In a move that's bound to yield some very interesting results, Valve just announced that it was changing the way it administers bans on its ridiculously popular gaming service Steam. Rather than adjudicating the entire process on its own, the company is effectively handing over power to individual game developers.
Here's how Valve explained the way things will work going forward in a small post (via MCV) on the Steam community. Pay close attention to how the statement describes Valve's role in the new banning process (emphasis added):
Because nobody likes playing with cheaters.
Playing games should be fun. In order to ensure the best possible online multiplayer experience, Valve allows developers to implement their own systems that detect and permanently ban any disruptive players, such as those using cheats.
Game developers inform Valve when a disruptive player has been detected in their game, and Valve applies the game ban to the account. The game developer is solely responsible for the decision to apply a game ban. Valve only enforces the game ban as instructed by the game developer.
For more information about a game ban in a specific game, please contact the developer of that game.
Game developers are "solely responsible for the decisions to apply a game ban." So while Valve still has to apply the actual bans, the company's description makes it sound like doing so will be a completely automated process — i.e., not one that's subject to any review by Steam employees. They just follow the instructions put forth by the game developer.
That will likely be a good thing in cases where a game developer has a more intimate understanding of its community and the way ban-worthy players inside of it behave than Valve does. But will every game developer use its newfound permabanning powers responsibly?
Valve's statement on its developer-centred banning policy is so sparse that some important questions remain unanswered. Such as: whether or not this only applies to online multiplayer games, how players will be able to appeal bans, and what the extent of a permaban ban will be — i.e. for a specific game, or a gamer's entire Steam account and game library. Valve representatives weren't available for comment at press time.