Valve’s increased focus on user privacy spelled bad news for unofficial sales tracking sites in April, with Steam Spy almost shutting up shop entirely. Fan support motivated creator Sergey Galyonkin to find a workaround and just as things were starting to look up, Valve has once again stepped in and put a stop to it.
The new method of tracking made use of Steam’s achievement data, according to Closure and The End Is Nigh developer Tyler Glaiel, via Medium. Each achievement comes with a percentage of how many players have unlocked it, meaning that a process of elimination could begin to form a rough number of how many copies were sold.
If 50 percent had unlocked one achievement then a minimum of two players had access to the game, while 33 percent would dictate at least three people are involved and so on. Although the Steam application shows this percentage to a single decimal place, Glaiel notes that the Steam API gave access to 16 decimal places. This made for data that was reportedly more accurate than Steam Spy’s original method. Instead of simply giving Galyonkin access to the API, Glaiel made the code open source so that anyone could access the data.
Aaaaand Valve killed the achievement user numbers trick faster than you can say "GDPR was never the issue with SteamSpy" https://t.co/bHRXTgxRuq
— Rami Ismail (@tha_rami) July 4, 2018
Unfortunately, this method didn’t last long as Valve has swiftly put an end to the open source code by rounding the 16 decimal places into one, rendering sales estimates inaccurate once again. The company has not publicly spoken about its latest efforts, with many expressing their annoyance at the company’s lack of transparency.
Valve’s business development head Jan-Peter Ewert has acknowledged the importance of data tracking, stating that the company is working on its own answer to Steam Spy. “We are much working on new tools and new ways of getting data out of Steam, and we hope that data can be more accurate and more useful than what Steam Spy previously offered you.”
While saddened by the news, Galyonkin maintains that his focus was always to “let smaller developers make informed decisions based on data and to remove some of the information asymmetry that is so pervasive in our industry.” Luckily, a better version of Steam Spy provided by Valve itself will continue this, rather than leaving developers high and dry.
KitGuru Says: Given that Galyonkin has served developers well over the years with his tracking efforts, it would be nice to see Valve take an interest in employing his skillset, but perhaps that’s a little too ‘Hollywood’ of an ending to this narrative. How do you feel about the end of Steam Spy?