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The Real Reason These Games Were Removed From Steam

The digital storefront is a double-edged sword: having easy access to games gives customers more options, instant delivery, and better opportunities for pricing. Stephanie Barish, the CEO of IndieCade, has also cited digital distribution as the central catalyst for the rise of indie games. Digital releases also bring some negative aspects to the table: games are often released as unfinished "Early Access" titles, and some developers actively seek to troll customers and digital storefronts with their releases. On some occasions, a game will be delisted on a site like Steam with no real explanation as to where it has gone.


When Valve pulls a game from their store, it generally doesn't remove it from customers' libraries if they have already purchased it (although that has happened on occasion). You may even own some of these games and not realize that Valve, or the game's developer, yanked it from Steam after you obtained your copy. Let's dive into some of the games you can no longer purchase on Steam and discover the real reasons why they are no longer available.

Active Shooter was created by a known Steam troll

Sometimes, games ride waves of controversy to even greater success. Mortal Kombat was pilloried in the early '90s by Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman, and that series is still going strong almost three decades later. Other times, backlash in the court of public opinion is too strong; it also helps if the game in question is not very good and the developer is a known troll. Such is the case with a school shooting simulator entitled Active Shooter.


Controversy started to swirl around the game as soon as people started discovering it, before it had even released. The Washington Post writes that the game's publisher, Acid, looked for ways to salvage the title, such as removing the option to play as the actual shooter and not using child character models. It was not enough, and outcry only increased.

Backlash was so swift that the game never actually reached its release date. PC Gamer writes that Valve pulled the game's Steam page on May 29, 2018, one week before Active Shooter was scheduled to release. They also permanently banned the developer and publisher, citing that they were aliases of a known Steam troll with a "history of customer abuse" named Ata Berdiyev. Valve discovered Berdiyev's identity when looking into the controversy surrounding the game.


Alan Wake's downfall was ... David Bowie?

Not every game gets pulled from Steam due to some terrible controversy. One culprit that can get games yanked from the store is an expired license. In the case of Alan Wake, it was not even a character license or something essential to the game: a few popular songs did the game in, and it is no longer available to purchase.


Alan Wake is an episodic horror game, and each episode features a song from a well-known artist at its conclusion. Songs like "In Dreams" by Roy Orbison, "Up Jumped the Devil" by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, and "Space Oddity" by David Bowie all play over the credits of episodes, and the expirations of those licenses are the reason you can no longer pick the game up. Anyone who purchased a copy before it was pulled still has access to the game, and Rock Paper Shotgun writes that developer Remedy is "looking into relicensing the music for Alan Wake, but have no timeframe for this." If those licenses are updated, Alan Wake might make a return to Steam.

Paranautical Activity's developer threatened Valve's CEO

Oh, Paranautical Activity. The promising rogue-like FPS with voxel graphics hit Steam Early Access in September 2013, and PC Gamer called it "the most capital-I 'Indie' release I've ever seen." The key phrase in that last sentence is "Early Access," because Paranautical Activity should have been featured as a full release. Valve's oversight, and its perceived delay in updating the game's Steam page, did not sit well with head developer Mike Maulbeck.


Not. One. Bit.

Maulbeck launched into a Twitter rant against Valve and its founder Gabe Newell. Polygon writes that the main culprit in getting the game removed from Steam was a since-deleted tweet in which Maulbeck wrote "I am going to kill gabe newell [sic]. He is going to die." He later apologized, saying the outburst came in the heat of the moment and he was not actually threatening Newell. However, the damage had already been done. Paranautical Activity was removed from Steam, and Maulbeck eventually stepped down from Code Avarice. According to Polygon, his hope was that their future games would be able to get onto the platform if he was no longer involved with the company.

Motor Rock is a remake of a Blizzard game that wasn't made by Blizzard

Imagine if someone came up with this plan: "Let's take a cult-classic property from an established juggernaut developer like Blizzard. Let's take all the assets they created and remake them, but slightly updated. And let's rip sounds directly from the original game before releasing ours to Steam. We'll say we're going to release it for free, but we're actually going to charge money for it."


If you said "That's far too dumb to imagine," then you're in luck! You don't have to imagine it, because developer Yard Team did exactly that with Motor Rock, which was previously known as Rock 'n' Roll Racing 3D.

Somehow, this "update" of Blizzard's Rock 'n' Roll Racing was actually released on the Steam store for a few days. NeoGAF released transcriptions from Yard Team's FAQ website about the game, such as this gem: "Question: And with copyright will not have problems? How about Blizzard? Answer: We haven't received a formal complaints."

The best part about the entire situation is that the developers seem legitimately confused as to why anyone — Blizzard, Valve, etc. — would have a problem with their game. When asked about the game's removal on a Steam forums post, the developer wrote, "I don't know. I wasn't warned. We are waiting for explanations from Valve."


Ashes Cricket 2013 is an affront to the sport of cricket

The Ashes is a big deal in the world of cricket. It is a series played between England and Australia, and it is named after the concept of one side killing the other and burning their bodies. You know, standard sports drama. The Ashes Cricket video game series is supposed to be the premiere video game for the sport: think cricket's version of FIFA or Madden.


Ashes Cricket 2013 failed in that regard. Or any regard.

Rock Paper Shotgun writes that the 2013 version of the game was supposed to release before the real world biennial matchup between England and Australia, but the video game had to be delayed. When it was released a few months later, unfortunately, the game was still far from finished.

It was a glitchy, unwieldy mess. Entire animations were not added to the game, commentary was a mix of seemingly random statements, and the camera seemed to have a mind of its own. The game was pulled very quickly from Steam, and the BBC writes that publisher 505 Games issued an apology to the sport of cricket itself: "The chosen developer, even with their many years of cricket game development experience, was unable to overcome the unexpected challenges that the chosen game engine threw up, even with multiple extensions to the development schedule. ... Our deepest apologies, however, are reserved for the fans of cricket and cricket games worldwide."


Deadpool got no love from Activision

Deadpool released for PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3 with very little fanfare in July of 2013. Just six months later, Deadpool was pulled from both physical stores and digital stores like Steam, along with several other Marvel titles published by Activision. Spider-Man and X-Men games also disappeared overnight. If you didn't already own the game, then you could no longer get your hands on it.


Destructoid posits that the hype surrounding the Deadpool movie, specifically the trailer buzz after 2015's San Diego Comic-Con, had some of Activision's big wigs seeing dollar signs. With no announcement, Deadpool was back on Steam!

Aaaaaaaand now it's gone again. In November 2017, Deadpool was pulled from Steam for the second time. Rock Paper Shotgun writes that, once again, the Deadpool license expired for Activision, despite the fact that the movie sequel released just a few months later.

Bot Colony couldn't sell more than two copies per day

This one is a bit odd, as Bot Colony is actually available on Steam as of this writing: fan outcry after the game was pulled caused developer North Side to bring back the servers and start selling the game again. It's also an odd one because, according to Venture Beat, Bot Colony was in development for over a decade, and cost about two to three million dollars to create. That may sound like small change in the world of AAA titles, but Bot Colony only made back ten thousand dollars in its first 96 hours of release before being pulled.


In an open letter on the Steam forums, the developers announced that the game was selling less than two copies per day, which was not even enough to keep the servers running ($524 per month), let alone to pay the employees of the studio. Therefore, they had to shut down.

The reason for Bot Colony's cost and long development was that North Side developed a complex "Natural Language Understanding" algorithm so players could speak with realistic robots in the game. It was a daring and innovative approach, and sometimes that doesn't always succeed. There aren't many reviews for Bot Colony, but the few out there echo what Game Critics ultimately had to say: "It just doesn't work all that well."

Nekro's developers fought an online war of words

We aren't 100 percent positive exactly why Nekro got pulled from Steam, as the game's own developers disagree. That in itself is probably a big reason, however.

Nekro was funded on Kickstarter in mid-2015, and it did not take long for people to figure out that something was going wrong with the game's development. TechRaptor writes that the game's website and Kickstarter campaign would go dark for months at a time; not a deal breaker, but it's always frightening when a game utilizes crowdfunding and then doesn't let its "producers" know what is happening.


Then the developers broke their silence, and it wasn't pretty. A Steam user going by "drkSeed," claiming to be half the owner/development team behind the game, wrote that the other developer had been taking all the money Nekro had accrued for himself, spending lavishly, and had actually locked him entirely out of the project. The other developer ("Klegran") wrote a response that there were disagreements about the direction of the game, it wasn't selling as well as the two had wanted, and his partner had simply lashed out at him due to frustration. Either way, both partners seemed to have moved in different directions to different projects.

Regardless of what actually happened, Nekro is a good cautionary tale of what can go wrong in artistic development.


Cart Life's developer wanted to see what the game's community could do

Not every game is pulled from Steam because of some developer blow-up or expired license: Cart Life's developer decided that he had taken the game as far as he could, and he wanted to see if the game's fans could add anything more to it. Rock Paper Shotgun writes that creator Richard Hofmeier decided to stop selling the game on Steam and release the source code and game for free.


Huh. Much like the game itself, that's kind of sweet.

Cart Life is a retail simulator where players take control of either a newspaper salesmen, a coffee cart owner, or a bagel maker. You sell to customers to make a small amount of money, and try to bring a bit of happiness into your character's life. Gamespot called the game "not exactly fun ... [but] there's a beauty to Cart Life's depiction of contemporary urban existence that's utterly unlike anything most games offer."

As of this writing, Cart Life is still available to download, completely free.

007 Legends was abandoned by Activision

007 Legends was not a very good game. The Metacritic score of 45 is pretty damning for a major license like James Bond, and Activision had not seen much success with the previous few Bond games either. Just a few months after its PC release, 007 Legends disappeared from Steam. Digital Spy writes that Activision was supposed to hold the rights to the James Bond license until 2014, but most likely relinquished the license early due to poor reception and sales of their James Bond games. Neowin also writes that an anonymous source confirmed just that scenario, and Activision's James Bond games have not been seen on Steam since.


Kotaku published a statement from Activision, where the company wrote that they "expect to release fewer games based on licensed properties" in 2013, which also lends some believability to this theory. It's a far cry from Nintendo 64's GoldenEye, isn't it?