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  1. Valve unveils Steam Deck, a handheld gaming PC powered by AMD Valve, the company behind the popular Steam game distribution platform and maker of games like Counter-Strike and Half-Life, have unveiled Steam Deck, a handheld PC designed specifically for gaming. Steam Deck looks like the powerful cousin of Nintendo's Switch, but the two devices cannot really be compared. Valve calls it an all-in-one portable PC gaming device and claims that Steam Deck runs the latest AAA games "really well". Steam Deck is powered by Steam OS and AMD hardware. The device plays Steam games using Valve's Proton technology. Since it is a PC, it can also be used for other activities thanks to the full Linux-based environment. The device supports Bluetooth, which means that gamers can connect mice and keyboards to the device. A direct connection to external displays is supported by the base device, but Valve revealed that it will release a dock in the future which will expand the capabilities further. Steam Deck will launch in select regions, United States, European Union, Canada and United Kingdom, with more regions to come in 2022. Interested gamers may reserve a single unit on Valve's SteamPowered website; first units will be shipped in December 2021. Three packages are available for preoder: A 64GB eMMC storage version with a carrying case for €419. A 256GB NVMe SSD with a carrying case for €549. A 512GB NVMe SSD with a carrying case, premium anti-glare etched glass, for €679. Every other hardware spec is identical. Steam Deck: the hardware Steam Deck is powered by AMD hardware. A Zen 2 processor with four cores and eight threads, and a RDNA 2 1.6 Teraflops GPU. All devices have 16 Gigabytes of LPDDR5 RAM (5500 MT/s), and come with 64 to 512 Gigabytes of storage space. A high-speed microSD card slot is available to extend storage on all devices. The touch-powered display has a 1280x800 pixel resolution and a 16:10 aspect ratio. It has a size of 7" diagonally, a refresh rate of 60Hz, and a brightness of 400 nits. Connectivity-wise, it features Bluetooth 5.0 and dual-band Wi-Fi support (IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac). The base device Steam Deck supports stereo audio channels, has a 3.5mm stereo headphone hack, a dual microphone array, and multichannel audio via DisplayPort. A 40Whr battery is in the device which is good for 2 to 8 hours of gameplay, depending on the game. The device's dimensions are 298mm x 117mm x 49 mm. IGN published a hands on video on YouTube Closing Words Steam Deck is not really that expensive if you compare it to gaming PCs. The 64 GB storage version uses slower storage technology and lacks the storage space needed to play some storage hungry games. Battery life depends on the games that are played on the device and how good the battery actually is. The base version can be connected to external displays and the Dock will expand the capabilities. One of the main appeals of Steam Deck is that it brings the entire Steam library to the device in a matter of seconds. Just fire it up, sign-in to a Steam account, and all purchased games become available. You do need to install those on the device first before you may play them, and this is where storage available on the device comes into play. The 64 Gigabyte version is not only ill-equipped when it comes to storing games on the device, it also uses slower storage technology, something that you may notice when it comes to game loading times on the device. Who is it for then? Steam Deck may appeal to gamers who don't want to lay a thousand or more Dollars for a gaming PC, and gamers who like the game-wherever-you-go option the game offers. Many PC games don't work that well with controllers and while you may connect mouse and keyboard to the Steam Deck, doing so while on the go is not practicable. In the end, it depends largely on the games you like and where you like to play them. It may even appeal to gamers who have a powerful gaming rig at home, but would like to take their gaming to other rooms of the home, e.g. to play a last round of Dota 2 or Faster than Light in bed before going to sleep. Valve unveils Steam Deck, a handheld gaming PC powered by AMD
  2. Report: Valve is secretly building a Switch-esque portable gaming PC Nearly a decade after introducing an ill-fated line of Linux gaming PCs dubbed “Steam Machines,” PC gaming giant Valve is reportedly trying its hand at hardware again — with its own handheld gaming computer a la the Nintendo Switch. That’s the word from Ars Technica’s Sam Machkovech, who claims to have multiple sources attesting that Valve has been working on such a device: a touchscreen, touchpad, button, trigger, and dual-joystick-equipped portable that’ll likely run Linux and an array of specially optimized Steam titles. It should have the ability to dock, a la Nintendo Switch, via a USB-C port, too. Ars suggests it could arrive as soon as the end of the year. It appears to be called SteamPal, or Neptune, according to a recent code dump collected by SteamDB: Gabe Newell himself also cryptically teased at some sort of announcement regarding Steam and consoles earlier this month: Gabe Newell has teased either Valve or Steam's games coming to consoles in this calendar year, at a public Q&A held in a public school yesterday morning. pic.twitter.com/TbKnrc6fZn — Tyler McVicker (@Tyler_McV) May 11, 2021 Valve didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Could Valve build such a thing? It’s absolutely possible. We’ve written about a recent explosion of portable gaming PCs thanks to new Intel and AMD chips, and while they’re still a good bit fatter and with shorter battery life than the Nintendo Switch, they’re getting more efficient and powerful every year. I’ve been testing an early version of the Aya Neo for months, and it’s been a great companion for Persona 4 Golden couch sessions. We have many burning questions, though, like whether the Linux gaming ecosystem (and perhaps streaming games) are compelling enough to sell people on a dedicated portable, and whether Valve will do what it takes to make such a system succeed. The original Steam Machines failed for a wide variety of reasons, including a lack of exclusive titles and a lack of control over partners that were allowed to build boxes that didn’t make sense, but Valve’s own hardware game was pretty strong: I poured one out for the Steam Controller and Steam Link respectively a few years back, and the Valve Index is still considered the top-tier PC VR headset for a variety of reasons. If Valve builds more of its own games and takes an active role in optimizing for such a system, I’d definitely be interested. Source: Report: Valve is secretly building a Switch-esque portable gaming PC
  3. CS:GO players aren't happy about Valve's new paid analytics service It's more expensive, and less useful, than similar third-party tools. (Image credit: Valve) Counter-Strike: Global Offensive's latest operation just wrapped up. But while Broken Fang's analytics tracking tool will live on as a paid subscription, CS:GO fans aren't happy about a service that's seemingly more expensive and less useful than existing third-party tools. For $0.99 a month, CS:GO 360 Stats will let you track your stats across Competitive, Premier, and Wingman modes, giving you access to everything from K/D ratios per weapon to detailed heatmaps and accuracy narrowed down to individual body parts. Honestly, it's about time that the world's most popular competitive FPS added something like this to the game client. (Image credit: Valve, via Reddit) The rub is that these are stats that have already been covered by community tools like Leetify or CSGOstatsfor free, even offering a more comprehensive range of analytics. More concerned posters on the game's subreddit are worried that Valve may start restricting the API used for these tools—and while this may be somewhat paranoid, it speaks to a broader community frustration that Valve is trying to charge more, for less. In more positive news, the latest CS:GO update finally fixed one of the game's most egregious issues—replacing the game's hideous old chicken models with some high-definition poultry worthy of a 2021 game. Thanks, Kotaku. Source: CS:GO players aren't happy about Valve's new paid analytics service
  4. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) has been rumoured to receive its own battle royale mode since last year. Aptly dubbed “Danger Zone”, Valve has made the mode official alongside making the game free-to-play, but it seems that not everyone supports the move. Danger Zone is “a fast-paced battle royale game mode built on CS:GO’s tactical gameplay where players use their wits, skill, and resources to fight to the finish,” according to Valve, including the same weapon play found in the base game. The crucial difference between Danger Zone and pre-established competitors on the market is its smaller 16-player count in singles and 18-player count in duos and triples, making games last just 10 minutes apiece. Blacksite, Danger Zone’s single map is relatively small in comparison to PUBG, Fortnite and Blackout, but it is still jarring for the average Counter-Strike player in size. As usual, players land with a knife after choosing their drop zone and have to procure their weapons and equipment onsite. Cash is still important, and can be found lying on the ground, looting enemy players, in safes that can only be accessed by blowing it with a C4 and as a reward for escorting hostages to pick-up zones. Cash allows players to purchase weapons, just like the base game, however it’s still advised that they be conservative with ammo. Ammo is scattered across the map, but it is an incredibly scarce resource that could determine the outcome of the match. Long-term players will be happy to learn that skins carry over from the base game to Danger Zone, and there are seventeen new seasonal skins up for grabs. New players shouldn’t be intimidated, as they will be given “non-prime” member status and placed into a separate matchmaking pool to avoid unbalanced gameplay. “When you have Prime Status you are matched with other players who also have Prime Status, and Prime users are eligible for Prime-exclusive souvenir items, item drops, and weapon cases,” Valve explains. Although Valve seems to have confidence in its Valve Anti-Cheat (VAC), some players are concerned that making the game free-to-play will see an influx of cheaters that would have otherwise been deterred by the entry fee. Others are more concerned about the money they spent on a game that has now lost its paid status. View: Original Article.
  5. Valve is still letting bots invade one of its longest-running games 'Team Fortress 2' has been nearly unplayable for over nine months. Nine months ago, Team Fortress 2 was overrun with racist, homophobic, sexist and transphobic bots. They were active in nearly every match, using cheats to secure headshots while spewing hate speech in the chat. Players documented the behavior and shared their frustration with Valve, the developer behind TF2, but the problem lingered for months. Once news of the bot invasion hit media outlets, Valve finally rolled out an update aimed at curbing their activity. The June 2020 update fixed a cosmetic bug that the bots had been exploiting and it removed the ability for free accounts to text chat. It’s been nine months since that update. There’s still a big bot problem in TF2, and it looks like Valve is still ignoring it. Longtime TF2 player Jason Hughes (name changed to keep him anonymous in-game) brought the bot situation to my attention in early June 2020. At the time, he called it “disastrous.” Nowadays, his description of the situation has changed. He said it’s “shitty.” More specifically, Hughes said, “The bots are worse than ever. They may have taken away the bots’ ability to unequip your cosmetic items and it's now impossible for free accounts to spam the chat with racist stuff, but casual mode is pretty much unplayable now.” Hughes was under the impression that the chat restrictions on free accounts would be temporary, but they’re still in place today. This removes a large portion of the bigoted speech, but it also means free-account players can’t communicate in-game. And even though most of the bots can’t chat anymore, they can still call vote kicks against actual players and flood matches with coordinated disruption campaigns. Plus, there’s still hate speech coming from a handful of bots with the ability to mimic the names and avatars of real players, and type in chat. Hughes describes it as follows: “It can differ from week to week, but there are times when the majority of players on a server are bots. Even when that's not the case, it often takes a few minutes to clear them all out at the beginning of a game.” Hughes isn’t the only TF2 player with a beef against the bots. The game’s Steam forums are littered with players complaining about the invasion, offering potential solutions, and wondering if Valve will do anything about it. The consensus seems to be “no.” There’s a clear reason for this lack of faith in Valve. The studio has a long history of poor communication with players, and it tends to abandon incredibly popular properties without warning and seemingly without a plan. Team Fortress 2 hasn’t received consistent support for years now, and the Left 4 Dead and Portal franchises stalled out more than a decade ago. Despite the release of a VR-only Half-Life game in 2020, fans are still waiting for Episode 3, nearly 14 years after the launch of Episode 2. In the meantime, Valve has been running Steam, the largest PC game distribution hub in existence, and focusing on the non-software aspects of its business, such as VR devices, esports tournaments and anime series. Unfortunately, the company has trouble with transparency in these arenas, too. Professional Counter-Strike: Global Offensive players are leaving the esports scene in droves amid widespread league mismanagement, and longstanding communication and gameplay issues. The Dota 2 esports scene is currently a mess amid a multi-team coronavirus outbreak during the season’s first Major tournament in Singapore. On the Dota 2 Reddit forum, fans are placing the blame on Valve’s historical lack of responsibility. As for Steam, Valve has refused to engage with developers who say the company’s revenue-sharing model is exploitative and out of date with modern standards. Valve takes 30 percent of each sale made on Steam, while its main competitor, the Epic Games Store, charges developers 12 percent. So, it’s no surprise that TF2 players don’t have a lot of faith in Valve. They’ve tried to implement their own solutions to combat the bots, but these tend to require player input and self-moderation, and they can’t actually stop the fake accounts from flooding in. Nowadays, booting up TF2 means dealing with bots. Hughes and other players just want maintenance in TF2. He has a few suggestions for Valve, including instituting a trust system like in CS:GO, making it impossible to create free accounts en masse, updating the game’s anti-cheat system, and communicating with players. Basic stuff. Valve didn’t respond to a request for comment. Even if the company does have a massive TF2 update planned in the near future, that won’t change the fact that it’s left its most loyal players flapping in the breeze for years. And why? It’s not good customer service, it’s not good for the game itself, it’s not good for Valve’s reputation, and it’s not good for Valve’s bottom line — but it’s also not going to bring the company to its knees. Thanks to the revenue machine that is Steam, Valve remains a private, multibillion-dollar company, headed by reclusive billionaire Gabe Newell, and beholden to no one. In the same way that Google looms so large in the tech industry that it can create and destroy world-changing products on a whim, Valve is similarly comfortable in its position as a video game powerhouse. In the end, leaving TF2 to die won’t kill Valve. Maybe Valve will resurrect TF2 one day. Maybe Newell will reveal there’s actually been a team of 50 developers working on a massive overhaul of the game for the past seven years. Maybe there are already plans for a TF2 esports league. Yeah, maybe. This kind of optimistic daydreaming is Valve’s lifeblood. Maybe Valve will make L4D3, or Episode 3, or Portal 3; maybe Valve will start communicating with the CS:GO and Dota 2 communities; maybe Valve will consider the deluge of developer feedback and institute a more equitable revenue-sharing model. Maybe. Valve’s reputation is built on this word. As the arbiter of a handful of legendary, genre-defining series, Valve has the power to tease out feelings of excitement and anticipation without even trying. And, in many areas, that’s what Valve’s been doing — not even trying. Just ask the TF2 community. Source: Valve is still letting bots invade one of its longest-running games
  6. Steam Game Festival is now Steam Next Fest, and returns in June Steam Next Fest will take place over E3 2021 (Image credit: Steam) The Steam Game Festival has rebranded to Steam Next Fest, and it's kicking off on June 16. Earlier today, Valve unveiled Steam Next Fest, which is the return of the Steam Game Festival under a different name. The new festival will take place from June 16 to June 22, and will offer a boatload of demos, discounts, and game streams over the six days. "We've renamed the Steam Game Festival to more directly communicate its focus," the announcement from Valve reads. "Explore and play hundreds of game demos, watch developer livestreams, and chat with the teams about their games in progress, coming soon to Steam." The planned dates for the Steam Next Fest fall in line with the current scheduled dates for E3 2021. In February it was announced that E3 would return for 2021, and would be pushing for a digital showcase, mirroring the way in which the physical showcase for 2020 was abandoned due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier this month, it was reported that E3 2021 had been cancelled in favor of an all-digital event. The event is currently scheduled to run between June 15 and June 17 - slightly less time than the Steam Next Fest - and will be trying to group up big name publishers like Sony and Microsoft for the traditional E3 showcase, but in an entirely digital format. As always with Steam sales, you can expect hundreds, if not thousands, of games to be available at heavily reduced price points. It's a nice bonus for limited-time game demos to make a return to the festival in June, as we've seen in past years with Steam Game Festivals offering limited trials of upcoming games. Source: Steam Game Festival is now Steam Next Fest, and returns in June
  7. Proton Has Enabled 7000 Windows Games to Run on Linux We are reaching another milestone with ProtonDB: we are very close to 7000 Windows games confirmed to be working out of the box with Proton on Linux. The charts says it all: Proton has been receiving many updates in the past few months as well, with the introduction of the Soldier Linux runtime container and Proton Experimental on top of the regular Proton releases. We are still getting about 100 new titles working flawlessly (according to user reports) on a monthly basis, which is a very healthy and steady growth. Another point is the percentage of Windows games working out of the box in Proton over time. The number has been close to 50% since for a long time and seems to be fairly stable. In other words, for every Windows game out there, there’s a coin flip chance that it will work just as well on Linux. That’s pretty good, while there are still some recurring known issues in the other half of games coming out, typically: Movie files within games not playing as expected Multiplayer not working because of EAC or other anti-cheat technology Certain types of DRM that prevent games from even launching Performance issues DX12 support in certain titles (although this is getting better as VKD3D improves continuously) Additionally, less than 20% of newly released games are rated as “borked”, which is not running at all. It does not look like the number of Platinum ratings on a month-by-month basis is evolving much, which means there’s still some large opportunities to tackle in terms of compatibility. And we know that the folks at Codeweavers (working on WINE/Proton) and other contributors are hard at work to bridge the gap day after day. Note that when a game does not run well with vanilla Proton, there’s always a non-negligible chance that Proton GE may fare better at running it. In reality, there’s probably much more than 7000 games that work out of the box on Steam with Proton, because the dataset is limited to user reports. Yet, it is great to observe that there are so many contributors who try many new games every single month: it gives us a great insight at how diverse the community is, and how fast Proton is progressing, even if it’s just a sample of the reality. On this topic, please keep in mind we are tracking on a monthly basis what games get the most positive reports from ProtonDB: here’s a video we released for January 2021: Stay tuned on Boiling Steam for more reports, more stats and more progress updates in the coming months. Source: Proton Has Enabled 7000 Windows Games to Run on Linux
  8. Valve cancels Artifact 2.0, makes existing versions free The Dota card game refresh is no longer in development Image: Valve Software Valve has stopped development on Artifact 2.0, a refreshed version of its Dota card game, the company announced Thursday. Artifact originally launched in November 2018, where the initial potential was hampered by a complex economy that tied into Artifact’s mechanics. Valve restarted the project in March 2020, and began testing Artifact 2.0. In a post published on Artifact’s Steam community page, Valve wrote: While we’re reasonably satisfied we accomplished most of our game-side goals, we haven’t managed to get the active player numbers to a level that justifies further development at this time. As such, we’ve made the tough decision to stop development on the Artifact 2.0 Beta. Players can now download Artifact Classic or the Artifact 2.0 beta, which has been renamed Artifact Foundry, for free. No further updates will be made to either version. “Technically Artifact Foundry remains an unfinished product, but most of what’s missing is polish and art — the core gameplay is all there,” Valve said. “While both games will remain playable, we don’t plan to ship any further gameplay updates.” The following set of changes will be made to Artifact Classic: The game is free for everyone to play. All players get every card for free. You will no longer be able to buy card packs. Paid players’ existing cards have been converted into special Collector’s Edition versions, which will remain marketable. Marketplace integration has been removed from the game. Paid event tickets have been removed. Customers who paid for the game will still earn packs of Collector’s Edition cards for playing; players who got the game for free will not. Meanwhile, Artifact Foundry has the following notes: The game is free for everyone to play. Players gain access to cards by playing the game. All cards are earned this way; no cards or packs will be for sale and Artifact Foundry cards are not marketable. All final card art that was in the pipeline is now in the game. The announcement of Artifact’s development ending comes shortly after BioWare stated that it was no longer going to be working on Anthem Next, a similarly troubled project. While some games, like space simulator No Man’s Sky, were able to recover with post-launch updates, 2021 is proving the feat isn’t simple, even for large studios. Source: Valve cancels Artifact 2.0, makes existing versions free
  9. A court is forcing Valve to tell Apple how much money 436 different PC games made Apple subpoenaed Valve for the data Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge Valve has been compelled by a California court to provide sales data on more than 400 Steam games to Apple and possibly reveal its yearly sales, revenue, and profits to Apple as well. The iPhone maker subpoenaed Valve for the data as part of its ongoing dispute with Fortnite developer Epic Games. According to a Wednesday order by Judge Thomas Hixson, Valve will have to provide yearly sales and pricing data on 436 games that are available on both its PC game distribution platform, Steam, and the Epic Games Store. Apple has requested the data so it can define the video game market in its case against Epic. In a filing published on February 18th, Valve had argued that Apple’s demands were overly broad. Apple had asked for even more data in its subpoena, including annual revenues from Steam, the name of every app on Steam, and the date range for when those apps had been available. Valve argued that the demands would “impose an extraordinary burden” on the company. Valve has also been compelled to share “aggregated data” about how much it makes from Steam, though it’s not clear exactly what that will entail. Apple had asked for the following: RFP 2 asks for documents sufficient to show since 2008 Valve’s (a) total yearly sales from apps and in-app purchases from Steam, (b) annual advertising revenue attributable to Steam, (c) annual sales of external products attributable to Steam, (d) annual revenues from Steam, and (e) annual earnings, income or profits from Steam. Apple asks for this information by app if that is available. During meet and confer Apple limited the relevant time period to 2015 to the present. In his ruling, Judge Hixson largely sided with Apple. “In the letter brief, Valve said this would be an overwhelming amount of work, but other than using adjectives, it did not substantiate or quantify the burden in any way,” Hixson said. “Apple has shown that it has a substantial need for this information to obtain evidence in support of its arguments concerning market definition and the effects of competition, and it cannot obtain this information elsewhere without undue burden,” he added. “Valve offers several reasons why Apple has not satisfied this standard, but none is persuasive.” Valve is the biggest PC game store in existence and generally doesn’t provide any sales data whatsoever, though you can find simple unordered lists of the bestselling games each month. Hixson did narrow the amount of information Valve has to provide. While Apple requested data dating back to 2015, Hixson ruled that Valve only needs to produce data from 2017 to the present. Epic sued Apple in August after Apple removed Fortnite from the App Store for introducing an in-app payment system that it says violated App Store rules. A court is forcing Valve to tell Apple how much money 436 different PC games made
  10. Valve & Netflix Are Making A DOTA Anime Screenshot: Netflix Sure, why not? Dragon’s Blood is an upcoming anime series that is “exploring the Dota universe like never before”. It’ll be out on March 25, and as the trailer below says, the series has been made “in collaboration with Valve”. This is cool for DOTA fans, I guess? Though it’s also a damn shame Valve’s anime debut (what a weird thing to type) is this, and not Seven Hour War. Source: Valve & Netflix Are Making A DOTA Anime
  11. Valve to pay $4 million to Corsair in Steam Controller patent infringement lawsuit Valve was initially warned in 2014, back when it was prototyping the hardware What just happened? A jury has unanimously found willful infringement on Valve's part regarding the use of "rear-side control surfaces" (or back paddles) on its Steam Controller and ordered the company to pay $4 million in damages to Corsair-owned Ironburg Inventions and SCUF. Ironburg Inventions and SCUF, the Corsair-owned maker of high-end performance controllers and holders of an "extensive patent portfolio," had warned Valve in 2014 regarding its Steam Controller design, accusing it of copying the paddle/trigger mechanism located on the gadget's backside. A lawsuit followed a year later when Valve officially released the Steam Controller in 2015, ignoring these warnings and going on to produce 1.6 million units before discontinuing the hardware in 2019. In an announcement this week, Corsair revealed the verdict going in its favor, with Valve ordered by the US District Court in Washington to pay $4 million in damages after the jury unanimously found it guilty of willful infringement. Microsoft licensed SCUF's patents for the Xbox Elite controller that came with interchangeable paddles on the rear SCUF's lawyers likened the scenario to David and Goliath, accusing Valve of abusing its dominance and proceeding with the controller design despite knowing the risk. "Valve did know that its conduct involved an unreasonable risk of infringement, but it simply proceeded to infringe anyway — the classic David and Goliath story: Goliath does what Goliath wants to do," noted SCUF lawyer Rober Becker. Valve's lawyer, meanwhile, argued that the Steam Controller's design didn't fit the outlines of the patent, claiming that the plaintiff wanted a decision based on an altered reality. A $4 million fine is chump change for a behemoth like Valve, though it'll probably want to avoid such legal setbacks in the future as it continues to work on a potential successor of the Steam Controller. Source: Valve to pay $4 million to Corsair in Steam Controller patent infringement lawsuit
  12. Valve May Launch Chinese-Specific Version of Steam Next Week The future is still uncertain for Chinese gamers. (Image credit: Shutterstock) Valve will potentially release a public beta for a Chinese-specific version of Steam starting on February 9th, according to Niko Partners senior analyst Daniel Ahmad, who specializes in the Asian and especially Chinese game industries. This would be the culmination of efforts Valve began in 2018 alongside Chinese developer Perfect World and would see the fulfillment of a promise the company made earlier this January to launch Steam China in 2021. Daniel Ahmad @ZhugeEX Perfect World and Valve will launch a public beta of Steam China on Feb 9. DOTA 2 and CSGO will be the first titles to start operations on the new platform. Chinese players will be required to sign up on Steam China to play these games, everything transfers over. 6:42 PM · Feb 3, 2021 Valve is positioning Steam China’s release as an opportunity to “bring Steam onshore into China,” which subtly hints at the impetus behind the launch of a Chinese-specific version of the client. While Chinese citizens can currently access the international version of Steam in China, Ahmad points out that the platform offers many games that haven’t been licensed by the Chinese government, which technically makes them illegal and means that Steam is currently operating in China in an unofficial, “gray area” capacity. Daniel Ahmad @ZhugeEX Feb 3, 2021 Replying to @ZhugeEX Steam China will be a separate application from the International version of Steam, for the China market and only offering approved games Current Steam accounts will work on both versions, as will games (with some exceptions) as long as there is also a China SKU. Daniel Ahmad @ZhugeEX At this point, gamers in China can currently access both the International version of Steam and Steam China with no issues. It remains to be seen whether China's government will block access to Steam International in the future, given it offers unlicensed (illegal) games. 6:46 PM · Feb 3, 2021 As such, Steam China will be Valve’s “official” entry into the Chinese market. This also explains the partnership with Perfect World, as foreign companies can only legally enter the domestic Chinese market by partnering with a Chinese entity. For instance, Valve and Perfect World have worked together before to distribute DOTA 2 and CS:GO in the Chinese market. All of this probably explains why Valve’s announcement acts as if Steam hasn’t been present in China for years now. As for what end users can expect to see from this change, it seems as if the transition will start slow but could ramp up in time. Ahmad writes that Steam China will be a separate application from the International version of Steam and will only offer government-approved games. However, he also states that current Steam accounts will work on both versions, as will current Steam games, provided they have a Chinese SKU. “It remains to be seen whether China’s government will block access to Steam International in the future,” Ahmad explains. It’s not an unfounded risk, though- Apple removed 39,000 games from the Chinese App Store at the end of last year due to not having ISBNs from the Chinese government. There will likely, however, still be immediate differences. For instance, Ahmad also says that Chinese players will need to use Steam China to play CS:GO and DOTA 2 going forward, although all their data will carry over from their Steam International accounts. This could also point to another reason behind the development of Steam China - monitoring and censoring in-game chat. CS:GO and DOTA 2 are both communication heavy games, and it’s possible that Steam China might be just as, if not more interested in what players are saying in-game as it is in which games they play. For example, popular Chinese game Genshin Impact attracted notable controversy after its release late last year for censoring the words “Taiwan” and “Hong Kong,” even in its international version. Since then, much of the game’s community has been split on the developer Mihoyo’s intentions here, with players who are aware of the developer’s foreign influences (the company’s splash screen opens by referring to the Mihoyo devs with Japanese slang) arguing that the filter was probably enforced on the company by the Chinese government. Daniel Ahmad @ZhugeEX People have asked me why this is: 1. MiHoYo is a Mainland China based developer 2. China's laws and games regulator state that games cannot contain "Anything that threatens China's national unity" 3. All Chinese games censor phrases such as Taiwan / Hong Kong due to this Kazuma Hashimoto @JusticeKazzy_ Due to Genshin Impact censoring the words Taiwan and Hong Kong in the in-game chat I will no longer be posting about the game. 10:23 PM · Oct 6, 2020 Ahmad, in particular, also commented on the controversy, saying that “China’s laws and games regulator state that games cannot contain ‘Anything that threatens China’s national unity’” and thus that “All Chinese games censor phrases such as Taiwan/Hong Kong.” Despite the potential for Steam China to be used to more heavily regulate what Chinese players have access to, there could be a potential, albeit unlikely side benefit for foreign players: we could perhaps see games that were once pulled from Steam to appeal to Chinese influences restored to the app’s international version. For instance, the Taiwanese horror game Devotion was famously pulled from Steam and other gaming storefronts last year for containing jokes at the expense of Chinese president Xi Jinping. If the international version of Steam becomes no longer accessible to Chinese audiences, maybe such games could be restored. In the case of Devotion, it’s unlikely, as the Chinese government still technically sees Taiwan as Chinese territory. But for other games made further outside of the Chinese government’s reach but still containing content objectionable to it, the segregation of Steam China and Steam International might allow them to release elsewhere without risking blowback from Chinese officials. Granted, there’s also a social pressure to maintain a friendly relationship with the Chinese government and audience, both to maintain healthy business and because China represents a large part of the market (the country generated more than $32.54 billion in gaming revenue the year before the development of Steam China became public knowledge). As such, it’s also still uncertain how much of an effect Steam China will have outside of China as well. Hopefully, however, you’ll still be able to team up with Chinese friends to play DOTA for years to come. Source: Valve May Launch Chinese-Specific Version of Steam Next Week
  13. RIP in peace — Remaining stock is sold out in Europe, "almost sold out in the US." Valve is quietly discontinuing Steam Link, the in-home streaming box it first launched in late 2015. A low-key announcement on Valve's Steam Link news page suggests that production of new units has ceased and that Valve is currently selling off the rest of its "almost sold out" inventory in the US, after selling out completely in Europe. Valve says it will continue to offer support for existing Steam Link hardware. The $50 Steam Link was designed for streaming games from a local gaming PC to an HDTV in the same house, a job it did pretty well provided your networking hardware was up to it. In recent months, though, Valve has shifted its focus away from dedicated streaming hardware and toward mobile apps that can provide the same feature. Apple is currently blocking the release of a Steam Link app designed for Apple TV and iOS devices, but similar apps are available for Samsung Galaxy devices and other Android phones (in beta). Steam users have been able to stream to laptops on the same network since 2014, as well. The discontinuation of Steam Link hardware wasn't a complete surprise, given that Valve was briefly selling the playing-card-deck-sized devices for a closeout price of $2.50 earlier this year. And though Valve insists it's "still working hard" on Linux gaming and bringing Windows game compatibility to SteamOS, Valve's much ballyhooed circa-2015 hardware initiative has not made a huge impact on the marketplace. Source
  14. Commission-free Steam key sales through other stores cut into Valve's bottom line. Enlarge Getty / Aurich Lawson Since Epic started taking a 12 percent cut of sales revenue generated on its new Games Store, much has been made of whether Steam's baseline 30 percent revenue cut is justified. But a new analysis shows that Valve sometimes receives much less than that headline revenue percentage for some of the most popular games on Steam. The reason for the discrepancy is Steam keys, which developers can generate pretty much at will to sell through non-Steam storefronts and brick-and-mortar retailers. While these key-based purchases are still redeemed through Steam and can take advantage of Steam's suite of features, Valve actually takes no commission from sales that don't take place directly through its own storefront. Valve doesn't directly publicize how many of a game's sales come from keys versus direct Steam purchases. But as Twitter user @RobotBrush recently pointed out, the Steam store does publish the numbers of user reviews that come from Steam purchases vs "Other" key-based sources (a feature designed to prevent key-based review manipulation). Those review ratios might not match exactly with the overall purchase ratios—maybe key-based purchasers offer reviews at significantly different rates than direct purchasers, for instance. Still, it's the best publicly available estimate we have, especially when taken across multiple games. So over at the ResetEra forums, user Nappael did just that, using a bit of coding to pull out the Steam versus non-Steam review ratios for the 100 most popular games on the service (as defined by Steam Spy and a supporting API). The results (for non-free-to-play titles) show that "on average, 72 percent of games are purchased through Steam, while 28 percent are purchased through third parties." And while that range can vary widely for individual games, the vast majority (80 percent) register between 50 and 80 percent of their reviews through direct Steam sales (You can view the raw, per-game numbers in this Google Doc). When the revenue Valve is missing from these Steam keys is taken out, the company's average cut across these popular games hovers around 20 percent of all sales revenue rather than 30 percent (varying non-Steam sales prices complicate this calculation a bit, though Valve requires key-based sale prices to be comparable to prices offered on Steam itself). That's all before you consider Valve's December decision to lower its topline cut by five to ten percent for games starting when they hit $10 million in revenue. Remember also that Valve incurs plenty of costs for these Steam key sales. Beyond the mere bandwidth costs for game and update downloads, key-based sales can still access the same online lobbies, achievement and leaderboard systems, Steam Workshop inventory management, Steam server APIs, anti-cheat services, and everything else that comes with being on Steam. Epic, on the other hand, provides very few of these services in exchange for the 12 percent cut on its Games Store (though the company does have a roadmap to roll out many similar features in the coming months). Additionally, it's worth noting that while Valve is often taking less than 30 percent, this doesn't mean developers are necessarily keeping more than 70 percent of their revenue by using Steam keys. Those keys are often sold on other platforms that take their own cut, which sometimes amount to the same as Steam's (though platforms like Itch.io and Humble Bundle generally take much less). Steam also imposes some limits on key generation to prevent developers from essentially piggybacking off of Steam's services while solely selling games directly to consumers elsewhere. None of this necessarily means Steam's 30 percent cut of direct game sales is justified, or that Valve couldn't afford to lower its rates. But the next time you hear about Valve's 30 percent headline revenue cut, keep in mind that the functional proportion of total sales the company receives is probably quite a bit lower. Source: Why Valve actually gets less than 30 percent of Steam game sales (Ars Technica)
  15. Maker of Steam changes policy to make clear privilege-escalation flaws are in scope. In an attempt to quell a controversy that has raised the ire of white-hat hackers, the maker of the Steam online game platform said on Thursday it made a mistake when it turned away a researcher who recently reported two separate vulnerabilities. In its statement, Valve Corporation references HackerOne, the reporting service that helps thousands of companies receive and respond to vulnerabilities in their software or hardware. The company also writes: We are also aware that the researcher who discovered the bugs was incorrectly turned away through our HackerOne bug bounty program, where his report was classified as out of scope. This was a mistake. Our HackerOne program rules were intended only to exclude reports of Steam being instructed to launch previously installed malware on a user’s machine as that local user. Instead, misinterpretation of the rules also led to the exclusion of a more serious attack that also performed local privilege escalation through Steam. We have updated our HackerOne program rules to explicitly state that these issues are in scope and should be reported. In the past two years, we have collaborated with and rewarded 263 security researchers in the community helping us identify and correct roughly 500 security issues, paying out over $675,000 in bounties. We look forward to continuing to work with the security community to improve the security of our products through the HackerOne program. In regards to the specific researchers, we are reviewing the details of each situation to determine the appropriate actions. We aren’t going to discuss the details of each situation or the status of their accounts at this time. Valve’s new HackerOne program rules specifically provide that “any case that allows malware or compromised software to perform a privilege escalation through Steam, without providing administrative credentials or confirming a UAC dialog, is in scope. Any unauthorized modification of the privileged Steam Client Service is also in scope.” The statement and the policy change from Valve came two days after security researcher Vasily Kravets, an independent researcher from Moscow, received an email telling him that Valve’s security team would no longer receive his vulnerability reports through the HackerOne bug-reporting service. Valve turned Kravets away after he reported a Steam vulnerability that allowed hackers who already had a toe-hold on a vulnerable computer to burrow into privileged parts of an operating system. Valve initially told Kravets such vulnerabilities were out of scope and gave no indication that the one Kravets reported would be fixed. The company later publicly denied that the issue was a vulnerability by incorrectly claiming that the exploit required hackers to have physical access to a vulnerable computer. The company went so far as to dispute the vulnerability in the advisory issued by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Valve’s response rankled hackers and security professionals because so-called privilege-escalation vulnerabilities are something that Google, Microsoft, and mature open source developers routinely and readily fix in their products. Valve’s contention that a demonstrated flaw of this type wasn’t a legitimate vulnerability ran counter to long-standing security norms. As criticism mounted, Valve quietly issued a patch, but researchers found that it could be bypassed. To make matters worse, Kravets on Tuesday publicly disclosed a new privilege escalation vulnerability in Steam. Valve's Thursday statement said both vulnerabilities reported by Kravets have now been fixed. Another researcher is shut down Criticism grew more fevered—and began to increasingly be directed at HackerOne—after Matt Nelson, a second independent researcher, said he used the vulnerability reporting service in June to disclose one of the same Steam flaws Kravets found. According to an exchange Nelson posted, a HackerOne representative said the vulnerability was out of scope to qualify for Valve’s bug bounty program. When Nelson replied that he wasn’t looking for money but instead only wanted the public to be aware of the vulnerability, the HackerOne representative asked Nelson to “please familiarize yourself with our disclosure guidelines and ensure that you’re not putting the company or yourself at risk. https://www.hackerone.com/disclosure-guidelines.” Those guidelines specifically state, “Please note that we will not consent to disclose reports if they have been marked out-of-scope or inapplicable, or where Valve has not taken a specific corrective action / mitigation.” The HackerOne representative also locked the thread so that it no longer could be read. Nelson told Ars he was surprised by HackerOne’s response. Using the abbreviation for non-disclosure agreement, he wrote in an email: I wouldn’t go as far as calling it an NDA, but they certainly were implying there could be repercussions for violating Valve’s policy or HackerOne’s disclosure policy. My reaction is that I could care less. If they want to ban a researcher submitting bugs in good faith, they certainly can. I’m not reporting via HackerOne to make money, it simply seemed like the easiest way to get in contact with them. Making the process more difficult for those willing to report vulnerabilities does absolutely nothing but hurt them and the general public. Nelson then reported the vulnerability directly to Valve. Valve, he said, acknowledged the report and “noted that I shouldn’t expect any further communication.” He never heard anything more from the company. Shifting the blame Nelson said he welcomed Valve’s admission that it was a mistake for Valve to have turned away Kravets and the policy change that makes privilege-escalation vulnerabilities in scope. “I can certainly believe that the scoping was misinterpreted by HackerOne staff during the triage efforts,” Nelson wrote. “It is mind-blowing to me that the people at HackerOne who are responsible for triaging vulnerability reports for a company as large as Valve didn’t see the importance of Local Privilege Escalation and simply wrote the entire report off due to misreading the scope.” At the same time, he added, Valve should take more responsibility for the role it played in the bungled response. “Valve can shift the blame to HackerOne as much as they would like, but the fact that they took the time to actually dispute the CVE Mitre issued means that they don’t see the issue as a legitimate vulnerability, regardless of how HackerOne handled triaging it.” In a post reporting the first vulnerability, Kravets also said that HackerOne staff told him he wasn’t permitted to publicly disclose the vulnerability. Meanwhile, he also told Ars on Thursday morning that he had yet to receive any communication from Valve and that he remained locked out of the Valve bug-reporting section of HackerOne. A HackerOne spokeswoman told Ars: We aim to explicitly communicate our policies and values in all cases and here we could have done better. Vulnerability disclosure is an inherently murky process and we are, and have always been, committed to protecting the interests of hackers. Our disclosure guidelines emphasize mutual respect and empathy, encouraging all to act in good faith and for the benefit of the common good. Still cause for concern While Valve’s admission and policy change are encouraging, HackerOne’s barring of Kravets remains an ongoing concern. HackerOne helps thousands of organizations receive and respond to vulnerability reports. Its policies have a huge effect on the security of products and devices used all over the world, said Katie Moussouris, founder and CEO of Luta Security who wrote the disclosure policies here and here, adopted by the International Organization for Standardization, while at Microsoft. “Silencing the researcher on one issue is in complete violation of the ISO standard practices, and banning them from reporting further issues is simply irresponsible to affected users who would otherwise have benefited from these researchers continuing to engage and report issues privately to get them fixed,” Moussouris told Ars. “The norms of vulnerability disclosure are being warped by platforms that put profits before people.” Source
  16. The one-time ‘Half Life’ developer may end up going it alone against the EU. Valve will reportedly fight recent geo-blocking charges brought against it by the European Union. Citing "people familiar with the matter," Reuters reports that of the six companies that were charged by the European Commission in April, only Valve has decided to fight the commission in court. The other five companies that were charged alongside Valve -- Bandai Namco, Capcom, Focus Home, Koch Media and ZeniMax -- plan to settle with the EU. If the report is accurate and Valve was to lose the case, it could be fined up to 10 percent of its annual income. The EU could also force the company to change how it operates Steam. Engadget has reached out to Valve for comment on the report, and we'll update this article when we hear back from the company. The charges against Valve stem from a two-year investigation the EU conducted into the company's practice of using geo-blocking to prevent individuals from buying a copy of a game in one country and then activating it on Steam in another. The EU contends the practice violates its Digital Single Market rules, which aims to enforce a single open digital market across all of the union's member states. In relation to the five other publishers that have reportedly settled with the EU, the European Commission alleged that they broke antitrust rules. In some instances, those publishers included restrictions in their contracts that prevented distributors other than Valve from selling some games outside of certain member states. Source
  17. But, the gaming company isn't happy with Canonical and will try to work closer with other Linux distributors. When Canonical announced that, beginning with October's Ubuntu 19.10 release, 32-bit -computer support would be dropped, it didn't expect there would be much blowback. It was wrong. Developers and users, especially of Steam games, threw fits. So, Canonical, makers of Ubuntu Linux, reversed course and asserted it wouldn't drop 32-bit software support in Ubuntu 19.10 and 20.04 LTS after all. So, everything's back to normal, yes? No. True, Valve will continue to support Ubuntu. But Ubuntu will no longer be called out as "as the best-supported path for desktop users." Instead, Valve is re-thinking how it wants to approach distribution support going forward. There are several distributions on the market today that offer a great gaming desktop experience such as Arch Linux, Manjaro, Pop!_OS, Fedora, and many others. That said, it should be noted that Arch Linux and Manjaro have already dropped 32-bit support, and Pop! Is based on Ubuntu. Red Hat's Fedora just announced it's dropping the 32-bit Linux kernel, but it will keep the 32-bit libraries. Thus, of the named distributions, only Fedora looks promising for 32-bit Steam. The gaming company also explained why it's determined to stick with archaic 32-bit software. First, while Steam already bundles much of the 32-bit gaming software dependencies needed, "it currently relies on some key components being available on the host system: A 32-bit glibc, ELF loader, Mesa, and NVIDIA graphics driver libraries, to name a few." Valve wasn't ready to update Steam and games for an Ubuntu 19.10 without 32-bit support. It could have done it, but "requiring such a fundamental change in Steam's runtime environment in that time frame would have been very risky for [Ubuntu] users, and would likely not have resulted in a seamless experience." In addition, there are many "older third-party games and desktop software that lives outside of Steam, and therefore does not use the Steam runtime environment. This new scheme would have broken such 32-bit non-Steam games and tools." Source
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