Steam Now Requires Users to Disclose Paid Endorsements

Valve's new rules come after months of struggling to limit conflicts of interest on Steam Greenlight.

118 Comments
No Caption Provided

Valve updated the Steam Subscriber Agreement today, adding a few mundane things and one particularly interesting clause (via Gamasutra). Users are now required to "clearly indicate the source" when they use any Steam service to "promote or endorse a product, service or event" in exchange for money, free games, or another inventive.

This mirrors a change Valve made back in October for Steam Curators and is the latest attempt to bring new digital services in line with existing Federal Trade Commission regulations about properly disclosing potential conflicts of interest.

The FTC is an arm of the federal government that fights for consumer protection. Their rules have always applied to traditional media outlets, but this is the first time Steam has required its users to disclose conflicts of interest--possibly because of Steam's Greenlight voting platform and user reviews.

Last month, Valve publicly asked developers to stop offering free games to users in exchange for votes on Greenlight, adding that it puts Valve in a "really uncomfortable position." A similar issue cropped up in the YouTube community, prompting investigations by Kotaku among others.

"Generally speaking, if an advertiser or a marketer is paying someone to write favorable reviews, the reviewer needs to disclose that," Mary Engle, associate director for Advertising Practices at the FTC, said to Gamasutra, "and that disclosure should be clear and conspicuous, and should be upfront and easy to see where the viewer won't miss it."

You can see the full user agreement, and compare the changes to the previous version here.

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

Join the conversation
There are 118 comments about this story
118 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
GameSpot has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to toxic conduct in comments. Any abusive, racist, sexist, threatening, bullying, vulgar, and otherwise objectionable behavior will result in moderation and/or account termination. Please keep your discussion civil.

Avatar image for wolfbm
wolfbm

630

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 17

User Lists: 0

If I read this correctly and it is used right I can see this being a possible good thing. While everyone knows supporting kick starters and early access games is a gamble some developers take it too far. CodeHatch and their pos game Starforge is a perfect example where this idea is good. They constantly banned people who didn't say the game was great and in fact the only positive reviews are either trolls or in company up votes.

Avatar image for nico_belic_jr
Nico_Belic_Jr

31

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

yeah beacause only the big guys should be allowed to lie and cheat and pay for endorsements and favorable reviews. right?

Avatar image for Xcalibur_basic
Xcalibur_basic

87

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 2

User Lists: 0

Gamergate is winning? It's happening!!!

Avatar image for Deadlysyns87
Deadlysyns87

502

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

#gamergate = Winning guys you can't ignore it #gamergate is doing some good.

Avatar image for Sl4cka
Sl4cka

25

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

<< LINK REMOVED >> Are you saying gamergate is not a sexist terrorist organization? Preposterous!

Avatar image for Deadlysyns87
Deadlysyns87

502

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> I know eh.

Avatar image for suicidesn0wman
suicidesn0wman

7490

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 10

User Lists: 0

Why would they need to pay for this? Have they not seen how the fanboys run rampant on the internet spreading their glorious brands? They do it for free!

Avatar image for Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

14888

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

<< LINK REMOVED >> Because often fanboys aren't enough to get Greenlighted. That's when the shady tactics come into play.

Avatar image for Jinzo_111887
Jinzo_111887

2266

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

<< LINK REMOVED >> It's about Indy devs trying to bribe people into up voting their games, which is cheating the system.

Avatar image for Hurvl
Hurvl

2224

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> Yeah and that's wrong, because only fanboys are allowed to mess up the system.

Avatar image for blackothh
blackothh

69

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

Do people watch videos with their eyes closed or something? you dont need someones irrelevant opinion to SEE FOR YOURSELF if the gameplay is something that you would enjoy. Paid or not, I still need to see gameplay in youtube videos to decide if the game is right for me.

Dont get me wrong, its nice to know if someone is being bribed into saying only good things. It would just get me to ignore their "opinion" even more.

Avatar image for Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

14888

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

<< LINK REMOVED >> Aliens Colonial Marines had a video where the gameplay looked like something people would enjoy.


The video turned out to be a fraud. Videos aren't even enough anymore.

Avatar image for bloody-hell
bloody-hell

127

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 8

User Lists: 0

<< LINK REMOVED >> To be fair, I think he meant actual gameplay videos not marketing video material.

Marketing, especially for "AAA" titles is always misleading, carefully prepared for specific target audiences or too much of a "vertical slice".

Actual gameplay however, you know lengthy Twitch streams and YouTube videos by actual players or the developers themselves (see Cities: Skylines) for an excellent example, covering game mechanics and features, that tells the true story about a game.


But then again I may be different - I don't preorder or impulse-buy, no matter how nice a marketing / preview video may look unless it's already playable (e.g. Early Access) and is interesting / good enough in its current state and the developers show commitment and listen to feedback with periodic game updates. (then again, buying a game in "Early Access" cannot really be considered preordering but you get the idea)

Avatar image for blackothh
blackothh

69

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> There are always exceptions, but I cant say I never watched any footage on the game. I had no interest in colonial marines whatsoever, and im a huge gearbox/borderlands fan. Didn't even have to watch a video, Movie games dont have a great track record.

Avatar image for bloody-hell
bloody-hell

127

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 8

User Lists: 0

<< LINK REMOVED >> You mean we have to use common sense and think for ourselves ? On the internet ? Oh no, the horrors.


I too don't care too much what some YouTuber for example has to say about game X - if I don't like what I see, then he can sugarcoat it as much as he wants, I'm not easily impressionable and do my research as a mindful customer.

Though those that do fully disclose their "deals" earn my respect at the very least and therefore continue to get some clicks for ad-revenue.

Avatar image for skipper847
skipper847

7331

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 9

User Lists: 0

Hay Indie dev. Give me game free I will give good review even if Crap.

Avatar image for Ripper_TV
Ripper_TV

2972

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 34

User Lists: 1

Impossible to enforce, so... useless.


P.S. I'm wonderng why is Gamespot not one of the Steam curators? IGN is!

Avatar image for Jinzo_111887
Jinzo_111887

2266

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

<< LINK REMOVED >> If they can find out who is bribing others, they can close down their account. If they want to try Greenlight again, it's going to cost them another $100 donation to charity.

Avatar image for kachan64
kachan64

82

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 3

User Lists: 1

This is really a good news after people speculating that for ages wondering who paid who to write reviews...

Avatar image for gaealiege
Gaealiege

85

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 5

<< LINK REMOVED >> Most people, with a functioning brain, realize that shills exist. There are blatant shills on this site even.

Avatar image for Dilandau88
Dilandau88

634

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

This is nice lip service, but how do they enforce this?

Avatar image for Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

14888

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

<< LINK REMOVED >> If they find out you did it - your game gets thrown off Steam. It's a credible threat, difficult to catch, but devs will have to decide if it's worth the risk.

Avatar image for LesserAngel
LesserAngel

289

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

<< LINK REMOVED >> Good question, it's probably more a PR move than anything to be honest. It's not something that can really be enforced proactively, only retroactively. I suppose if they got enough complaints and/or evidence of wrongdoing, is when they could actually enforce this whole thing, which is a whole 'nother furball.

Avatar image for kargion
kargion

502

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 3

User Lists: 0

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> Basically its a threat. They can't enforce right away, but if they prove you did it, then your gonna get a hefty punishment.

Avatar image for ferval100
ferval100

129

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

"Clearly indicate the "SOURCE."" ICWATUDIDTH3R3.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

24097

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 551

User Lists: 4

<< LINK REMOVED >>

With you having said all that you have said there, do remember to demand that so-called "independent" game journalists disclose the real identities of patrons who are giving them money over Patreon too - or GoFundMe for that matter. ;)

Remember - no double standards. Even for game journalists and sites which you happen to like.

Avatar image for Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

14888

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> I'm not sure what that has to do with anything. If anything, those journliasts shouldn't even HAVE Patreons.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

24097

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 551

User Lists: 4

<< LINK REMOVED >>

Then what about Niche Gamer? It does.

Avatar image for Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

14888

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> Which is why I don't support it. Also, running a Patreon is to run the site, which seems reasonable for those who wish to pay. Same as asking for donations which countless sites across the internet do. Or "premium member" programs which even some video game sites do.

I'm not sure why you think that you are somehow entitled to the list of donators.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

24097

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 551

User Lists: 4

<< LINK REMOVED >>

Then do you believe that having Patreon funding won't cause matters of undue influence on a site which carries the opinions of so-called independent games journalists?

(Please don't mention other things.)

Avatar image for Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

14888

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> The funding is independent, no? And it's not quite funding the journalist - but the company that employs them (independently). A journalist should not have a PERSONAL Patreon.


What undo influence are you referring to? Are you going to answer my question? Why do you think you are somehow entitled to the list of donators?


Please don't mention other things.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

24097

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 551

User Lists: 4

<< LINK REMOVED >>

Oh sure, a journalist should not have a personal Patreon, but the site which employs them "independently" can have Patreon funding, which is somehow "independent".

That's quite a lot of vague use of the term "independent" there.

Also, as for my remark about undue influence, what guarantee is there that the site's management would not follow the demands of the site's patrons when a disagreement occurs? What guarantee is there that the so-called journalists which contribute to it won't dance to the tune of the site and its backers?

Also, if a policy of disclosure is so important among games journalist, why should not a site which takes funding from Patreon disclose the identities of its backers?

Avatar image for Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

14888

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> Do you really not understand the difference between a personal Patreon and one supporting a site/business, or are you being intentionally oblivious?

You're suggesting that a journalist working for a site might write things that their customers want and are interested in? You're....seriously suggesting this is a bad thing? I...what? I'm still not sure what you're getting at, because you're being intentionally vague. (Because as usual you're grasping at straws) What wrongdoing are you asserting?


Just because "disclosure is important" doesn't mean everything should be disclosed. Should a charity disclose everyone who gave money to them, so as that charity isn't accused of having undo influence wrought upon it by their financial base? Who donates money to your site isn't important, just like who visits your site and generates ad revenue isn't important. Do you not see how utterly ridiculous you're being, in a vain attempt to score internet debate points?


Do you even understand what a conflict of interest is?

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

24097

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 551

User Lists: 4

<< LINK REMOVED >>

Also, you are mentioning other unrelated things again, namely bringing up charity, which is not the same as Patreon funding to pay for operational costs.

Don't bother with a diversion. I won't bite that bait.

Avatar image for Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

14888

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> You're the person equating disclosing conflicts of interest to an article or review to demanding names of donators or financiers. I brought up a perfectly comparable example that shows how utterly ridiculous you're acting. You won't answer because it reveals your entire argument to be the sham it is.


I don't think journalists should have personal Patreons in order to fund their life, ESPECIALLY if they're already employed! I have no problem with it funding their company. I don't know how this could be made any clearer to you.


"And with that, I turn your own question at you"

That's all you ever do, answer questions with questions. The most dishonest debating technique in the book. So that'll be my last reply in this chain. Get your last post in like your personal issues force you to.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

24097

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 551

User Lists: 4

<< LINK REMOVED >>

Yet I would say that the example is only "perfectly comparable" in your own mind - which I would add have problems of its own, namely an overweening sense of self-righteousness.

If you are going to say that my argument is a sham, then I will say that you have double standards and you go around this by trying to discredit my argument with lousy analogies and vague statements.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

24097

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 551

User Lists: 4

<< LINK REMOVED >>

No, I am not suggesting that. You are putting words which I did not say into my mouth.

Since you have said that "a journalist working for a site might write things that their customers want and are interested in" and appear to imply that nothing is wrong with this, why is it that you say that "a journalist should not have a PERSONAL Patreon"?

After all, such journalists could "write things that their customers want and are interested in", to use your own words.

If you think that this is a bad thing, how is it that it is not a bad thing for a site to do the same?

And with that, I turn your own question at you: do you even understand what a conflict of interest is?

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

24097

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 551

User Lists: 4

This should have been established far, far earlier, Valve.

Now, Valve will have to do something about whimsy-voting on Greenlight. I used to like Greenlight, but now it's letting sh*tty games get onto Steam and more importantly, into discount packages.

Avatar image for LesserAngel
LesserAngel

289

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

<< LINK REMOVED >> It's kind of a weird issue, because there's nothing stopping bad games from being sold at physical retailers, why should digital be any different? That being said, there really should be higher standards for early-access games.

Avatar image for Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

14888

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

Valve knows there's ethical problems amongst indie games, no matter what some garbage game journalists would claim.

Avatar image for iandizion713
iandizion713

16025

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 14

User Lists: 0

Nice job Valve, transparency is a key to long term success.