Valve’s taken to cleaning up the influx of ‘fake games’ on the Steam store the old-fashioned way, manually removing a grand total of 173 games made by a single developer - Silicon Echo Studio. A particularly egregious example of the asset flipping phenomenon, Silicon Echo published 86 games during July and August alone, 10% of the total number of games released on Steam during that time. Valve’s Steam Direct fee appears to be working fantastically /s.
Asset flipping is the process by which a developer buys up a number of cheap pre-made assets from (in this example) the Unity store, packaging them up in terrible games and releasing them at dirt cheap prices or as part of awful bundles. They then make their money back from sales of trading cards associated with of the game, of which they get a cut. It’s a money-making factory that games Steam’s systems basically, and it provides no inherent value to Steam users beyond those looking to make a slow buck from farming trading cards.
The classics available from Silicon Echo includes Tracks of Triumph: Industrial Zone, Tracks of Triumph: Summertime, Tracks of Triumph: Good Old Times and, well, you get the picture. Amusingly, I've seen several of their games included in G2A's game loot crates. You get what you pay for I guess.
Upon the removal of the 173 games from Silicon Echo, Valve sent a statement over to Polygon explaining “These accounts were generating a lot of reports and frustration from customers and other developers. It turns out that the bad actors were all the same person operating under different accounts.
“What we found was a set of extreme actions by this person that was negatively impacting the functionality of the store and our tools. For example, this person was mass-shipping nearly-identical products on Steam that were impacting the store’s functionality and making it harder for players interested in finding fun games to play. This developer was also abusing Steam keys and misrepresenting themselves on the Steam store.
“As a result, we have removed those games from the Steam Store and ended our business relationship with them.”
A positive result some would argue, but the ease with which Silicon Echo was able to game the system is worrying. They were simply pushing through multiple games as part of a single Steam Direct application. Each application carries a $100 fee for each individual title, yet Silicon Echo was paying $100 for an entire batch, negating their costs.
Hopefully, Valve is implementing a few more back-end changes that can stem the flow of asset flip games before they arrive in the first place. I often have to browse through the new releases section and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to spot the promising games. It’s Steam’s own needle in a haystack dilemma.