You might remember that, a few days ago, Steam had a caching issue that let users see each others’ personal information. It was kind of A Thing. Since then, Steam has been in a fragile — some would argue busted — state.
Steam’s gone down a handful of times since the aptly named Steam Winter Fail. On top of that, multiple users — myself included — have frequently had trouble with Steam’s search features, making it difficult to find specific games. Core features like the store and community pages have also been unreliable and, at times, seemingly unresponsive. All these issues have plagued the service for the last few days. Basically, Steam’s a crapshoot right now. Maybe it will work, maybe it will fall flat on its face.
The biggest issue, however, has involved email verification. Steam accounts are tied to email addresses, and sometimes things like logins on new machines or trades need manual verification via email. Unfortunately, for the past few days many of these emails haven’t been sending. The issue seems especially prevalent for people using Microsoft email addresses (such as Outlook and Hotmail). As a result, some Steam users have been unable to complete trades and/or have been locked out of their accounts entirely. Predictably, people aren’t pleased.
It’s been a rough few days for Steam, and I’m sure Valve is spread thin at the moment — what with the holidays continuing to spirit people away on magical polar bear holidays (or awkward family dinners with vaguely racist grandparents). Still, when you’re running the biggest PC gaming service on Earth, this kind of thing isn’t really excusable. Even if people weren’t flush with Christmas cash and trying to trawl Steam’s winter sale for new games, this sort of thing would be beyond irksome.
On top of that, Valve dropped the ball in a big way only a few days ago. They allowed people’s personal information to be shown to other users, said nothing while everything was going haywire, and then didn’t even acknowledge the potential consequences of their mistake in the aftermath. They let people panic while it was happening, and now they’re letting people stew in anger and uncertainty. They need to re-earn users’ trust. Following that calamitous belly flop with core functionality issues and — once again — a painful lack of communication (just, like, a few tweets would be super helpful!), well, that doesn’t exactly inspire faith.
Here’s hoping Valve clears up these issues soon. Here’s hoping they also come to realise that you can’t run a 125 million user (and counting) service like you would a game development project. You’ve gotta be communicative ’round the clock and timely when addressing issues. I’ve heard multiple Valve employees pose the (paraphrased) question, “Why sit around saying things when we could use that time to fix problems, make stuff, or improve the service?” But when you’re running a storefront/service, that’s a false dichotomy. Communication and speed are simply part of the service you offer. If it’s not there, you can have all the cool features in the world, but still offer a sub-par service. The short version? You can’t run a store in Valve Time. Not when it’s as ubiquitous as Steam, anyway.
If Valve can’t fix these core problems right now, they should at least tell us why. As is, people are confused and frustrated. It doesn’t have to be this way, and yet, here we are.