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Valve removes nearly 200 cheap, 'fake' games from Steam (update)

September 26,2017 21:13

Almost 200 games developed by Silicon Echo Studios, which Steam users have criticized for selling low-quality shovelware made to peddle trading cards, have ...

Almost 200 games developed by Silicon Echo Studios, which Steam users have criticized for selling low-quality shovelware made to peddle trading cards, have been removed from the PC storefront. It’s the latest step in Valve’s continuing battle against so-called “asset flippers,” or developers who abuse the Steam Direct system in order to cut a profit on cheap — and cheaply made — titles.
The 173 removed games include titles like Clickey, Grim Banana and SHAPES. If you’re unfamiliar with those names, it’s likely because these and the rest of the Silicon Echo games were poorly received and what Valve calls “fake” games. Each one used pre-made Unity assets, so that the developer could churn them out quickly and on the cheap through the Steam Direct program. Additionally, by pushing through multiple games under one Steam Direct application, the studio was able to circumvent paying the $100 fee for every individual title.
YouTuber SidAlpha uploaded a damning video and research file cataloguing the number of titles published by Silicon Echo, which has allegedly also sold games under the name Zonitron Productions, over the past three months alone. Based on his findings, the studio’s titles accounted for at least 10 percent of all games released on Steam in both July and August, with 86 titles published in those two months alone.

These were often given away in either free or low-cost bundles. Anyone on Steam interested in boosting their user level and collecting some easy trading cards to resell on the gray market could pick up Silicon Echo’s packages for little cost, earning back some cash with minimum effort for both themselves and the developer. Although trading cards typically go for as little as 25 cents, racking up a number of them can help users pay off a cheap game bundle purchase. Since developers get a cut, it’s a win-win situation.
Valve publicly condemned this practice in August. The company announced that it would restrict the number of keys it issued to developers for resale if Valve found them to be exploiting the practice.
“We’re not interested in supporting trading card farming or bot networks at the expense of being able to provide value and service for players,” the company told Polygon then.
Although Valve has removed cheap games that abused Steam Direct from the store before, this is the largest number we’ve seen the company take down this year. The entire Silicon Echo library is no longer available, according to the SteamAPI, although owners can still access titles in their personal collections. They’ll just be unable to collect trading cards, going forward — rendering them essentially useless.
We’ve reached out to both Silicon Echo and Valve about the removal of these games and will update when we hear back.
Update: Valve confirmed that it removed games published by Silicon Echo, Zonitron and other associated accounts in a statement to Polygon. It follows in full below:

Yes, we have a full-time team monitoring reports and they identified an issue that lead to the removal of some titles from a few different Steamworks accounts. 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.
The Steam platform is open, but we do ask developers to respect our customers and our policies. Spamming cloned games or manipulating our store tools isn’t something we will tolerate. Our priority is helping players find games they will enjoy playing.

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