For those of us who play video games on a PC, Valve Corporation and their online storefront, Steam, are well-known and trusted vendors in the online gaming world. Valve has been regarded as one of the darlings of the video game industry for the past decade due to a string of genre-defining blockbusters like the Portal series, the Half-Life series, and Team Fortress 1 and 2 For the past several months, however, the company has come under fire from consumers and game publishers alike for their apparent lack of quality control on the Steam storefront. These attitudes have only grown in intensity due to a controversial announcement this week from the company.
If Valve cared the slightest bit about quality control of their storefront before the announcement, it's clear that any such sentiment has now been thrown out the window. In an attempt to give independent developers greater freedom, the company announced that all games, no matter how poorly made and broken they may be, will be allowed on Steam for the purchase of the general public. The only exceptions to this laissez-faire business policy are games that deliberately contain illegal content or games made specifically to troll customers.
While Valve may claim this policy will allow greater ease of access to sellers, I can't help but take this sentiment with a grain of salt. People have good reason to be skeptical of this statement, given the current state of Steam. Since the debut of the storefront's "Greenlight" program in 2012, wherein prospective customers could vote on which games made it onto the store, the quality of games available on Steam has declined noticeably. Untested, buggy and even broken games are a common sight on the Steam of 2018, with some even lacking an executable file allowing them to run.
Also prevalent among the glut of disappointing software are what are referred to as "asset flips." This is when a developer or team buys game assets (character models, ground/sky textures, objects, weapons, etc.) from online sources like Unity and other game asset stores, cobbles them together and releases them as a game in their own right. At best, the practice is a lazy way for developers with no ideas of their own to sell an underwhelming product.
At worst, this can result in outright plagiarism on the part of the developer, taking credit for and freely selling assets made by others. This was the case with the notable 2014 release, The Slaughtering Grounds, in which all of the game's assets were taken from online sources, including textures and blood effects, ripped straight off Google Images, watermarks and all.
I believe that Valve needs to bear at least some responsibility for the potential garbage that can end up on Steam, and should take the effort to curate the products to some degree. After all, you can't just sell a homemade sandwich at the grocery store without warning. It's important to note that in a physical store, this problem wouldn't be as pronounced. If a seller was known to consistently produce broken or inferior products, the store wouldn't keep ordering from them for long.
In the case of an online storefront, where space is infinite, however, the problem can become a nightmare. The sheer amount of trash outweighs quality games every time, and since Steam exists online, games will never disappear from the store unless deliberately removed by Valve, an action they seem unwilling to take. I can only hope that Valve implements some sort of quality screening soon, otherwise their reputation may be tarnished forever in the minds of critics and consumers alike.