For many, the metrics provided by SteamSpy were an invaluable tool to cut through press releases crowing about player numbers and a game’s overall health. With a rollout of new Steam privacy settings, however, the service has been essentially shut down according to SteamSpy’s creator Sergey Galyonkin.
A blog post from Valve detailed new privacy setting features that let players select who can view their profile’s game details, including lists of games purchased or wishlisted, achievements, play time, and whether they’re in-game or not. Future changes are also in the works, including an “invisible” mode.
Valve calls the privacy setting adjustments a way for users to have more control over their privacy. “You will be able to manage how you are viewed by your friends, or the wider Steam Community,” reads the post.
SteamSpy’s response to these changes stated that the new policy has cut the service off from needed data. “Steam Spy relied on [game ownership] information being visible by default and won’t be able to operate anymore,” reads the tweet.
To be clear, the settings themselves aren’t the issue so much as the fact that every user’s gaming library has been set to be hidden by default, which means that it’s possible for people to opt-in and provide that information. That said, a response to a tweet that suggested as much says that may not be enough. “Opt-in isn’t good for this type of estimates, I’m afraid,” wrote SteamSpy.
While Valve claims that user feedback brought about these changes, we have to squint at the decision, especially since the shift is less about protecting personal information and more about hiding one’s love of certain games behind a digital curtain. Overall, these adjustments smack of other forces at work than “user feedback.”
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