Last week headlines were dominated by one of the bigger YouTube personalities scandals in recent memory. It centred around Counter-Strike: GO and Valve’s incredibly addictive (and exploitative) gambling system for the shooter. While previously constrained to Steam, third-party websites were accessing the Steam API (apparently legally) and creating their own gambling spaces for anyone to use. And, as it turned out, abuse.
The controversy started and is on-going around two people in particular, CS:GO Lotto owners Trevor Martin(TmarTn) and Tom Cassell (ProSyndicate). Martin and Cassell were revealed to be the owners of said website while also promoting and gambling on it without disclosure. The massive ethical issues with this aside, Valve seemingly let it happen – with CS:GO Lotto and many similar website making use of their API unhindered.
Well, not for much longer. yesterday Valve issued an update on the matter, making it clear that this type of use of their API is against their terms and conditions. They’re giving people a little bit of time to adjust their websites to take out this functionality, although it’s unclear what their approach will be if no one listens. Their full statement is below.
In 2011, we added a feature to Steam that enabled users to trade in-game items as a way to make it easier for people to get the items they wanted in games featuring in-game economies.
Since then a number of gambling sites started leveraging the Steam trading system, and there’s been some false assumptions about our involvement with these sites. We’d like to clarify that we have no business relationships with any of these sites. We have never received any revenue from them. And Steam does not have a system for turning in-game items into real world currency.
These sites have basically pieced together their operations in two-part fashion. First, they are using the OpenID API as a way for users to prove ownership of their Steam accounts and items. Any other information they obtain about a user’s Steam account is either manually disclosed by the user or obtained from the user’s Steam Community profile (when the user has chosen to make their profile public). Second, they create automated Steam accounts that make the same web calls as individual Steam users.
Using the OpenID API and making the same web calls as Steam users to run a gambling business is not allowed by our API nor our user agreements. We are going to start sending notices to these sites requesting they cease operations through Steam, and further pursue the matter as necessary. Users should probably consider this information as they manage their in-game item inventory and trade activity.
That’s slightly more promising than the deafening silence the company demonstrated last week while the entire internet kicked up a storm. Revoking access to the API that gives these websites so much functionality is a good first step, but it’s nothing if Valve isn’t willing to take things further should they continue infringing.
Hopefully we’ll hear a little more about that facet of their approach if it comes to that, but for now it’s a promising step forward.
Last Updated: July 14, 2016