The RedShell-Steam ControversyJun 22, 2018 | 1 Votes
When Valve put up Steam as an online game distribution site, it became a great help to publishers and developers alike to be able to market and distribute their games. However, as the years went on the online games market has grown overcrowded and saturated. The flood of new game releases in both commercial and free2play markets has made it very difficult for game companies to just sell their games. Gone are the days when games where sold in cute attractive boxed packages at stores and mail order outlets worldwide and game magazines and periodicals the main medium of marketing ruled the day. In those days, browsing through a games magazine like PC Gamer would give you an idea which games where the most sought after of the time.
Selling online today is unfortunately a much more complicated process simply because of the immense competition and accessibility not present during the games magazine era. Companies and businesses today rely on online marketing analytics to be able to predict when and where they would be able to make the most sale. Marketing techniques have been used since one can remember but with the advent of the internet age and global connectivity dragging on, things have become a little bit more complicated.
Steam is inundated by so many games that are being released by the hundreds that it becomes next to impossible for a game company to make a killing just by plunking their game on Steam, running their ad campaigns and crossing their fingers that gamers will buy. It is a fact that there are many good games available on Steam that do not get the attention that they deserve which is a sad reality for small independent developers who still do not have the distribution resources available to giant companies like Electronic Arts and Activision Blizzard. Today, just uploading your commercial game on Steam does not even guarantee that it will even make a single sale.
To address the situation, a market tracking service called RedShell is now being used by a number of game development and publishing concerns. RedShell is a game companion app developed by Seattle-based digital marketing company Innervate. The company aims to help game companies find out where their paying customers are coming from to be able to do market analysis based on this and refocus their marketing efforts to effectively reach out to these customers and make more sales. Combining the process with online sales portals like Steam would be of great help to the companies knowing when and where an effective marketing campaign could be focused instead of guessing results with the use of more generalized marketing apps such as Google Analytics.
There is nothing wrong with Marketing per se and of course probably no harm in it as the whole commercial world uses it in one form or the other. The controversy which has however been generated and has affected so many gamers and paying customers of Steam in the use of RedShell with the games they purchase from the site is an issue of digital privacy and security. Users noticed then eventually found out that RedShell was running covert activities on their computers without consent. The so called marketing and customer tracker was doing a ninja moves Splinter Cell on them. RedShell was collecting data more than it should and activities like these can only mean one thing, Conspiracy Theory and the control of the Deep State! A big no no no for every average Joe gamer out there.
RedShell gets itself installed on a customer’s computer in such a discreet manner when jolly gamer excitedly installs his or her newly purchased game from Steam. Not all games use RedShell but chances are, the most popular and saleable big titles do. Once installed, the app goes to work collecting data using a two step process to determine when a customer buys and plays the game because of an ad campaign. The process is called FingerPrinting where the RedShell code is embedded into the games installation files so that when the game is run it generates a hash-fingerprint or tag so that the developers and publishers can track it to determine which ad campaigns are generating sales and when the game is being installed.
However, aside from it's customer market tracking function, the app has also been discovered to collect data on the customers computer like what OS is being used, what browsers are being used, hardware information of the PC itself, the IP address of the customer, the Steam user id, the time zone of the computers location and the language being used among others things enough to be publicly considered as spyware!
As this is not actually new as there are software applications that one way or the other do this, it is however legal policy to ask permission from the customer or user and give the option to go ahead with it or not. Regardless of the customers decision, the app should run and perform its given task. With RedShell, the customers where misinformed or even not at all that the said tracker would collect user data which may even include personal ones. Also, the fact that RedShell is doing this via Steam raises a barrage of alarm bells and serious concerns pissing off customers everywhere. While no one can fully state or accuse Innervate of being a front for the CIA, people do have the constitutional right to protect the contents of their computers.
No one really knows what lurks inside the PC memory drives of people all over the world. From professional sensitive work related data, Financial data like account numbers, passwords and your secret codes to your secret stash in Switzerland or the Camen Islands and to the more personal non-mentionable ones like those pics, vids and documents only you or a selected few should see. The tracker tracks what people do on their computers, websites visited and so on and so forth and the danger of the game companies ending up knowing these and you the customer personally is a really big issue. You can just imagine the public uproar if information was leaked that a certain senator loves to secretly trans-dress at night and take selfies of himself or a certain theology student who visits a certain number of porn sites three times a week, just because they bought and played a game on Steam. The point is, what people do on their computers is nobody else’s business but themselves and they have every right to protect that whatever service or marketing reason game companies can come up with.
Some of the games affected on Steam by the RedShell spyware include titles like the Elder Scrolls Online, Magic the Gathering Arena, Dead by Daylight, Battlerite, My Time At Portia, Civilization VI, Warhammer 40k Eternal Crusade, Eternal Card Game and Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 among many others. A number of game companies have pledged to remove RedShell from their games but users and customers can expedite this by not buying and supporting games listed with RedShell or any other tracking software for the matter. After all, doing market research and collecting information without consent are two different matters.
In closing, the privacy of the individual is one of the basic rights of every citizen of the free world and unless you live under a police state, communist regime or blatant dictatorship that does not value or respect human rights, a person will always have the right to ones privacy. When commercial companies in whatever field of endeavor be it cosmetics or video games violate this principle, they are liable to the law and public scrutiny.