The owner of Steam Spy, the website that provides game sales data on Steam, will no longer accept developers’ requests to remove their games from his service. Instead, all data collected from the platform will be included on Steam Spy, and even on games whose studios previously asked for their information to be hidden.
A string of tweets from the Steam Spy account earlier today explained the decision to overturn previously honored requests and restore all previously removed games. The move was instigated by a message from Techland, Steam Spy owner Sergey Galyonkin wrote, the studio behind Dying Light and Dead Island.
"Techland requested the removal of their games as well," Galyonkin said. "Should I just stop honoring these requests?"
Where he responded to previous messages from publishers — like Squad (Kerbal Space Program) and Paradox Interactive (Stellaris, Pillars of Eternity) — asking for their games to be removed from the data collector in kind, Galyonkin has instead chosen to ignore them going forward. Games from these and other studios are now included on Steam Spy, showing how many Steam users have purchased and played them.
"It's not a 'sales tracking service,' it's merely a polling service"
It's nothing personal against Techland or other studios, Galyonkin told Polygon. Instead, including data from all games is meant to be a "valuable lesson."
"The point of Steam Spy is to be a helpful tool for game developers," he told us. "Removing several important independent games from the service will hurt everyone else while not necessarily benefitting the publishers of the removed games."
Steam Spy makes no attempt to call itself 100 percent accurate; it’s not affiliated with Valve, which owns the digital storefront. Instead, it scrapes through user data to create estimates of how many units a game has sold over a period of time.
"It's not a 'sales tracking service,'" Galyonkin told us; "it's merely a polling service, that estimates the number of owners by polling user profiles. It's a bit like an election survey."
Even as a fully independent service, Steam Spy could face backlash from angry developers whose games have returned to the platform. Since Steam Spy only provides estimates as to how much — or how little — a game is selling on Steam, members of studios like Paradox have criticized it as "wildly off at times."
"I've met countless devs that have showed me flawed business plans hinging entirely on the 'owners' figure reported by [Steam Spy] on competitors," Shams Jorjani of Paradox tweeted in June, just after sales figures for the company's games vanished from the service.
The site doesn’t appear to be suffering for it, but instead was experiencing heavier traffic than normal, Galyonkin said; Steam Spy was briefly down due to heavier traffic following his announcement to restore deleted data.
Galyonkin told Polygon that he is unconcerned with possible legal retribution from those studios and publishers whose games are now back on Steam Spy, again likening the move to politics.
"Imagine if Trump would ask everyone to stop publishing polls because they make him look bad and diminish his negotiating power," he said. "And honestly, if you believe your bargaining power lies in the ability to lie about your games data, you don't understand negotiations.
"So, while I would like to avoid being sued by publishers for estimating the number of their games owners, I don't believe they have a case here."