Game Devs Cry Over Steam Spy's Demise, While Others Celebrate


Steam's updated privacy settings, which now hide a user's library by default, was a blow to Steam Spy and every developer who uses its data.

Steam Spy's Shut Down Hurts Developers

As expected, these game developers did not take the updated privacy policies too kindly. Steam Spy relied on the gamers' profiles to provide statistics and estimate game sales. Having the information hidden from public view, it can no longer operate.

This means that developers would no longer have access to valuable data that they use to assess market demand and estimate the success of similar titles. Chris Wilson, Path of Exile lead designer, said that they will be forced to rely on data from a more expensive market research. This will hurt indie developers more, as noted by Sergey Galyonkin, creator of Steam Spy. Other people even noted that this move might make some developers quit altogether.

Game designer Andrew Crenshaw also noted that Steam Spy encouraged transparency in sales figures. Ragnar Tørnquist, director of Dreamfall, shared the same sentiment, adding that this would have been great for the industry.

Other Developers Say Steam Made The Right Call

However, there are some who see the benefits of Steam's move. The developer Sean Barrett agreed to the move, saying it was the right decision even if it took down Steam Spy, a service that he also liked.

"A physical or digital retailer shouldn't expose anyone's purchase history publicly by default," added Tim Sweeney, CEO of Epic Games.

Furthermore, others noted that Steam Spy might be doing more harm than good. It is not exactly a reliable source of accurate data due to its methods, and it was often branded as "unreliable."

While the data from Steam Spy was helpful to those who know how to crunch their numbers, it was misleading to those who took it at face value.

"Unfortunately, the vast majority of Steam Spy armchair statisticians I've witnessed completely misinterpret every little bit of data on there," said Mike Rose, founder of video game publisher No More Robots.

There were even cases of using the data to harass developers. A victim was Scott Benson, developer of Night in the Woods, saying that Steam Spy's data about his game was not even accurate.

Why Did Steam Update Its Privacy Settings?

The timing of the update curiously lined up with Mark Zuckerberg's Facebook privacy scandal and new EU privacy laws rolling out in May. According to Valve, though, the move was a response to users demanding more privacy. Some also doubt that this was for the betterment of the users but for Steam's bottom line.

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