Steam's content-driven freeze on game approvals expected to last for months
Back in July, game developers started to notice that Valve was delaying the approval of certain builds that had been submitted to the company for release on Steam.
At the time, Valve noted that it was indeed holding back some games from release as the company worked internally on bringing new filtering options to the widely used game platform, but offered no official timeframe on how long that freeze would last or the criteria of games being affected.
Now one month later, another developer has reached out to Valve about a game stuck in the approval process only to discover that their title is being withheld until those new tools are in place, a process a Valve rep now says could take months.
“We’re right in the middle of building some features into Steam for customers to be able to choose the type of products they see in the store,” reads the response from Valve’s SeanJ. “Your game has content in it that needs these features to be completed and shipped first. You’ll have to do some additional store page work around describing the content in your game once we have completed those features. We don’t have an exact timeline for those features though, so please be patient as we complete the work.”
SeanJ goes on to note that work on those tools is indeed progressing, but not in a way that allows him to provide a narrowed down timeframe for their release. However, in response to the dev’s own question about meeting the game’s planned September 7 release, SeanJ tells them to “assume months at this point.”
Based on just the developers coming forward, it seems like visual novels with some degree of adult content are in the crosshairs of this approval freeze. One such dev shared their recent conversation with a Valve employee, seemingly from Valve’s developer portal, and noted that their game was being held despite censoring out adult content and images from the Steam edition ahead of time, a step the dev says has worked for their past releases on Steam.
While Valve has yet to comment on the criteria under which it is selecting games to withhold from Steam for the time being, sudden policy enforcement shifts have slighted visual novel developers in the past. At one point a few months back, Valve reached out to several visual novel developers and threatened to delist their games, all of which had been previously approved for Steam release, unless those devs patch out content deemed inappropriate. However, Valve later backed down from those threats.
Shortly after, Valve shared a blog post to update players and developers alike on how the company plans to police content on Steam moving forward. That post, published in June, clarified that Valve “shouldn’t be choosing for [players] what content you can or can’t buy,” and told developers that “we shouldn’t be choosing what content you’re allowed to create,” outside of content that is “illegal or straight up trolling.”
“Those choices should be yours to make,” reads the post. “Our role should be to provide systems and tools to support your efforts to make these choices for yourself, and to help you do it in a way that makes you feel comfortable.”
Valve has since started work on the filtering tools mentioned on that post that aim to let players better curate their own feeds, however the company has yet to offer developers much information up front about how game releases and approvals are being affected in the meantime. We’ve reached out to Valve for more information on this freeze and will update this article with any additional comments from Valve following a reply.