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Valve Bans Blockchain Games and NFTs on Steam

Valve has added a new rule added to its “What you shouldn’t publish on Steam” list saying that games using blockchain technology or letting users exchange NFTs or cryptocurrencies won’t be allowed on Steam. The change was pointed out by SpacePirate, a developer working on an NFT-based game, who said that the change was because the company doesn’t allow game items that could have real-world value.

Steam is one of the most well-known PC game stores, but it’s not the only one. While Epic’s CEO Tim Sweeney has said that the company isn’t interested in touching NFTs, which policy doesn’t seem to apply to games in its store, Epic told The Verge that it’s “open” to the idea of games that use NFTs or cryptocurrencies in an email on Friday.

Epic says that the games would have to comply with financial laws, make it clear how the blockchain is used, and have appropriate age ratings. It also says that developers won’t be able to use Epic’s payment service to accept crypto; they would have to use their own payment systems instead.

Looking at a Wayback Machine capture of Steam’s rule page from late August, there are only 12 rules and no mention of cryptocurrencies or NFTs. The new rule is also missing from other documents — it currently doesn’t show up on the Joining the Steamworks Distribution Program page.

Steam has a history of making controversial moderation decisions, especially when it comes to games with sexual content. In this case, though, it doesn’t seem like people are pressing F to pay respects to NFT games — a majority of the replies and quote tweets to SpacePirate’s tweets are praising Valve for the move.

But Steam could also be avoiding controversy with the move. The justification cited by SpacePirate that they could have real-world value as NFT and crypto-based games don’t have the best reputations. There’s the infamous Evolved Apes saga where a developer sold NFTs with the promise that they’d be included in a fighting game but then seemingly took the money and ran. There are some potentially interesting game concepts that use NFTs, but it’s hard to say how many of them would’ve been a good fit for Steam even if they were allowed.

Steam and Epic’s different approaches highlight the fact that any platform or store that moderates content will likely have to make a decision about whether it wants to allow apps or games to sell NFTs — one of the biggest question marks right now may be Apple and how it handles apps like OpenSea and Coinbase should they decide to start letting users buy the digital tokens.

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