Steam slams the door on crypto, NFT games — here's why

Steam (Image credit: Steam)

Play-to-earn crypto and NFT games are skyrocketing in popularity. Axie Infinity is one of them; it's a blockchain-based game that relies on cryptocurrencies such as Smooth Love Potion. Unfortunately, if Axie Infinity — or any other crypto game — has aspirations of landing on Steam (a largely popular game store), they're out of luck.

Valve, the company behind Steam, updated its rules on what it will not allow on its game distribution service: blockchain-based titles are now banned.

Steam washes its hands of crypto, NFT games

Steam's "What you shouldn't publish on Steam" section has a new addition: "Applications built on blockchain technology that issue or allow exchange of cryptocurrencies or NFTs." This was pointed out by SpacePirate Games, the developer behind Age of Rust (a blockchain-based, action-adventure game).

Age of Rust

Age of Rust (Image credit: SpacePirate Games)

On October 14, SpacePirate Games told its followers that Steam kicked its dark, sci-fi title off the platform because it involves collecting in-game NFTs.

"A few minutes ago, we were notified that @Steam will be kicking *all blockchain games* off the platform, including Age of Rust, because NFTs have value," SpacePirate Games tweeted. "They don't allow items that can have real-world value on their platform."

Space Pirate Games concluded that they respect Steam's choice, but they "fundamentally believe" that NFTs and blockchain games are the future, adding that this is a setback for crypto-based titles. 

Blockchain-based gaming is still in its nascent stages. While it's gotten a lot of traction and success (e.g. Axie Infinity, Splinterlands and Plants vs. Undead), Steam is likely banning it to play it safe. After all, the crypto world is still trying to rectify scalability issues on Ethereum, the most popular blockchain for NFTs. On top of that, the digital-asset realm attracts scammers and hackers, so for the time being, Steam has an aversion to dabbling in the Wild, Wild West of crypto. However, this may change in the future.

Tim Sweeney, CEO of Epic Games (Steam's game store rival), recently tweeted that he has no plans to embrace blockchain-based gaming for the same reasons listed above. "We aren’t touching NFTs as the whole field is currently tangled up with an intractable mix of scams, interesting decentralized tech foundations, and scams," Sweeney said. Oh, and did he mention scams?

I dig non-fungible tokens as a technology that can helps fans patronize their favorite artists (and NFTs could even streamline real estate paperwork in the future), but I can't say I'm onboard with NFT gaming. Not all blockchain-based titles do this, but in my experience, it just seems like another way to nickel and dime gamers.

Kimberly Gedeon

Kimberly Gedeon, holding a Master's degree in International Journalism, launched her career as a journalist for MadameNoire's business beat in 2013. She loved translating stuffy stories about the economy, personal finance and investing into digestible, easy-to-understand, entertaining stories for young women of color. During her time on the business beat, she discovered her passion for tech as she dove into articles about tech entrepreneurship, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and the latest tablets. After eight years of freelancing, dabbling in a myriad of beats, she's finally found a home at Laptop Mag that accepts her as the crypto-addicted, virtual reality-loving, investing-focused, tech-fascinated nerd she is. Woot!