Steam no longer allows games or other applications that involve minting or exchanging cryptocurrency or non-fungible tokens.
The company behind Steam, Bellevue, Wash.-based Valve Software, quietly changed its content regulations and guidelines for studio partners in the previous several months. Programs “based on blockchain technology that issue or facilitate the trading of cryptocurrencies or NFTs” are now clearly prohibited.
It should still be feasible to publish blockchain-based games on Steam under the criteria specified, as long as they don’t include crypto/NFT trading or “play-to-earn” mechanisms. Other blockchain-based gaming applications, such as unique in-game objects tied to a certain player, would theoretically be unaffected by Valve’s new regulation.
Steam has announced that blockchain technology will be banned from its games, putting an end to the idea that gaming assets represented by non-fungible tokens (NFTs) will one day become widespread.
The formal NFT and cryptocurrency restriction was just recently discovered by a developer working on a game that included NFTs, although it is definitely Steam company policy.
However, Steam’s rival platform, Epic, surprised everyone by announcing that they would be open to games employing NFTs and cryptos, taking the fight to Steam. We will discuss about Epic and their approach later in the article.
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About Steam Platform
Steam is a digital distribution service and shops for video games by Valve. In September 2003, it was released as a separate software client as a mechanism for Valve to give automatic updates for its games, and it later extended to distribute and market titles from third-party game publishers. Digital rights management (DRM), game server matching and anti-cheat measures, as well as social networking and game streaming services, are all available through Steam. It offers automatic game updates, cloud synchronization of saved games, and community features including friend messaging, in-game chat, and a community market.
Steam is the most popular digital distribution channel for PC games, accounting for over 75% of the market in 2013. By 2017, Steam users had spent around US$4.3 billion on games, accounting for at least 18% of global PC game sales. The service had over 34,000 games and 95 million monthly active users by 2019. The success of Steam prompted the creation of the Steam Machine platform in 2015, which comprises the SteamOS operating system and Steam Controller, Steam Link devices for local game streaming, and a handheld PC Steam Deck in 2022.
Steam Bans NFTs And Blockchain Games
So, the modifications to Steam’s developer onboarding interface were first noticed by SpacePirate, a developer working on a first-person adventure game that allows you to earn NFTs by solving puzzles.
The new regulation is a relatively new addition to the developer onboarding process, and it is likely to have caught one or two developers off guard, requiring them to reconsider their game and overall development approach.
Valve appears to have attempted to fly under the industry’s radar with its new policy. It hasn’t made any public announcements about the move, and some of its onboarding documentation for new publishing partners still doesn’t mention it, according to The Verge.
Instead, the news came from SpacePirate Games, the creators of Age of Rust, an indie game that was set to be released on Steam later this year. “Detailed puzzles, a fresh plot, new places, and in-game treasure hunts for blockchain assets and currency,” according to Age of Rust’s official website. Age of Rust has a well-hidden artifact worth 20 Bitcoin ($1.22 million as of October 16th, 2021) to whoever finds it.
On September 30th, 2021, Steam pulled Light Nite, a multiplayer third-person shooter with a “play to earn” system that rewarded in-game triumphs with small sums of Bitcoin. Satoshis Games, the game’s creator, said at the time that “Steam has let us know that they will not be distributing crypto or NFT games” a few weeks before the announcement.
Other cryptos/NFT-focused games, like the famed South Korean MMORPG Mir4, are still available on Steam at the time of writing, but it’s anyone’s guess how long that will remain.
But why is Steam refusing to allow crypto, blockchain, and NFT material on its platform?
Why Steam Is Banning NFTs And Crypto
While Steam has not issued an official statement on its NFT and crypto ban, there are most likely two basic reasons behind it.
To begin with, NFTs do not have a good reputation. Much if they have in-game purposes, many people regard them as merely speculative assets, even more so than most cryptocurrencies. Some of the in-game uses are intriguing, but it’s difficult to see how Steam could integrate and manage them (despite the tremendous success of its existing in-game item programs).
NFTs are also considered negative for the environment because they require a lot of computational power to mint and process.
Other cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin, have comparable environmental issues, and it will be difficult for NFTs to overcome this stigma, even if they launch on less harmful platforms such as Solana, Cardano, and Zilliqa.
The second reason (and the primary reason, according to SpacePirate) is that Steam does not want its platform to be monetized by anyone other than themselves. Although the original essay asserts that Steam doesn’t want real-world objects with real-world value, Team Fortress 2’s and other Steam games’ success with item trading puts that to rest. In actuality, Steam is unlikely to desire an item trading network that cuts them out of the loop, so reducing the site’s potential earnings.
Epic: We Adore Cryptocurrencies And Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs)
Epic CEO Tim Sweeney, never one to pass up an opportunity to score some free points against a competitor, took to Twitter to disclose that the platform would be heading oppositely to Steam.
However, there was little in the way of actual information, except for a hopeful and attention-getting statement from the Epic lead.
Sweeney’s remark also contradicted a recent tweet in which he criticized NFTs as a field “currently tangled up with an intractable combination of scammers, fascinating decentralized tech foundations, and scams.”
Of course, people can change their opinions, and you can recognize the potential of a technology like NFTs while also acknowledging that it isn’t suitable for its intended use.
While Tim Sweeney is open to allowing blockchain technology and NFTs on his platform, you won’t be able to purchase a unique Fortnite NFT costume anytime soon.
It’ll be interesting to watch how other gaming platforms react to Steam and Epic’s pronouncements on NFTs. Will Microsoft enable NFTs on the Xbox network as a whole? What about Sony or Nintendo, for example?
The best case for Steam allowing blockchain games is that it will aid with distribution and credibility. That is, however, a benefit to game developers that do not assist Steam with any of the big regulatory concerns. Steam has the potential to be a pioneer in this field and help legitimize blockchain games for the casual gamer, but it’s clear why the company is treading carefully until additional restrictions are clarified.