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'Asset Flip Simulator' Highlights a Huge Problem on Steam

Anyone can just upload anything they want to Steam for $100.

Matthew Gault

Matthew Gault

For the low cost of $4.99, you too can wander around a barren landscape doing nothing. That’s the premise of Asset Flip Simulator, a new game released to Steam on May 4. Boot up the game and it drops you into a desert landscape. You’ve got a health bar but no weapons. Wander around. That’s it. That’s the whole game.

Want to add a little spice to the scene? For $9.99, you can add assets to Asset Flip Simulator and turn the game into a crappy first person shooter that looks like it’d be at home on the first PlayStation. Other DLC includes donations to the developer ranging from $1 to $5.

Asset Flip Simulator highlights a huge problem with Steam. Its quality control sucks and it's full of shovelware and asset flips, meaning games that buy ready made 3D models and other assets from game development marketplaces like Unreal or Unity. SteamSpy—a site that tracks the digital platform’s metrics—reported that 38 percent of the platforms entire catalog had been uploaded that year alone. Steam released 4,207 games in 2016 and 7,672 in 2017. This year looks to continue that trend.

Thanks to stores Unity and Game Guru, which are loaded with stock assets that allow developers to build their game without original art assets, it’s easier than ever to make a video game. This is generally a great thing because it allows more people to make more games, but often people upload cobbled together, barely-functioning games.

Steam has attempted to curb this problem. It set the cost of uploading a game to its store at $100—a fee developers can recoup after a game makes $1,000. Steam has also gone through and delisted thousands of garbage games. But the problem persists.

Asset Flip Simulator was “developed” by BunchOD00dz and published by ArcaneRaise. It seems pretty clear that they're trying to make a point. “From the esteemed asset flippers and shovelware pumpers that brought you gems such as ISIS & Suicide Simulator, comes another zero effort cash grab aimed at the fat wallets of edgelords and memesters,” the description of Asset Flip Simulator reads. “Do you enjoy wasting your time and money on the Internet? Look no further!”

The game’s discussion board is mostly empty, but one user did have a question. “Serious question. Why do any of this?” Steam user Kaluth asked.

“Minimum effort, maximum money. EZ question, next please,” BunchOD00dz replied.

Steam and BunchOD00dz did not immediately respond to our request for comment.