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PC gamers uncover dozens of games on Steam that make use of the alleged 'spyware' Red Shell

Red Shell.jpg

When a game developer rolls out Red Shell as part of their game, then they can track very specific user data that relates to advertising campaigns. The purpose of the software is to "log a gamer's fingerprint" to determine the success of an ad campaign, and help developers and distributors better allocate budget to those marketing ideas that work. The software has mostly been found so far in games on Steam.

The Red Shell website lists Facebook, Twitch, Google Adwords, YouTube and IGN as sites the program "work with." Although Red Shell denies that it accesses private user information, dozens of game developers have started removing the service from their games - after PC gamers uncovered its use and became very vocal on Reddit, calling it "Spyware."

Red Shell is named after the item in Mario Kart that knocks over an opponent's cart during a race. It's ironic, as Red Shell is now being knocked around as dozens of developers have already committed to removing the software from their games. As part of the Reddit thread, user u/Alexspeed7 also posted two ongoing lists; games where developers committed to now remove Red Shell, and another where Red Shell is active and developers have yet to comment on its use.

Games from which Red Shell will be removed

  • AER Memories of Old
  • All Total War games
  • Battlerite
  • Conan Exiles
  • Dead by Daylight
  • Elder Scrolls Online
  • Escapists 2
  • Holy Potatoes! We’re in Space?!
  • Hunt: Showdown
  • Magic the Gathering Arena
  • My Time At Portia
  • Omensight
  •  Secret World Legends
  • Warhammer: Vermintide II

Games currently using Red Shell

  • Astro Boy: Edge of Time
  • Ballistic Overkill
  • Cabals: Card Blitz
  • CityBattle | Virtual Earth
  • Civilization VI
  • Desolate
  • Doodle God
  • Doodle God Blitz
  • Dungeon Rushers
  • Eternal Card Game
  • Guardians of Ember
  • Heroine Anthem Zero
  • Injustice 2 Kerbal Space Program
  • Krosmaga
  • Labyrinth
  • My Free Farm 2
  • NosTale Realm Grinder
  • RockShot Shadowverse
  • Sniper Ghost Warrior 3
  • SOS & SOS Classic
  • SoulWorker
  • Stonies
  • Survived By
  • Tales from Candlekeep: Tomb of Annihilation
  • The Onion Knights
  • The Wild Eight
  • War Robots
  • Warhammer 40k Eternal Crusade

Kotaku reached out to Red Shell to respond to the spyware allegation, keep in mind that the company does track information about your IP address, operating system, browser version, and more.

"We are disappointed,” he said in an email, noting that Red Shell does not sell data to third parties, nor is it used for ad targeting in the traditional sense (rather, it helps companies sort out which ads they’re already running are worthwhile). “We are gamers. We love games. We do what we do because we love working with game developers to help grow their games and build their communities.

The last thing we’d want to do is anything that is going to upset their communities. We collect the minimum amount of data necessary to do attribution. Our customers rely on us to tell them which activities they’re engaged in are working and which ones aren’t. Any information that doesn’t help us make those matches we don’t collect.”

I do understand the use of a program like Red Shell, but the potential danger of disclosing user information to third parties is a reality. The wiser thing would've been for developers to disclose the use of Red Shell with their game when they're launching an ad campaign.

We would love to hear from the community; do you object to the use of software like Red Shell, or do you believe it has a place in video games? Drop us a comment below.

Han: Twitter / MWEB GameZone: Instagram | Twitter | Facebook | YouTube

"Red Shell does not sell data to third parties"

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