Dozens of PC games drop tracking software after surveillance fears

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He expressed his frustration with the response online, which he says painted a false picture of Red Shell as a spyware programme trying to sell data for malicious purposes. He said that people’s worries were “unfounded”, especially since some forum users had decompiled the Red Shell code and had shown there was nothing malignant within it.

For him, the situation has been “frustrating on our side because those [spyware accusations] are patently not true.” He also explains that Red Shell is the name of an old Trojan virus, a claim repeated on the Red Shell website, which has possibly people additionally anxious. Despite Lieb’s defence, publishers have still pledged to remove Red Shell from their products.

Games studios take fire

Believing that the developers making their games were in the wrong for using Red Shell, gamers have been making complaints for some time, initially confined to individual game forums, but recently intensifying and centralising on more general forums such as the r/steam subreddit.

Faizan Abid, a producer at the Singapore-based Daylight Studios, which has promised to remove Red Shell from one of its games, says it was initially installed to help with marketing. On June 8, Daylight updated the rogue-like adventure game Holy Potatoes! We’re in Space?!, explaining in a Steam community post that it was adding Red Shell to the game.

“We have been trying to improve the marketing for our games,” Abid says. “On Steam, it’s very hard to get visibility for small games like us. We need a way to get visibility on our own, and the only way to do that is paid marketing. The only problem is there is no way to know if they actually bought the game due to an ad they saw.”

Due to the strength of the player response to the post, Abid, and a programmer, uploaded another patch less than a day later to take Red Shell out again. He was happy to do as the players requested, but not completely. “I totally understand and respect these feelings, and I want our players to feel comfortable. This does mean that we can’t use the Red Shell service, and that leaves us blind when it comes to marketing so we can’t actually use paid marketing, it won’t be efficient without having this data.”

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