- Steam has adjusted its policies towards games using generative AI. A shift from its previously cautious approach.
- While AI games could increase the choice and variety available for gamers, it could also result in more shovelware appearing on the platform.
- It will be up to players to report illegal AI content in games using a feature in the in-game overlay.
While Steam initially took a cautious approach to publishing games using generative AI, it has now announced guidelines that will see the company “release the vast majority of games that use it”. But what do these new rules on AI games mean for gamers?
Steam Takes a Softer Stance on Games Using AI
In 2023, Steam’s parent company Valve noted that it needed time to learn more about the complex legalities and copyright rules around generative AI before making any rash decisions.
However, on January 10, 2024, Valve announced guidelines that would allow developers to publish games that use AI technology.
In a post on the Steam Blog, the company stated:
AI games will fall into two categories: pre-generated (games that use assets created with the help of AI tools) and live-generated (games that create content using AI tools while the game is running).
Whether using pre-generated or live-generated AI content, developers will need to fill in an AI disclosure form when submitting their game. They will need to promise that the game does not include illegal or infringing content and that the game is consistent with its marketing materials.
In addition, games that use live-generated AI content will need to disclose what guardrails will be in place to make sure that the AI is not generating illegal content.
How Steam’s AI Games Policy Could Affect Gamers
While many games use AI systems to make non-playable characters (NPCs) and enemies responsive, generative AI is a newer form of AI that involves generating text, images, video, audio, and even code. To learn more, read our guide to generative AI.
Steam already has an “Artificial Intelligence” tag for games, but many of these existing titles use AI in the more traditional sense. So what do Steam’s new guidelines mean for the average gamer?
1. Gamers Will Have More Games to Choose From on Steam
Steam is already home to a vast array of games, with tens of thousands of new titles added each year.
But with the wide array of capabilities of generative AI, gamers will likely see an increase in the variety of titles on offer. Especially from smaller studios that would be unable to publish games due to their small team size.
We will also likely see developers using generative AI in creative ways, but this is not guaranteed.
2. Gamers May See a Rise in Low-Quality AI Games
With the sheer volume of games that Steam publishes, many low-quality games (and games that clone other titles) appear on the storefront.
Since generative AI makes it much easier to create game elements, we may see a monumental rise in AI-generated shovelware games.
While you can always ignore games that look like they’re low quality, this can also make the discoverability of actual indie gems much more difficult. Players may also find themselves wasting money on games that promise more than they can deliver.
Luckily, you can request a refund on Steam. But you will need to do this within 14 days from purchase, and you can’t have played the game for more than two hours.
3. Gamers Will Need to Report Illegal AI Content
To get an AI game published, developers will need to submit a disclosure to Valve. But for those who are dishonest in their disclosure, the responsibility is being passed onto players to report illegal AI content.
Steam notes that it will allow players to report illegal content using the in-game overlay, with Valve stating:
“Using the in-game overlay, players can easily submit a report when they encounter content that they believe should have been caught by appropriate guardrails on AI generation.”
Considering how often people get around AI guardrails, such as when people use jailbreaks on ChatGPT, it’s very likely that some games using AI will fall foul of Steam’s policies. That is as long as players actually report the content breaking the rules.
4. Gamers Will Need to Look Out for AI Disclosures
If you don’t want to play games that use AI-generated content, you will need to look out for the relevant disclosures on Steam Store pages. Some gamers may want to avoid these games due to quality concerns, or ethical concerns around who the content truly belongs to.
Hopefully, Steam will make it easier to spot these disclosures so that gamers can make a conscious choice about the games they want to play.
Whether you’re excited to see what creative takes will appear on the Steam store, or you’re concerned about the impact on quality and discoverability, games using generative AI are now officially welcome on Steam.