PC gamers are an inquisitive breed – if a developer inserts a file into their games, even without announcing it, one adventurous player diving through the game’s directories will eventually find it. That’s been the case with Red Shell, a tracking service that sleuthing gamers have found inside PC games.
Since the tracker – which largely collects information about player’s consoles and habits – was discovered in a number of games, publishers have faced a backlash from their customers. The complaints have led to several game studios removing, or at least promising to remove, the offending software.
The Red Shell software has seen players complaining on the forums of games such as Conan Exiles, The Elder Scrolls Online, Dead by Daylight, Civilization VI, several Total War games and Holy Potatoes! We’re in Space?! since March.
They have demanded to know why the developers they paid and trusted were trying to harvest data from under their nose – some going so far as accusing them of installing spyware on their machines. “On their website they [Red Shell] formulate it all in very harmless language, but the fact is that this is software from someone i don’t trust and whom i never invited, which is looking at my data and running on my pc against my will,” Reddit user Alexspeed75 wrote.
While publishers and developers are removing Red Shell in response to fan pressure, they have claimed the software was completely benign, and that they hope to use it in future when a more transparent approach is figured out. Red Shell has defended its system saying it helps advertisers to properly target their ads at gamers. So, what exactly is Red Shell, why do game developers use it, and is it legal and ethical to record player data like this?