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The controversial action game Hatred debuted on Steam Greenlight earlier today. Valve removed the game shortly afterward. So what happened there?
Valve's short statement about Hatred suggests that they internally decided to take the game's Greenlight campaign off Steam.
"Based on what we've seen on Greenlight we would not publish Hatred on Steam. As such we'll be taking it down," Valve's Doug Lombardi told Eurogamer.
The Steam Greenlight page for Hatred, cached by Google here, doesn't beat around the bush. It tells players that they will become a mentally disturbed gunman "spreading Armageddon" through New York.
"You will go out for a hunt, you will clear the American soil off humans with cold blood. You will shoot, you will hurt, you will kill, you will die. There are no rules, no compassion, no mercy, no point of going back. You are the lord of life and death now and you have the full control over lifes [sic] of worthless human scum."
The new trailer, created especially for the Steam Greenlight launch, shows the main character executing wounded police and civilians at point-blank rage. In some cases, he decides to beat the prone target to death with his gun rather than use bullets.
Some assume that Valve is bowing to public pressure by removing Hatred from Steam. The game's announcement in October was met with plenty of outrage. It's easy to believe, then, that some of these offended parties demanded Valve take down the game and that the company complied. After all, that's how Target Australia's GTA 5 ban happened.
We shouldn't pretend like Valve didn't have a say in the decision, though. Keep the timeline in mind here. Hatred was removed from Steam Greenlight mere hours after it appeared. The game was gone from Steam before anyone could even make a token Change.org petition demanding its removal. Even if there was an organized effort to get Hatred banned from Steam - and there's no indication that there was - that's too little time to convince Valve to do something they don't want to do.
Furthermore, there was a sizable group of people rallying around the game as well. As developer Destructive Creations notes on their Facebook page, Hatred's Steam Greenlight page received 13,148 upvotes within two hours of its debut. Also, for every Change.org petition speaking out against the game back in October or November, there was another demanding that production continue:
In other words, even if Valve was being pressured by people offended by Hatred's content, they were also having their ear bent by people in favor of the game. Valve is the one who ultimately weighed the opinions in favor and against the game and decided to pull it. The choice was solely in their hands.
A common response to Valve's decision is, "Why would they take down Hatred but not Manhunt, Grand Theft Auto V, or one of the numerous other Steam games based around mass murder?" It's tough to determine what specifically led them to single out this game. Did the game get banned because of the brutal executions? Or did Valve dislike that the slaughter of civilians is the goal of the game rather than an optional activity? Without a more detailed explanation about Hatred's removal, we're just left with guesses.
I'm not expecting any further elaboration from Valve. They're not under any firm obligation to explain their decisions to customers, after all. Valve is a private company with the power to determine what they sell or don't sell on their store.
While being removed from the biggest digital store would ordinarily be a blow to a developer, Hatred and Destructive Creations arguably benefited from this whole controversy. If Hatred were a military shooter set in some warzone, it would have struggled to find an audience. The market for black-and-white isometric shooters in the year 2014 is, let's be honest, not huge. However, now that Hatred is "the game too controversial for Steam," there's a sizable crowd of people supporting it if only out of spite toward political correctness.
Destructive Creations, to their credit, had enough marketing savvy to realize their niche from the start. They knew their game would be controversial and they seemed to crave that polarized response.
"These days, when a lot of games are heading to be polite, colorful, politically correct and trying to be some kind of higher art, rather than just an entertainment – we wanted to create something against trends," they said back in October. "Something different, something that could give the player a pure, gaming pleasure. Here comes our game, which takes no prisoners and makes no excuses."