In efforts to police content on Steam, Valve suddenly changed its policy in mid-May and cracked down on on certain visual novels, giving them a week or two to change their content or be removed from the store. The resulting backlash from confused developers and angry fans pushed Valve to walk back that policy. Weeks later, they've formally announced a new one: Allow everything that's not illegal or "straight-up trolling" and give players tools not to see games they don't like.
The company will take almost a completely hands-off approach to moderating content on Steam and introduce better tools to let players filter out content. "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," Valve's business head Erik Johnson wrote in a blog post announcing the new policy.
This is pretty much Valve giving up and washing its hands of responsibility since it and it alone decides what is 'illegal' or 'trolling,' as Polygon points out. Developers will be urged to self-report what potentially controversial content their games include or face potential banishment from the platform. In exchange, they'll get protective options, too: "Developers who build controversial content shouldn't have to deal with harassment because their game exists," Johnson wrote.
The exceptions would align this new barely-policing policy with Valve's recent decision to ban the game Active Shooter from Steam. At the time, Valve openly called the title's creator "a troll, with a history of customer abuse, publishing copyrighted material and user review manipulation." But the policy change essentially opens the platform up to a lot of controversial content -- which, so long as it's not illegal or insincere, is fair game -- that Valve insists has a right to be on there, just like players have the right not to see it.
"There will be people throughout the Steam community who hate your games, and hope you fail to find an audience, and there will be people here at Valve who feel exactly the same way. However, offending someone shouldn't take away your game's voice. We believe you should be able to express yourself like everyone else, and to find others who want to play your game," Johnson wrote.
But complaints haven't all been about adult or discriminatory content -- the new policy says nothing about quality control, which is a growing problem as the volume of titles coming to the platform skyrocket (over 10,000 games are expected to be added to Steam in 2018). Per the new policy, Valve won't make significant changes to the platform until they've finished some of the tools described in the post.