As I wrote about the situation over several articles, I came to realise what my own vested interest was (links below). Digital Homicide's personal hurt was pretty evident, but this latest development suggests they've learned nothing in the ensuing months. Whatever is really driving them, it's ugly and unnecessary - albeit only as ugly and unnecessary as what drives certain customers to revel in trying to take them down.
Now, Digital Homicide is suing 100 users of Steam for "personal injury" regarding the behaviour of those who have sought - often through aggressive means - to draw attention to the apparent shovelware nature of DH's games.
In response to the lawsuit, Valve has removed all of Digital Homicide's games from the platform, Valve's Doug Lombardi stating: "Valve has stopped doing business with Digital Homicide for being hostile to Steam customers".
Now. Here's my gut reaction: Digital Homicide need to shut up and stop acting like lunatics. I mean, there's getting hurt, and then there's reacting to that hurt with grossly disproportionate behaviour. And yet, the root cause of all of this can be firmly planted at the feet of Valve itself - and the company's hands-off, quantity over quality approach to what it hosts on Steam.
The games industry has a problem, and that problem was highlighted during Apple's recent conference, when the company proudly proclaimed that there are now over half a million games on the App Store. However you look at it... that is not a good thing for anyone. Except maybe Apple, who take a percentage of everything sold on their store.
It doesn't benefit the developers, it doesn't benefit the industry, and it doesn't benefit the customer. How many great games are on the App Store that are buried beneath hundreds of thousands of Flappy Bird clones? The only games I ever see at the top of the App Store charts are either big licenses, or Clash of Clans and Pokemon Go.
The situation isn't much better on Steam - and though there's a certain democratic process as to which games rise to the top, it's wrapped up in an off-putting and toxic community.
There's a revolting us-versus-them culture which has grown up between industry professionals and customers - that sense of entitlement which can see journalists and developers abused for every little slight. Yet somehow there's never anything levelled at the Apples and Valves - the ones who are benefitting from a strategy of "Ain't our problem, bruv".
There's no question that anybody can make a game these days. The question is really whether they should. And not only whether they should, but whether they should then be given a platform on which to distribute that game, regardless of the content and quality. There's virtually no quality control, no human hand guiding a selection process of what ends up on Steam, and consequently the average punter is kept away, reluctant to scale a mountain of turds to find the gold nuggets buried within.
Steam and the App Store are the biggest distribution platforms the games industry has, and they're both an utter mess, both unwelcoming to the casual user, and thoroughly bewildering unless you're already immersed in gamer culture.
Frankly, I barely look at either anymore. Something like 60,000 new apps are added to the App Store every month. How can anybody realistically think that's a positive?
The App Store and Steam are the gaming equivalent of busking; basically, anyone can rock up, and it doesn't matter whether they know how to play guitar or not. They can put their hat down on the ground, and pluck the strings in the hope someone might lob a few pence into it.
Except it's worse than that: because there are 500,000 buskers all playing at once in Wembley Stadium, and while some are better than others, there's no chance of picking any individual performer out amid the din. And to make matters worse, Aerosmith are on stage, and they've got a really big sound system.
Apply that specifically to Steam and Digital Homicide, and the analogy gets more confusing, and encompasses something about a particularly vocal and aggressive busker spitting in the face of the audience members who are gathered in the few available seats, and the audience members spitting back. Or something like that. I dunno. Do I look like I'm King of the Analogies?
The fact is this: if I'm finding Steam and the App Store too confusing and off-putting and unpleasant and unprofessional and anarchic to go on there... you can bet that other people are too. Valve has a responsibility to both creators and customers, as the owners of the distribution platform, not to just sit back, and passively rake in the money while allowing a culture of anything-goes.
Similarly, I remain bewildered by the amount of clones, and rip-offs, and barely-finished games which end up on the App Store. It seems like a weird strategy for a company such as Apple - which is usually so controlled and polished and on-message. But then, when you consider how driven Apple is by its bottom-line, it becomes slightly less weird.
Sadly, it's not always a matter of the cream rising to the top, when rising to the top requires rising up though an ocean of games which should never have been given a commercial release.
Within such an environment it's inevitable that people are going to get pissed off, that tempers will become frayed. Everyone is fighting to be heard - whether it's fighting to get their own game noticed, or fighting to get games noticed above the dross. It's the law of the frontier, and people are taking justice into their own hands.
It was only a matter of time until someone got lynched.
JIM STERLING'S BEING SUED FOR $10 MILLION AND IT'S ALL MY FAULT - BY MR BIFFO
JIM STERLING: THE BEST MODERN GAMES JOURNALISM HAS TO OFFER? OR A VULGAR,
PATRONISING EMBARRASSMENT? - BY MR BIFFO
JIM STERLING VS DIGITAL HOMICIDE... WHAT'S REALLY GOING ON? - BY MR BIFFO
JIM STERLING: A CODA