Valve seems to be blocking video games created with AI-generated assets from being published on its online storefront Steam. A Reddit post from earlier this month, first noticed by GameDiscoverCo founder Simon Carless, includes a message from Valve explaining that it “cannot ship games for which the developer does not have all of the necessary rights.” On June 29, another Redditor wrote that Steam denied their game for “utilizing AI tech.”
The first developer that posted the message said they initially tried to release their game “with a few assets that were fairly obviously AI-generated.”
“My plan was to just submit a rougher version of the game […] and to improve them prior to actually releasing the game as I wasn’t aware Steam had any issues with AI-generated art,” they wrote.
Though Steam’s rules for developer submissions don’t explicitly ban AI-made content the way they deny games made on the blockchain (“Applications built on blockchain technology that issue or allow exchange of cryptocurrencies or NFTs” are clearly part of “What you shouldn’t publish on Steam,” that list says), the company does note that “Content you don’t own or have adequate rights to” is not allowed.
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As traditional artists have been pointing out since AI art was made widely accessible to the public with generators like Dall-E 2 and Midjourney in 2022, it’s difficult to ascertain copyright for art made by math problems. The machine learning algorithms that supply an AI art generator need to chew up a large dataset of existing images to be able to do their jobs, and while some have argued that being the person who created a machine is enough grounds to be the owner of all its artwork, both the U.S. Copyright Office and visual artists have so far disagreed. Regardless, that would put ownership in the hands of the AI company rather than the developer using the artwork in a game.
Valve reportedly told the developer that their game “contains art assets generated by artificial intelligence that appears to be relying on copyrighted material owned by third parties. As the legal ownership of such AI-generated art is unclear, we cannot ship your game while it contains these AI-generated assets, unless you can affirmatively confirm that you own the rights to all of the IP used in the data set that trained the AI to create the assets in your game.”
“If you fail to remove all such content,” it continued, “we will not be able to ship your game on Steam, and this app will be banned.”
Valve ultimately decided that it was too “unclear if the underlying AI tech used to create the assets has sufficient rights to the training data,” and has reportedly been also denying games that use AI-made text with essentially the same boilerplate rejection it used on the Reddit developer.
However, some are suggesting these AI game bans are actually a hoax. If the messages are real, though, this is a relatively new pivot. There are currently multiple games on Steam that plainly state their use of AI-created art and text in their descriptions; In practice, it doesn’t seem like there’s much of an AI “ban” on Steam. Kotaku reached out to Valve for comment.