After Valve pulled more than 200 of the company’s titles off Steam last week, notorious “fake game” seller Silicon Echo Studios tells Polygon that it has been forced to leave the development industry.
Valve pulled Silicon Echo’s entire catalog from Steam last week after users reported that its games were examples of “asset flipping,” or games made on a shoestring budget with pre-made assets, which are then sold cheaply with the purpose of turning a profit through the Steam trading card marketplace.
In an email to Polygon, a representative for Silicon Echo spoke out against Valve’s decision to abruptly remove the studio’s games from the storefront.
“The only information we have been given is that our games were consistently at the top of user reported titles primarily for practices that are deceptive to the customers,” Silicon Echo said. “This did not fully explain the reason for complete account and business termination, so naturally we sent an email to Valve politely asking some additional questions.”
Silicon Echo shared its email to Valve with Polygon. The studio had never received a warning from Valve until its games were removed from Steam, according to the email; Silicon Echo also claims that it is a separate company from Zonitron Productions, another developer whose games were removed and which YouTuber SidAlpha alleged is a front for Silicon Echo. You can read a portion of the email to Valve below:
Silicon Echo is an account completely separated from Zonitron Productions even though it is connected in some ways and while Zonitron Productions got a warning about some developer naming issues, Silicon Echo didn't get a warning of that or any other nature ever. We do not believe that we have been deceiving or lying to our and your customers in any way — all of our games' descriptions were describing the games exactly how they are and the same thing is with the screenshots and trailers which were taken directly from the gameplays of our games. We never insulted any of the customers on the Steam forums or banned them without any reason absconding to answer truthfully about the games. Everyone who has ever bought our games did it by their own choice and everybody knew exactly what they were buying. People who are calling us asset flippers are correct only partially because we always made our own levels using the basic assets provided for us when we bought the asset kit and all of the kits had licenses allowing us to use them in commercial purposes. We have all the required bills to confirm our purchases on the Unity Asset Store.
That being said, it was impossible for us to ever know that there were some problems with our games mostly because a great number of games sent for reviews were being approved on daily basis (EVEN ON THE SAME DAY YOU HAVE SENT US THE EMAIL ABOUT TERMINATING OUR BUSINESS). Another thing is — why did all the older games which passed Greenlight by the choice of Valve Business Team and Steam users also get banned now? And why were they even approved and greenlit in the first place if there were problems with them all along?
Customers have criticized the Steam Greenlight program and its successor, Steam Direct, for having lax approval processes and being easy to abuse. The number of games allowed onto the platform has boomed in recent years, with low-quality or questionable software making it onto the marketplace with apparent ease. Silicon Echo’s extensive library — the studio published the majority of its games in the last three months alone — stood as emblematic of this problem, even those who admitted to picking up the titles for cheap or free as a means of flipping their trading cards for cash.
Even as it defends itself, Silicon Echo admitted that some of its business practices were questionable.
“We are no heroes, we have indeed sometimes been conducting our business with some practices people may call shady,” the studio said. “For example, creating more developer names even though they were on the same account and listed under the same publisher. This was done primarily for easier statistical tracking as we did not believe it to be a problem since all the games were publicly listed under the same publisher and there was no deception included.”
Valve’s decision to erase Silicon Echo’s entire collection from Steam will have long-ranging ramifications, according to the studio. Not only will this prove to other studios that getting the go-ahead from Valve to publish on Steam may come with caveats, it wrote, but it could tank an entire indie company’s business.
“This situation has completely destroyed everything we have been working for in the past 3 years and we are forced to give up game development at this point for more that [sic] one reason,” Silicon Echo said. “Mainly because our reputation is destroyed beyond repair, but also for financial reasons. We wish we have been warned about this before, in that case we would focus on a different business plan of development.”