Steam Says No to AI-Made Games Over Copyright Issues

Valve refuses to ship AI-made games due to rights over training data

Ben Wodecki, Jr. Editor

July 4, 2023

3 Min Read
Getty images

At a Glance

  • Valve blocks AI-developed games on Steam, citing insufficient rights to training data.
  • Games with AI-generated assets can only be published if developers own all the IP used in the dataset used to train the AI.

Valve, the developer of the internet’s largest video game digital store Steam, has confirmed it won’t accept games created using AI on its platform.

Valve rejected a developer trying to submit a game on Steam that used an AI tool to generate in-game assets, saying it “cannot ship games for which the developer does not have all of the necessary rights.”

Valve, which has shipped some of the most influential video games of all time including Half-Life and Left 4 Dead, said it’s “unclear” as to whether the AI used to make game assets has “sufficient rights to the training data.”

Valve breaks its silence for AI

The statement is a rarity for Valve — the company is known for being tight-lipped when it comes to external communications on everything from new titles to bugs and fixes. Renowned Valve developer Robin Walker said in a 2014 talk that the best way to communicate around a video game product is “simply to improve the product itself.”

Valve’s silence was broken by a developer posting screenshots of conversations with the company. Reddit user potterharry97 posted that he tried to submit a video game on Steam that contained “two to three” AI-generated assets.

In response to their submission, Valve said it could not ship the game due to copyright issues.

The rejection notice reads: “After reviewing, we have identified intellectual property in [game name] which appears to belong to one or more third parties. In particular, [game name] contains art assets generated by artificial intelligence that appears to be relying on copyrighted material owned by third parties.”

Due to the “unclear” nature of legal ownership of AI-generated content, Valve said it could only publish the game if the developer could confirm that they owned all of the IP used in the data set that trained the AI to create the assets.

The Reddit users said the assets were “improved… by hand so there were no longer any obvious signs of AI” but were still rejected.

The developer said it took Valve a week to decide on the game, longer than previous titles they submitted to Steam.

They claimed to have seen several games on Steam that explicitly mention the use of AI.

The developer behind the Reddit post isn't the only target of Valve's AI caution. Another developer also posted on Reddit expressing their frustration that their title was rejected.

Video game asset generation

Video games, like most industries, have been subject to the ongoing AI wave. In the past 12 months alone, Nvidia unleashed a series of GPUs to power next-gen video game graphics, ChatGPT makers OpenAI taught an AI system to play Minecraft, and Sony developed a system capable of beating top human players at racing video game Gran Turismo 7.

One emerging application is using AI to generate assets for games. The likes of Scenario, Leonardo and Aitubo are quickly emerging as tools for developers to use natural language prompts to generate everything you might find in a game, like armor or furniture.

Video game developers, especially on AAA titles, are historically forced to work long hours to ensure games are up to scratch before release. For example, before the release of the Western title Red Dead Redemption 2, some members of the development team worked 100-hour weeks.

With AI generation tools, the concept is that developers could merely prompt a tool to generate assets for their games.

Unity is the market share leader in game development. Its platform is getting an AI boost with new offerings allowing users to create assets and edit games with AI. The company’s president, Marc Whitten, recently told AI Business that Unity would ethically source content for its AI generate tools to address user concerns over copyright.

Read more about:

ChatGPT / Generative AI

About the Author(s)

Ben Wodecki

Jr. Editor

Ben Wodecki is the Jr. Editor of AI Business, covering a wide range of AI content. Ben joined the team in March 2021 as assistant editor and was promoted to Jr. Editor. He has written for The New Statesman, Intellectual Property Magazine, and The Telegraph India, among others. He holds an MSc in Digital Journalism from Middlesex University.

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