If you haven’t heard of Red Shell, you’re in for a wild ride, and not because you’re playing Mario Kart. On June 9, Red Shell’s presence was discovered in this thread on the Steam subreddit, and has since been a source of scorn and controversy over the last month.
The company behind the software buffeted the accusations in a statement to Kotaku. And to PC Gamer, Dire Wolf Digital, the former makers of The Elder Scrolls: Legends, said Red Shell was not spyware, it’s “just some under-the-hood analytics that help us understand how our advertisements perform.”While frankly, if that definition is accurate, the correct term for Red Shell would be adware, a fairly common and mostly innocuous form of advertising, assuming it’s not used nefariously.
Gamers have generally been skeptical in response to these statements, and given the recent introduction of GDPR regulations in the EU, users are much more sensitive to violations of their privacy than they’ve been previously. So it’s not surprising that some devs and publishers have decided to pull the plug on Red Shell. And they have a good reason to, given that some gamers tend to lash out at anyone they think is screwing them over.
About 20 PC games — including The Elder Scrolls Online and Conan Exiles — have removed the software since users dug into its code and found some potentially malicious or invasive behavior. Ostensibly, the software is billed as an ad-targeting and analytics tool, but the method of delivery and data collection was just obtuse enough to anger some people.
The most recent dev team to make the change is Firaxis Games, the developers at the helm of Civilization VI. Civilization VI’s latest version 126.96.36.1992 update added cross-platform multiplayer functionality between PC and Mac users. Apart from that, Firaxis has also decided to remove the controversial Red Shell program.
It remains to be seen what will happen with Red Shell in the future. But let’s just hope that gamers, developers and publisher learn a lesson about self-control and exploitation for profit from this whole debacle.