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Steam says it will stop censoring games, publish anything that isn't illegal or trolling

Curation is hard, so Valve won't do it anymore.

Sean Hollister Senior Editor / Reviews
When his parents denied him a Super NES, he got mad. When they traded a prize Sega Genesis for a 2400 baud modem, he got even. Years of Internet shareware, eBay'd possessions and video game testing jobs after that, he joined Engadget. He helped found The Verge, and later served as Gizmodo's reviews editor. When he's not madly testing laptops, apps, virtual reality experiences, and whatever new gadget will supposedly change the world, he likes to kick back with some games, a good Nerf blaster, and a bottle of Tejava.
Sean Hollister
2 min read

An early Steam Controller.


Steam is likely the world's biggest PC gaming marketplace, with an estimated $4.3 billion in yearly revenue and as many as 15 million concurrent users at any given moment. And as of today, it's no longer a place that plans to engage in censorship. Valve says that Steam will now publish practically anything developers submit.

According to a lengthy office blog post, "Who Gets To Be On The Steam Store?," Valve's Erik Johnson explains that there are basically only two categories of content the company will reject: "Things that we decide are illegal," and "straight up trolling."

It sounds like those guidelines would still allow Valve to reject the school shooting game that briefly appeared on Steam last week. When Valve rejected that game (Active Shooter), it called the developer a troll, citing "a history of customer abuse, publishing copyrighted material, and user review manipulation."

But it probably also means that sexually explicit visual novels and games, like the ones Steam recently threatened with expulsion unless they decided to self-censor, will have a home on Steam now. 

Why the change? That's what Johnson's entire post is about, and it'd be inadequate to boil it down to a choice quote or two. I recommend you read it in full. But if you can't or won't click: Curation is hard and confusing, and Valve thinks it'd be easier and make more people happier if they don't do it. 

The company has taken flak in the past for allowing some games with sexually explicit scenes onto Steam, like the critically-acclaimed The Witcher 3, while threatening others with rejection.

Instead of censoring, Valve plans to create new tools to let people self-filter. "Taking this approach allows us to focus less on trying to police what should be on Steam, and more on building those tools to give people control over what kinds of content they see," writes Johnson.