Your Favorite PC Games Might Be Watching You Play (Just Like Mobile Games Always Have)

Game studios are using analytics software to monitor in-game activity and if determine if ads are effective. Some gamers are creeped out by that, which is prompting publishers to stand down.

Red Shell, the software in question, is embedded in over 50 games, including The Elder Scrolls Online and Civilization VI. The idea is that tracking in-game activity can make for more effective advertising, but a growing backlash is prompting publishers to drop the software. Here’s Nathan Grayson, writing for Kotaku:

According to Red Shell’s website, their software is meant to help game companies “measure the effectiveness of their marketing campaigns” by “tying information from marketing campaigns to in-game play.” Basically, it’s installed alongside games and tracks information about your devices (operating system, browser version number, IP address, etc) in order to ascertain how effective advertisements for that particular game are. The company swears up and down that it doesn’t collect personal information.

This doesn’t sound different from the kind of tracking that happens every time you use the web, and this kind of tracking has been standard in mobile gaming for a long time. But I understand the backlash, because it’s yet another place where we’re being watched, and it’s taking up system resources from performance-obsessed gamers.

It will be interesting to see how long the backlash lasts. In the short term The Elder Scrolls Online is dropping RedShell in a future update, as are a few other games. All the same, I bet software like this becomes standard in the next couple of years.

Justin Pot is the News Editor for How-To Geek. He lives in Hillsboro, Oregon. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, if you want. You don't have to.