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Steam Switcheroo Swaps "Pirate Action" Game For Hentai

Illustration for article titled Steam Switcheroo Swaps Pirate Action Game For Hentai
Screenshot: Tale of Fortune (Steam)

There’s a small but growing trend on Steam where developers take existing games that few people have ever seen or played and just...swap them out, replacing them with entirely different games, albeit ones using the same store page.

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As GI.biz report, and pulling examples from this excellent community post by Mellow_Online1, there have been quite a few cases recently where a game has been released, sometimes in early access, and then one day it’s gone.

Take Aiball: Drunks, for example, a party game released in 2016 that managed to attract a handful of sales and user reviews. In March 2019 the few people owning Airball may have noticed that the entire game was removed and replaced with Penguin Cretins, which wasn’t an update or redesign of Airball, but an entirely new and different game.

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Following pressure from Steam users who noticed the switch and complained, the developers reverted the game this past weekend back to Airball, saying “This is an early version of the game that is changing during development. But, as we see, people who bought Airball do not need any penguins, so we are returning the old name and version of the game.”

That’s clearly untrue, since Penguin Cretins had absolutely nothing in common with Airball! And swapping the game was an extremely shitty thing to do, because anyone who had owned Airball could no longer play it, since the files no longer had a store entry to launch from, and the game couldn’t be redownloaded because Penguin Cretins was there instead.

And that’s just one example. Another even wilder one is the case of Tale of Fortune, previously an action game where you played as a pirate searching for treasure, since replaced with an adults-only hentai game that has kept the same name but absolutely nothing else (and whose community page is still live, but whose store page is currently down).

While community feedback is helping in some of these cases, there’s a wider problem in that there’s nothing in Steam’s Terms of Service expressly forbidding a practice like this. As lawyer Richard Hoeg says in this video, while there are general terms governing developer conduct like “good faith” and “fair dealing”, Valve will need to tighten that up (or take more frequent, direct action) if they want to avoid this becoming a larger problem in the future.

Luke Plunkett is a Senior Editor based in Canberra, Australia. He has written a book on cosplay, designed a game about airplanes, and also runs cosplay.kotaku.com.

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DISCUSSION

nugwisomkami
Nugwisomkami

> Valve will need to tighten that up (or take more frequent, direct action) if they want to avoid this becoming a larger problem in the future.

I feel like Valve needs to loosen up, actually.

The problem here is because despite publicly saying that they’d allow anything on Steam that isn’t illegal, behind the scenes, their approval process is completely opaque, strict, and arbitrary. If you submit a game for approval and they deny it, they won’t tell you why, and they will never allow you to submit it again, even under another name or with completely changed assets. There are many visual novels — not even erotic ones, just perfectly PG-13 ones, although they’re definitely harsher on erotic content — that have been permanently banned for unknown reasons. There are no set guidelines for what is or isn’t allowed. If you submit a game and it gets perma-rejected, now you’re not even allowed to say what it was if you want to keep your publisher relationship with Steam.

There are other stores out there, but everybody knows that Steam has an effective monopoly on the PC market, and if you can get a game released on Steam, that’s where >90% of your revenue will come from.

So you do what you gotta do to get your game on there, even if that means quietly replacing older games that nobody cares about.