Posted on 03 Nov 2016 by David Pink

Steam Cracking Down on “False” Image Advertising…

Valve has been busy the last few months with plans to give their Steam platform a bit of an overhaul, most recently with the Steam Review System itself, the controversy that followed and its timely resolution.

While the previous update had its purpose, it ultimately didn’t affect me, since I personally don’t put much stock into any rating systems but my own. However, the upcoming Storefront update does excite me. A much needed makeover with additional features and easier consumer information, all at the ready, more info, less clicking, win/win. What more could you ask for?

Perhaps a new policy to help curb a long lasting gaming trend that’s plagued the gaming world for decades…the infamous “bullshot”. To put it simple, a promotional image developers use that was enhanced in some way and/or depicting something not natively found within the game under normal circumstances.

It seems Valve have heard the cries of the customers (finally) and are currently in the works on updating the Steam Guidelines with the “Discovery Update 2.0”. In a few weeks the new guidelines will take effect, but in the meantime, Valve strongly urges any developers who may have any applicable “problematic imagery” to update their storefront in order to take full advantage of the new changes coming soon.

Ubisoft are the kings of bullshots.

So, what exactly falls under the “problematic image” category, heck, why did I put the aforementioned bullshot in parenthesis? It seems that the terminology is a bit on the vague side in regards to what constitutes an improper screenshot according to Valve.

  • If you have a game that contains mature content
  • Please indicate which of your screenshots (if any) are appropriate for a broader audience.
  • Please make sure that images uploaded on your store page are actual screenshots of your game.

The above mentioned requests to developers from Valve can easily, and most likely continue the old tried and tested art of “bullshotography” within its extremely vague “actual screenshots” recommendation. The broad terminology leaves plenty room for loopholes, companies like Activision, EA and Ubisoft will undoubtedly continue to take advantage of.

The “Discovery 2.0” update isn’t just for “fake” screenshots but for a few more legit reasons as well, such as hiding images some users may find offensive. This being as a person to person basis so for those of us who enjoy the odd boob or skintight latex bunny suit, or some excessively bloody “goreporn”, not much will change. This isn’t some universal form of censorship or anything people can’t happily customize to their own liking to see what they want to see on Steam, this isn’t Twitter.

For now it’s as simple as [check] “if screenshot is (or isn’t) suitable for all ages” and from there it moves onto peoples personal preference, auto-blocking any of the “not suitable” imagery for those who opted out of seeing them. If I was to place a bet, I would think sometime in the near future, this screenshot function category will be greatly expanded on, something akin to a tagging system. Why should someone who finds nudity to be alright, but finds blood n’ gore a bit too much not have the ability to see one over the other instead of ALL or NOTHING. There’s plenty of imagery that people can find offensive besides nudity and gore, like religion, politics, war, violence…even spiders!! Won’t somebody please think of the children!

It’s good that Valve practice what they preach.

Now onto the real meat of the upcoming Discovery 2.0 Steam Guidelines update. What exactly does “please use screenshots to show your game” mean?  According to Valve, who are self-aware enough to make themselves an example of what NOT to do when uploading screenshots, as the DOTA 2 storefront is (was) full of concept art. Moving forward, developers are required to post actual screenshots, no more concept art, pre-rendered cinematic stills, marketing product descriptions or images that contain awards, show customers what your game is actually like to play.

This is why “bullshots” sadly, may still hang around a little bit longer; nothing is mentioned about developers utilizing tools at their disposal to touch up or highlight something, not specifically that is. It’s all still too vague, if the dev took some extremely high rendered in-engine screenshot from perfect angles, they are still taking a screen shot of their game, it’s not pre-rendered, it’s not concept art, it’s just highly tweaked-to-perfection “godshots”.

I love me some gorgeous screenshots/wallpapers, some of my mates are exceptional at taking them, K-putt (on Pixel Judge) and Jim2point0 for instance, but I call it as I see it, “Godshots”. Yes, made in-game, yes, anyone else could theoretically be able to achieve similar results…but, in my opinion, it’s still a “bullshot” if it was used to sell a game.

Screenshots used to promote a game, or videos for that matter, should be something YOU WILL see when you play it, unless in regards to Alphas/Betas/etc. they are explicitly labeled to be subject of change. I was never a fan of any imagery of a game only to find out afterwards that it’s not reflective of the actual content, why bother even showing it? I was going to ask “why stop there?” but then I remembered the mobile gaming market, they take false advertising to a whole new level.

What’s wrong with representing your game with real ingame screens?

One can’t help but think the current drama happening over at Hello Games has something to do with the recent marketing update coming. The makers of the bombastic, consumer hated king of false advertising, No Man’s Sky, which has Valve dragged into the middle of the on-going Advertising Standards Authority of the United Kingdom investigation over false advertising.

In all honesty, something like this should have never been an issue to begin with, promotional advertising should always be about showing the consumers, as best as they can, about what to expect or why you would want their product. Lying or over exaggerating any aspect of a product for the purpose of fooling people into buying said product just boggles my mind. The fact is laughable to think that this type of advertising was ever thought of as a good idea…not only was it well received, but that it’s so prevalent even today, for the most part people don’t even bat an eye to false advertising anymore, it’s so mainstream, it’s “hip”.

All and all, this is a step in the right direction; time will tell if Valve will further strengthen the screenshot policies to eliminate the curtain of vagueness that still surrounds it. The addition of certain “show/don’t show” tags in regards to screenshots would also be much welcomed in the community. Your move Mr. Gaben.

Comments (2)

Posts: 133
Simon Sirmenis
Posted 04 Nov 2016, 09:27
Sorry but I cant see Valve putting a leash on Ubi and the likes. Those companies live and breathe bullshots. I mean it would be great if Steam managed to curb it but that's probably not going to happen. This policy is catered towards indies to make sure they represent their games properly, and that's fair enough. There are too many "indie" scammers who just want an easy buck.

Posts: 166
David Pink
Posted 04 Nov 2016, 18:22
I don't see it stopping Ubisoft or any other company with the typical bullshots, but it is a start, it could head that way someday... maybe lol. The less silly shots that show nothing of a game the better tho.