A few days back I posted some thoughts on Onebookshelf's decision to kick the "Gamergate Card Game" from their online stores. Not long after this incident an interestingly similar situation arose with Steam and a game called Hatred. No links to the game, Google it yourself (I found it a disturbing mess).
Here's the scoop:
Steam banned a game called Hatred from its Greenlight section, for much the same reason initially that Onebookshelf banned the Gamergate Card Game (topical and offensive, apparently a bad mix). Shortly thereafter Gabe Newell himself came out and reversed the decision, stating that it was not Steam's job to act as a gatekeeper of content. Specifically, he stated (from PC Gamer):
"Yesterday I heard that we were taking Hatred down from Greenlight. Since I wasn't up to speed, I asked around internally to find out why we had done that. It turns out that it wasn't a good decision, and we'll be putting Hatred back up. My apologies to you and your team. Steam is about creating tools for content creators and customers."
This is interesting to me because it implies that Steam is very much aware of the fact that they are a platform of delivery of content....a mediator...between the publishers and the consumers. They are not the ones who get to decide what publishers can sell, and have even set up tools (such as Steam Greenlight) which let publishers pitch ideas and the consumers vote on what they want to buy. If a game like Hatred has no market or interest, it will presumably wither and die at that point, without Steam ever having to apply any ethical oversight at all....leave it to the consumer. And of course, if it does get Greenlighted then it is clearly sufficient for those who wanted to back the game that they now can --and it means that those in the crowd like myself who wouldn't touch this game with a ten foot pole are now free to ignore it and vote with our wallets by buying other, better games elsewhere.
I haven't particularly been fond of the end-product of the Greenlight process because it has led to a torrent of "early access" titles on Steam that are, indeed, largely unfinished and rarely worth paying for if you're not in the business of being an unpaid QA tester with almost zero presence to the development team. But that said, I think I do like the Greenlight process as it works here.
Unfortunately the business model for Onebookshelf wouldn't likely support such a structure....which might end up feeling like a weird cross between a retail outlet and Kickstarter if they tried, most likely....but the principle holds well. Wouldn't a title like the Gamergate Card Game have been better left for sale, to be soundly beaten about in bad reviews and comments on its page rather than removed from sale?