Why Steam’s Shovelware Probably Deserves To Be There

Untitled-1 I imagine most people don’t, but ever since Steam opened its floodgates and later added the discoverability update, I’ve continued to sift through the que of games it presents me daily (sometimes twice daily). This means I have to trek through all the shovelware people have complained about on Steam lately. Honestly, I really don’t mind that it’s there.

I’ve heard talk of some developers going so far as to abandon Steam because their game might get buried under that shovelware, just as it may have on other digital platforms in the past. It’s like they’re all trying to find a final escape from the shovelware, one that might not exist.

The first issue I have with this mindset is the idea of what a good game actually is. People obviously put hard work into their games, but that doesn’t make it easy to decide what games deserve to be distributed and which ones don’t. When people say they want a walled garden where only “good games” get in, what they might really mean is only games they like. The whole reason Valve started making these changes is because in the old system it rejected too many “good” games.

Secondly, shovelware will never go away, and it has to go somewhere. Traditionally, the most popular game platform always get’s the shovelware. 10-15 years ago it was the PS2, then the Wii, now it’s Steam and mobile platforms. Actually I think console gamers should be glad right now because you see a lot less shovelware clogging console game libraries these days.

I’ve you’ve ever looked at the PC game section of a retail store like Wal-Mart or Office Depot you might spot a tiny rack (maybe near the cash register) full of what look like crappy games that are still packaged in jewel cases. Some are actually classics still sold on shelves today like Star Wars Republic CommandoJedi Knight II, or Fallout 2, but most are hidden item games or children’s adventure games. Maybe you’ve noticed a lot of that is starting to show up on Steam.

Honestly, I think this is a sign the game selection on Steam is starting to resemble the true landscape of PC gaming in general. People like to instantly associate PC gaming with high-end products that break graphics cards or indie hidden gems, but they forget what those gems are hidden in. More importantly, they forget that gaming on Windows is really just about being an open platform that allows almost everything in.

Maybe people want Steam to be a walled garden and for “everything” to go somewhere else on PC, and that’s a valid thing to want I guess. Valve however has basically decided to allow a plurality of PC gaming onto its store. Its current discoverability initiative is its way of dealing with that, and it has admitted Greenlight was a mistake and plans to eventually put a bullet in its head. Maybe Valve really should have hired a curation team just like Sony and Microsoft, but this is the path it’s chosen.

I’ve said this once before, but with platforms as popular as Steam and iOS, I think one store alone is too narrow a channel. I think Apple’s app store alone is too narrow a channel for the plurality of software being made for iOS. Steam is of course just one store on Windows (and other PC platforms), but Steam as an API is becoming popular as a platform in its own right. Steam curators is already a lite version of people essentially setting up different stores. Apple keeping one app store is good security-wise, but maybe it should let other retailers also sell the software after it’s certified. Just a thought.


  • Cool-looking 3DS game getting localized. Looks like Ace Combat combined with Zone of the Endershttp://t.co/FxXlNCm0RG
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