There’s been an unfortunate increase in the amount of illegitimate games on Steam. Last September, Valve removed almost 200 “fake” games from Silicon Echo Studios — cheaply made games that developers made to cut a quick profit by taking advantage of the Steam Direct program and the trading card system.
The latest title to come under fire, however, reportedly had a more nefarious scheme in mind: turning players’ computers into cryptocurrency miners. The game is called Abstractism, which was said to not only infiltrate players’ computers with mining software, but also dupe them through falsified items on the Steam Marketplace. But not long after these accusations started circulating, it has been taken off Steam.
When Abstractism was up on the store, it was marketed as a “relaxing” platformer with a simple design. But YouTuber SidAlpha noticed that something was afoot, when someone on the Team Fortress 2 forums posted about how the game was tied into an item scam.
SidAlpha — the same YouTuber who published the Silicon Echo reveal — discussed how the Steam Marketplace was suddenly populated with items from Abstractism, which closely resembled rare items from other games. For instance, the player on the Team Fortress 2 forums spotted a rare rocket launcher with an identical thumbnail and description as the official TF2 item; it was only upon paying $100 for the rocket that he noticed it was attached to a different game. In addition to the bogus items, which ranged from outright scams to meme and joke items, there were also clear indications of the game’s more malevolent nature.
A user posted a screenshot of a Malwarebytes scan on the game’s discussion forums, as seen in SidAlpha’s video, flagging one of the game’s executables as a threat. But when called out, developer Okalo Union explained that “these applications are game launchers that Abstractism need[s] to drop items.”
Additionally, when someone on the game’s page claimed that it appeared to mine cryptocurrency, Okalo Union replied with a contradictory statement.
“Bitcoin is outdated,” it said. “We currently use Abstractism to mine only Monero coins.”
Right after that statement, Okalo Union claimed the game did not mine any cryptocurrency. Monero, however, is a known open-source cryptocurrency.
Abstractism also encouraged users to keep it running at all times, which SidAlpha points out is a prime way of giving hackers more time to mine.
Players also noticed that the game used massive amounts of CPU and GPU, which Abstractism’s developers claimed was because of the game’s “high graphics settings,” something quite uncharacteristic for a simple platformer. High CPU and GPU usage is another tell-tale sign that a computer is being used to mine cryptocurrency.
Just hours after SidAlpha’s video and the associated forum posts began to spread, Valve removed Abstractism from Steam, and the developer has been banned from Steam. All previously purchased Abstractism items have been tagged with “This item can no longer be bought or sold on the Community Market.”
There’s been no official announcement about why Abstractism was removed, but we’ve reached out to Valve for comment and will update as necessary.