Game developers remove marketing analytics tool after community uproar

A number of game developers have promised to remove an analytics tool that logged user activity after pressure from players.

The tool in question is a software development kit (SDK) called Red Shell, marketed as a way for game developers to track the success of sales campaigns. Red Shell logs when a new player signs up for a game, and can determine whether or not the game was acquired as part of a marketing campaign. In essence, the software acts similar to that of a tracking cookie on a website.

The software was described as an effective way of removing "the uncertainty that goes into a marketing campaign and allow developers and publishers to quickly identify where players are coming from," by Red Shell developer Innervate Inc. founder Adam Lieb in a press release on June 1, 2017.

Neither game developers nor Red Shell developer Innervate Inc. asked for the consent of users to give up this specific data, as it came pre-installed. Games that contained the tool included Elder Scrolls Online from developer Zenimax, Creative Assembly's Total War, and Vermintide from Fatshark Games. Those companies have removed Red Shell from their games over the weekend, but games like Civilization IV and Kerbal Space Program still contain Red Shell.

Red Shell's official website does provide users with the option of opting out of having the software running on their system. Since users weren't aware of the software being installed in the first place, however, it's unclear exactly how effective the measure is.

There are also concerns in regards to whether or not Red Shell retained additional information such as browsing habits, information about their hardware, or IP addresses. According to a blog post from Innervate Inc. founder Adam Lieb, the company has had no way of accessing users' IP addresses since May 25, a result of the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) going into effect.

It is unclear to what extent Red Shell collected specific user information prior to the GDPR, though Lieb claims in the same post that Red Shell "collects data on hundreds of millions of gamers."

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