The Need for Steam Support: a Christmas Fiasco

EDIT: After this article was published, Valve has actually released a statement in which they apologized for this screw-up and gave more details about it. According to Valve, the Steam Store was hit by a DoS attack, which meant that the store could only display cached store pages.

On Christmas day, Steam users had the unpleasant surprise of discovering that Steam was leaking their account information to other users. For about one hour, the Steam store logged everyone in as the last person to visit that page. According to Valve, the issue was caused by a configuration change, which allowed users to see others’ personal data, including their full name, billing address, the last two digits of their credit card, the last four digits of their phone number and their PayPal email address. Luckily, because Steam was only displaying a cached version of the store pages, no money was spent by malicious users.

This fiasco ended when the folks working at that time completely shut the Steam servers down, and within 4 hours, Valve released an explanation for this situation.

No apologies

Even though the holidays are underway, almost a week has passed since the incident, and Valve still has to apologize to its users. While the incident is understandable, as there was probably only one person working on Christmas day, for a billionaire company, you would at least expect a written apology to their 13 million users.

It wouldn’t be the first time Valve apologised for their mistake, as they have even offered free games as compensation for wrongfully banned Modern Warfare 2 players back in 2010.

Best case scenario

Given that no money was lost during this fiasco, this was the best scenario imaginable. Just think about the deplorable state of Steam Support – it takes weeks for their support employees just to message back, and many times losing your account means losing it for good, as the support is simply useless.

In fact, it is unclear if Valve even has employees assigned to their support team or if their support consists of bots, as things are quite fishy. Every Steam Support “employee” has a generic name, and they always reply with a copy-pasted, generic message upon identifying a keyword in your case.

Unpleasant services

Aside from Valve’s horrible support, their Steam services can be quite unpleasant at times. A good example of this is the recent “Trade Holds” feature, which requires both trade participants to use the Steam Mobile Authenticator, or else their items are held for 72 hours. While they may have had good intentions coming up with this feature, it pretty much ruined the trading community.

Another example is the insufficiency of their Steam Cloud. While a great save file backup service, the Steam Cloud can often result in corrupted save files, and it isn’t present in all games on Steam. This is why you should manually backup your save files, using the SteamSaveBackup program, which makes it easy to keep your precious save files safe.

How Valve gets away with this

So, how does Valve manage to get away with this? How does a billionaire company screw over their 13 million users without anyone taking any measures? Simply: by not caring. And why would they? There are simply no alternatives threatening their business on the PC game distribution market.

Let’s take a look at Origin, for example. Because it only represents a small percentage of the PC gaming market, it cares about its customers: while it had a bad reputation initially, through its refund option (which may be the one that inspired Steam’s) and its stellar customer support, they improved their reputation and have quickly gained the love of their fans.

However, due to its low user base and scarce library of games, Valve doesn’t see Origin as either a threatening competitor or an example, and that’s a bad thing, as competition is beneficial to business.

So what can we do?

The only way we can actually get real support from Valve is by rallying the community against them, like we did with the paid mods fiasco. Unless we show them that we are fed up with their cheap solutions to our problems, they will just keep on neglecting our needs and taking our money. However, with the Internet’s love for “Lord Gaben”, this may prove very difficult to do.