore what they say; watch what they do.

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Dobablo

I’ve always felt that SteamSpy is a bit icky, since they are using personal data that is distributed to the public domain by default without any explanation of how it might be used or that there is an opt-out, but there is no denying that they provide a very useful service.
Approximate, accurate sales numbers is the sort of information that should be made freely available without having to rely on rough approximate calculations and debatable data-gathering processes.

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???? ???'? ???? ??'? ??? ?????.®

I’m going to buy out as many 6x sized shirts as I can from Amazon out of spite at Gabe, no offense Kevin Smith, guess it’ll have to be just hockey jerseys for you for now.

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nobleeinherjar

I didn’t (and still kinda don’t) know what SteamSpy was until the whole “privacy” thing gained attention, so I feel like this doesn’t directly affect me much. All I know is, whatever the reasons, I’m not inclined to give Valve the benefit of the doubt. But that’s true for me for most companies, so it’s still not anything special in my case.

I guess all I can say is I hope people who rely on the data SteamSpy provided are able to figure out solutions.

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AoC

I’m fairly sure Valve is simply being pressured by publishers who don’t want these metrics public. From what I remember Paradox spoke out openly about it at one point? Hell, their data was even removed BY REQUEST.

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Armsbend

Maybe Valve is tightening information because they have finally decided to go public.

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Sally Bowls

Ohh good point. +1

I would phrase it as “decided to sell out” where IPO is the alternative if Microsoft and Ten Cent don’t bid enough.

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Armsbend

I’m truly surprised they haven’t at this point. Take Two, EA, Blizzard have all been given massive resources. The guys at the top would make billions.

However, Gabe couldn’t be the same social misfit he has been all these years if he had to do the quarterlies. It doesn’t seem to be in his wheelhouse. I really do think there is a laziness at their core that won’t allow others to look into their books and practices. Maybe laziness is a bad word. Do the least work for the maximum return. The ultimate salesman creed. Not a bad way to live really.

I would though. And as an investor I’d take a really long look at Valve.

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Bruno Brito

Laziness is a great word. I don’t know about Valve as a whole company, but as a developer for games, one that allows you to use community stuff by paying and almost no 3d artist to ever see the workshop return, i do think Valve is lazy.

They leave their games on limbo, honestly, outside of Dota 2. TF2 has what, 6 devs?

Anything that makes Valve less of a powerhouse/monopoly is good in my book.

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Armsbend

It seems off because they are innovative. I won’t deny that. But they are innovative in ways that make me angry and their product less good than it used to be. Likely a great company to work for.

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alienlegion

(cough) GOG (cough)

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Vinicius Gonzalez

Stopped buying on Steam a while ago. GoG is far more consumer friendly. Also, DRM-Free.

Brendan Drain
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Brendan Drain

It’s also a closed platform. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I’ve been surprised by the number of people who don’t realise GOG hand-selects the games that go on its service. I have a small indie game on Steam and have had to tell people dozens of times that the reason we’re not on GOG is that they said no. There are other DRM-free platforms now like itch.io that are showing a lot of promise too and are more open platforms. Now more than ever, Steam isn’t the only game in town.

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Vinicius Gonzalez

I know they handpick which games they sell. Which is good and bad at the same time. Didn’t know about itch.io, will look at it. Thank you for the info :D

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Schlag Sweetleaf

What is the name of your game Brendan?

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Schlag Sweetleaf

Thank you Bree-ndan;p

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Wendigo Runner

I stopped using GOG when I attempted to use their so-called “money back guarantee”. It has a 30 day limit and I submitted my ticket early within that 30 days. GOG took two months and one week to respond to my support ticket and obviously the.. “guarantee”.. was expired at that point.

The response that they finally sent was: “So, you still having that problem?”. That’s it. Two months and a week and burning the money back guarantee in the process, to respond with that.

My response was to tell them to get rekt in not nearly such polite terms and I closed my GOG account.

Then of course Valve pulls their nonsense shortly after, but at least they honor their refund policy.

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Pingly

We need to keep an eye on Valve.

As valuable as Steam is and as beloved as their software is I don’t care for their business practices. They seem to have a desire to keep increasing their take of things unfairly despite their enormous profits.

It doesn’t even make sense to me.

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zoward

It seems very much like Valve has realized how much this marketing data is worth, and is “locking it up” in order to start offering it as a product.

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jay

I think you hit the nail right on the head. There could be this odd chance they are just trying to protect users from another Facebook Analytica type scandal. But it’s much more likely that they are going to sell the data to studios.

Luckily there’s always GOG

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Brendan Drain

The fact that they made your games list private by default but not your friends list etc makes it obvious this was directly targeted at SteamSpy, doing it a second time with achievements is just confirmation. Developers have been talking on twitter recently about how essential SteamSpy stats were for market research and funding pitches, and as an indie dev I’ve found the exact same.

What I find most interesting about this is that we as MMO players have all seen something like this before — it’s like when an MMO studio suddenly stops releasing subscription numbers. When performance stats stop being released to the public, it’s often a sign that those stats are about to drop and it would make the company look bad. I’m not saying that’s what’s happening here, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that Steam’s market share is being eaten into by competitors.

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Tanek

So, it could be that Steam/Valve is afraid of the same thing happening to them that SteamSpy has done to a few games over the years. People see numbers drop which means it is the end of the world which causes the numbers to drop more and it cascades from there.

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Sally Bowls

Cmon.

The main reason MMO studios stopped releasing subscription numbers is that, for all but two, subscribers are zero. Monetization has evolved.

So we are essentially talking about Activision-Blizzard.

Note that subscriber numbers are not released for the benefit of players. Private companies release imprecise numbers infrequently and irregularly. Public companies have a duty to tell shareholders enough material information for them to make decisions. And it is only public companies that begrudgingly release periodic info.

To that end, subscribers has some inadequacies as a measure of game health. A couple of quarters before they stopped giving subs, Blizz said they had a quarter where subs went down and revenue went up. So subs is a bad metric when the sub metric declines but the health of the game improves. And while most MMOs do not have a sub and MMOs are a small and declining part of gaming, a stockholder can’t compare subs to EA or Ten Cent or … whereas every single company reports MAUs.

If I were an MMO executive, I can’t see giving competitors more info and so would prefer to release the legal minimum of info.

Cynics may say Blizzard stopped releasing info due to subs declining. We can’t say one way or the other. My guess is that it played a part but Blizz would have quit releasing subs at some point. But I could easily believe they accelerated it a few quarters due to the declining numbers. OTOH, if this was all spin, then they would have quit releasing subs two or three quarter earlier. Of the $100B gaming market, I can’t think of a single game that periodically releases the number of their customers.

—-

The gold standard of insight into a game remains what NCSoft uniquely releases: per-game revenue.

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Brendan Drain

The main reason MMO studios stopped releasing subscription numbers is that, for all but two, subscribers are zero. Monetization has evolved.

I would agree with this in as far as new games are concerned, but many of the MMOs that used to send out subscriber numbers stopped releasing them before they changed their monetisation models, not because changing their models resulted in a drop in numbers. The monetisation of older MMOs evolved, yes, but it did so as a response to falling subscriptions due to the market offering free alternatives. To suggest things happened in reverse order kind of seems like rewriting history, and I can’t get behind that.

So we are essentially talking about Activision-Blizzard.

Actually, no, the textbook example I would give is EVE Online. They were happy to release subscription numbers and peak concurrency right up until the point that they peaked, then quietly stopped releasing them. There was a quarterly economic newsletter they used to release that gave enough info to work out subscriptions, which they first decided would move to an annual format and then just cancelled. The data for all subsequent CSM election results was sterilised too in order to prevent us using it to calculate subscriptions, as they clearly don’t want those stats to be public.

To that end, subscribers has some inadequacies as a measure of game health.
If I were an MMO executive, I can’t see giving competitors more info and so would prefer to release the legal minimum of info.

Yeah I can totally agree with this, subscriptions haven’t been a useful indicator of game health for a very long time and I couldn’t even name a single MMO that is sub-only at this point. Obviously no company wants to see news that their game is losing subs as it makes the game look bad, and they could be especially misleading as subscription numbers are no indicator of game health or company health.

EVE Online has had record profit years even with falling subs, for example, because its hybrid business model is really working. But at the point that they began obfuscating those figures, they hadn’t yet properly adapted to the new market dynamics and it was a legitimate warning sign.

Of the $100B gaming market, I can’t think of a single game that periodically releases the number of their customers.

Not any more, that’s true. It used to be very commonplace to studios to periodically release numbers of subscriptions, active daily users, peak concurrent users etc. Some studios put it on their websites, others released the numbers in-game, and many made regular announcements to the press with updated numbers. Do you remember MMOCharts?

It was only about 2012 onward that companies started getting really secretive about their numbers, mostly because those numbers began dropping as free to play etc took over. Today it’s also largely because numbers like subscriptions or accounts or daily active users no longer correlate directly to the company’s financial performance so there’s no advantage to having that info out there or disadvantage from hiding it. That’s a fair argument, I’ll concede that.

Ultimately, the point I’m trying to make here is that companies are usually happy for performance-related numbers to be released as long as those numbers are climbing. That makes me immediately suspicious when they suddenly decide to hide the figures.

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Schlag Sweetleaf

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