This week, we've got four big stories for you, from Steam's weaknesses and challenges to Facebook's weird ad policies and some huge news for Destiny fans. Eyes up, Guardian. (That's a Destiny reference. Sorry, everyone else.)
That's right, Epic's ongoing attempts to horn in on the PC-game-delivery juggernaut just gathered some serious, well, steam—in the form of a deal with Ubisoft that will give some of the publisher's PC titles semi-exclusivity on the platform (alongside Ubisoft's own UPlay store, presumably). According to PC Gamer, this deal will begin with The Division 2, the sequel to Ubisoft's Destiny-style shared shooter.
This is certainly a threat to Steam's dominance, and it marks digital storefronts as one of gaming's newest commercial battlegrounds. Tired: console wars; Wired: platform wars. (WIRED: stories about platform wars!)
In more bad news for people using Steam (there's a lot of that these days, huh?), the platform's algorithm is now deciding that some smaller videogames aren't actually real. The game in question is Wandersong, a side-scroller with a large musical focus, and per Steam's algorithmic system for filtering out "fake" or spam games—titles that exist solely to inflate players' achievements and completion rates—it was deemed as not real for five whole months.
Here's how the system works: an internal confidence metric, algorithmically based on things like user reviews, purchases, etc etc, determines whether or not a game is authentic. During the evaluation process, and if a game is found to be not authentic, its Steam functionality—like trading cards and achievements—are set as off limits. And due to a bug that prevented its store page from updating, Wandersong was stuck in this limbo for five whole months. The issue has been resolved, but does this problem plague other games? Is it fixed altogether? It's unclear.
Facebook's ad screening policies have gotten much more serious in the past year, as a natural result of, well, everything, and that means the website has troubling penchant for false positives. One questionable victim of this vigilance is the independent videogame GRIS, which is by all accounts a straightforward, beautifully crafted platformer. Unless you ask Facebook, that is. In which case it's actually porn.
The offending ad, as shared by publisher Devolver Digital, is a banner ad featuring a stylized silhouette of a woman, rendered in deep blues and blacks. Racy? Devolver reportedly repealed the rejection, and that, too, was rejected, on the basis of nudity—nudity which, uh, doesn't exist. Things that are OK on Facebook include political ads of questionable national provenance. Things that aren't cool? Artsy drawings of women.
Yesterday, Destiny developer Bungie announced that its long-term publication deal with Activision, which was supposed to cover the Destiny series for the next 10 years, will be coming to a premature end. In a blog post, Bungie offered few details on the breakup, but presumably it owes something to Destiny 2's successes not quite matching Activision's undoubtedly lofty hopes for the series. With the MMO franchise not meeting expectations, Activision was likely more eager to offer Bungie a bit more freedom.
What precisely this means for the future of Destiny 2 is uncertain, but maybe the microtransactions will get better. Or worse. Really, it's hard to tell.
Sometimes, you just want to build a massive, bustling sci-fi space colony and watch it try to survive. Or set it off the rails and let it fall apart entirely. Last year's RimWorld is great for that: sprawling, robust, strange, and capable of supporting long, extensive play sessions without ever running stale or predictable. If you're the type of person who can spend hours fiddling variables and guiding fictional characters as they live their lives, be careful. This game could eat your life. Though, to be fair, you'll probably enjoy it anyway.