When I first wrote about Steam’s rumored change of heart on blockchain gaming, I felt as if they may have been a little misunderstood. I postulated that the tumultuous industry with its tricky on-ramps and occasional scams may have had them hesitant to support the technology until they had their ducks in a row. But, I over-estimated them, it seems.
It was confirmed this week, primarily by Age of Rust, that Steam is pulling away from blockchain technology completely and removing all games from the platform that uses it. While disappointing — and some judgment must be suspended until we know exactly why Steam has taken this stance — it’s not necessarily all bad. For example, the metaverse will likely consume the sort of role Steam plays and I wrote about that this week for MyMetaverse. However, Steam’s archaic approach to this new and revolutionary technology for the gaming industry has left a door wide open in the short term.
Epic Games Ceases Opportunity
I suspect Steam did not anticipate the level of backlash they have seen as a result of their blanket ban of blockchain. Other titans in the gaming space have seen this as an opportunity and stepped up to fill the void, most notably, Epic Games. This isn’t a veiled criticism of Epic — I don’t think it’s simply a good PR move — it’s an encouraging show of support. Epic’s CEO, Tim Sweeney, hasn’t overplayed the hand with an open invite; he has made it clear they’re welcoming of blockchain games within their parameters.
Epic told The Verge that it’s “open to games that support cryptocurrency or blockchain-based assets” on their game store.
Epic Games Store will welcome games that make use of blockchain tech provided they follow the relevant laws, disclose their terms, and are age-rated by an appropriate group. Though Epic's not using crypto in our games, we welcome innovation in the areas of technology and finance. https://t.co/6W7hb8zJBw— Tim Sweeney (@TimSweeneyEpic) October 15, 2021
Tim Sweeney went on in a Twitter thread to prove he has a handle on what exactly is in play here. That is, the technology has utility beyond one use-case. This sort of forward-thinking is necessary for a platform trying to rival Steam, which has a near-monopoly of the store-cum-library platform for gaming.
Why Steam’s Decision Feels Like Betrayal
You could be forgiven for thinking that the reaction to Steam’s ban of blockchain games has been disproportionate given how few games on the platform actually use the technology. However, it’s less about what we currently lose — although that isn’t easy to swallow — and more about Steam hanging out to dry the indie devs in a burgeoning sector of the industry.
Whatever Steam started life as, it has since become a hotbed for indie developers to publish their games and achieve success. They supported the little guy into prominence, where damn-near anyone could make a game, and if it’s good, have it challenge AAA titles. Now, whilst the AAA publishers are reticent to integrate blockchain technology, the indie developers have an opportunity to shine and lead the charge, only to be betrayed by one of their primary proponents.
Who will become the home for blockchain gaming remains to be seen. It should be a fiercely fought over title given that it will come with a monumental spike in revenue for that platform. Steam appears to have bowed out of the race, and if their reasons are not sufficient, they ought to be left out in the cold. As I wrote in my piece for MyMetaverse:
… they should be left to regret their reticence to assist in building the future of gaming and rue their reluctance to adopt its pioneers.“STEAM WILL COME CRAWLING BACK TO THE NFT COMMUNITY, WE SHOULDN’T LET THEM”, MyMetaverse
Nevertheless, Epic Games has shown its support when it was most needed; a move that could be both costly for Steam and transformative for Epic if the tides flow their way.