Dev promises that Steam sensation Banana has 'no scamming', after fellow dev's shady faux-Bitcoin past sees his fruits confiscated

 A banana, on its own, in an orange void.
Credit: aaladin66, Pony, Sky, AestheticSpartan

Banana is one of the funniest things I've had the pleasure of reporting on—it's a game that seems to have started as a joke, but has rapidly skyrocketed to a high throne on the Steam pantheon, becoming the second most-played game on the platform, beaten only by Counter Strike 2.

In case you're unfamiliar, Banana isn't this popular because it's a good game. It's this popular because it offers a stress-free way to gain steam items (Bananas) of various rarity for trade. Essentially think of TF2's hats system, except the game itself only lets you click on a 2d picture of the Spy a lot. Also, you can't wear your hats. That's what Banana is.

The swollen Banana community, however, has been experiencing some turbulence as of late (thanks, Eurogamer). Heading on over to the Discord, which has over 108,000 members at the time of writing, you'll see a news post proclaiming that "There is no scamming/scam going on" in the appropriate channel.

One of the game's developers—a user by the name of Theselions—had been involved in a supposed market manipulation scam that happened some years ago, which also included Steam items.

According to YouTube channel TDM_Heyzeus, Theselions was part of a group of users who got Steam wallet rich when a joke Bitcoin item from a game called Run! had its value artificially inflated (more than pictures of useless bananas, I mean) on the marketplace. The ringleader was banned, the game was removed, and the item was forbidden forevermore.

"We did not know about this until recent videos started to point this out and we had a talk almost immediately with the whole team about the situation. We gave him the chance to explain the situation to us and we know he is showing remorse and is sorry about what happened in the past."

A Discord message which reads:
A Discord message which reads:

The Banana authority has still decided to part with him "on good terms". However, Theselions has had his fruit privileges revoked as a gesture of good will to the community: "Lions' inventory is cleared of all valuable bananas, feel free to check for yourself." He remains a part of the Discord server at the time of writing, though, as "we do not believe he has done anything to deserve being banned."

The announcement also promises that Banana will become so much more than a game where you click a fruit, somehow: "We are working on updates and cannot wait to turn this game into something bigger and better than just a clicker game. Please stay on the lookout as we have been and still are working on a large amount of updates to improve the game and let you all do much more with your bananas."

For what it's worth, I don't think you can really call Banana a scam by any stretch of the imagination. Speculative nonsense based on a limited platform with real money involved? Yes, sure—and, like all forms of capital-at-risk activities, potentially dangerous for anyone who struggles with an unhealthy relationship to gambling. Not any more so than the TF2 hat ecosystem, though, or Counter Strike's loot boxes.

It's clear however, based on a recent Polygon interview with Banana dev Hery, that the team is not only feeling the pressure—but struggling with bots as well: "the game takes basically 1% to no resources of your PC, people are abusing up to 1000 alternative accounts in order to get rarer drops or at least drops in bulk."

As I said back when the game had a humble 30,000 player peak, Banana strikes me more as a "dudes rock" community proving, pretty conclusively, that you don't need the blockchain to do what NFTs set out to do: You just need an internal system and a group of bored enthusiasts with a bit of pocket change and, potentially, a bot script. Whether the entire house of cards will collapse because of its stratospheric success, however, remains to be seen.