In response to allegations of banning games with AI-generated assets from its games store, Valve, the legendary creator of the Half-Life series and primary conduit of PC gaming distribution, has clarified its position. Far from being a stance against AI, the company insists its policy is fluid, reflecting the rapidly evolving nature of technology.
Steam's review and approval process, akin to that of any app platform, sometimes remains ambiguous until developers push the envelope. This was the case when an indie developer claimed on a subreddit that Valve has ceased publishing games with AI-generated content.
The game submitted contained "obvious AI-generated assets," prompting a response from Valve due to the murky legal ownership of such assets. In a series of communication, Valve expressed its concerns regarding the potential lack of legal rights to all the AI-generated assets and training data, essentially leading to an inferred blanket ban on AI-generated assets in games.
While the usage of AI as a development tool is widely accepted (big names like Ubisoft have expressed their support), the difference lies in the nature of its application. Generative AI powered by unpaid artists poses more significant challenges in terms of potential liabilities for creators, distributors, or other art handlers. If creators cannot definitively claim copyright over their own work, Valve perceives the risk of publishing that work as too steep.
Valve clarified its policy to Eurogamer, indicating that it reflects "what's legally required" more than a specific viewpoint on AI. The aim is not to dissuade the use of AI on Steam; instead, they are figuring out how to incorporate it into their existing review policies. They stress that the review process reflects current copyright laws and policies rather than an overlay of their opinion. As the laws evolve, so will their process.
Valve also declared that it would refund the usually non-refundable app submission fee in cases where this evolving policy proves decisive. However, it remains uncertain whether AI is genuinely being employed meaningfully outside of experiments or opportunistic monetization. As established developers increasingly utilize these tools, and as the tools become more refined, the issue could become more intricate and far from black and white.