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Former Valve dev slams SteamDB and its impact on Early Access games

Chet Faliszek, former Valve veteran and writer for iconic games including Half-Life 2, Left 4 Dead and Portal, has expressed some heavy criticism of the Early Access model this week. Faliszek left Valve a few years ago to start up a new studio, which released its first game, The Anacrusis, into early access last year. However, Faliszek isn't too happy with how the game is being perceived, in large part thanks to the way that SteamDB reports player numbers.

Faliszek, who departed Valve to co-found Stray Bombay with Kimberly Voll, formerly of Riot Games, expressed concerns about the way player numbers are leveraged against studios following the release of The Anacrusis. The game has been in early access since January 2022, but the studio is finding it tough to grow its fanbase due to the perception of the game being ‘dead'.

Writing in a LinkedIn post, Faliszek shared his experience, stating: “I think one of the reason I will never do Early Access again is… how player counts are seen by steam and then downwind by the community. Steamdb will say we have 1 player yesterday, we have 10,000.”

If SteamDB is failing to report accurate numbers, then it creates a much more negative view of a game than necessary. While Faliszek does say that their internal player numbers are boosted a bit thanks to crossplay, but also says that there is a threshold that needs to be achieved for “real numbers” to be counted on sites like SteamDB.

Faliszek adds that the SteamDB stats get “thrown out every time” an update for The Anacrusis is published, despite those numbers being inaccurate. Ultimately, this goes against the very reason Steam Early Access was designed in the first place. It is supposed to be used as a tool for developers to get players into their game early and monitor feedback while the team continues to grow the game over time. However, the misperception that a game is ‘dead' can make growth near impossible for smaller teams.

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KitGuru Says: This is the first time that I'm hearing that SteamDB potentially synthesises player counts. If true, then it should absolutely no longer be used as a source for games media articles, or in research efforts when thinking about picking up a new multiplayer game.

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