Valve does a 180 on AI-made games on Steam

  • Steam will begin selling games that have AI-made assets in them after blocking these games in 2023.
  • Steam-owner Valve says that the primary concern for these games is that AI-generated content in them would cause copyright issues.
  • Developers will now have to disclose if their games contain AI-content if they want to sell them on Steam.

After several months of blocking games that include AI-generated content from being sold on its platform, Steam-owner Valve has now expanded its policy on AI, and will begin allowing developers who use AI tools to sell their games through the digital marketplace. But there are caveats.

“Back in June, we shared that while our goal continues to be shipping as many games as possible on Steam, we needed some time to learn about the fast-moving and legally murky space of AI technology, especially given Steam’s worldwide reach,” said Valve in a blog post on Tuesday explaining its new policy on the topic.

Valve said at that time that it was concerned about AI content being generated for in-game use, and that it could present a copyright issue for the vendor. Games that used AI content would be banned from being in the Steam Store.

The Steam marketplace is the premier location to buy and sell PC games on the internet, with thousands of developers looking to put their creations on the platform. Transactions for videogames on the Steam are worth several billions of dollars.

“While we strive to ship most titles submitted to us, we cannot ship games for which the developer does not have all of the necessary rights,” Valve told a game developer when they submitted their game to be sold on Steam in July 2023. The developer admits in a Reddit post that they had used AI tools to create a few assets for their game.

“After reviewing, we have identified intellectual property in [Game Name Here] which appears to belong to one or more third parties. In particular, [Game Name Here] contains art assets generated by artificial intelligence that appear to be relying on copyrighted material owned by third parties,” the Steam owner explained, blocking the game from entering the store.

However, more than half a year later Valve has seemingly had enough time to ponder the ramifications of AI tools being used in games, and has now introduced a new method to handle AI-content, which the company says will allow them to publish the “vast majority of games that use it” on Steam.

The Steam AI workaround

Valve now requires developers to disclose if they use AI-generated assets in their games. Developers will now need to describe if the AI content is either pre-generated or live-generated. The difference being that pre-generated content was made through AI software during development, while live-generated content is in-game assets that are being generated by AI while the game is running.

The company explains games that use pre-generated content will be allowed on Steam, while games that use live-generated content will have to go through a few more hoops. Developers using AI tools will have to promise Valve that they are not pulling from copyrighted content if they want their game to be sold.

“Under the Steam Distribution Agreement, [developers] promise Valve that [their] game will not include illegal or infringing content, and that [their] game will be consistent with [their] marketing materials. In our pre-release review, we will evaluate the output of AI generated content in [their] game the same way we evaluate all non-AI content – including a check that [their] game meets those promises,” the company details.

“In the Content Survey, you’ll need to tell us what kind of guardrails you’re putting on your AI to ensure it’s not generating illegal content,” it adds.

Additionally, Valve will now introduce a method for players to be able to report illegal or infringing AI-generated content while they are in-game using the Steam overlay function.

“Today’s changes are the result of us improving our understanding of the landscape and risks in this space, as well as talking to game developers using AI, and those building AI tools,” Valve adds.

“This will allow us to be much more open to releasing games using AI technology on Steam. The only exception to this will be Adult Only Sexual Content that is created with Live-Generated AI – we are unable to release that type of content right now.”

Is it okay to use AI assets in games?

The topic of AI-generated assets, such as art, sound, music, etc. for games is tricky. While digital artists online now have to compete with AI tools like StableDiffusion and Midjourney for work, these same tools allow smaller developers – such as one-person teams – to more easily and affordably develop titles.

Videogame development is a multi-disciplinary art form and AI tools allow devs who can programme but can’t draw the ability to include art assets in their games, for example, especially if they can’t afford to pay an artist.

The problem that Valve may run into with this new model of having developers disclose if there are any copyright risks with their content before allowing these games on Steam, is that there will often most certainly be.

On Tuesday, ChatGPT-creator OpenAI told a UK House of Lords committee that generative AI models require copyright-infringing content to be able to function properly. Image-generating platform StableDiffusion hinges its content generation on user-created “models” which are vast databases of images pulled from the internet, collected and labelled. Most models use entirely unoriginal content found online that belongs to others and taken without compensation.


About Author


Related News