Amidst The Game Release Boom On Steam, It's Time For Valve To Weaponize Its Community For Curation

from the gamers-unite! dept

A review of stories here at Techdirt about Steam, the chief online retailer for digital games distribution, offers a mixed return of grades on its approach. Valve has a tricky wire upon which to balance as it seeks to protect the relationships it has with both its gaming customers and the publishers that sell their games on Steam. At times, Valve makes decisions that favor publishers, while at other times Valve’s actions are quite good in terms of protecting its customers against those same publishers.

But this balancing act is going to become an issue in yet another way that revolves around the recent explosion in titles being released on the Steam platform. The excellent Steam Spy account on Twitter tweeted out the following graph, which should come as a shock to nobody with a Steam account.

Even for those of us who have noticed the uptick in games being released on Steam, I doubt most of us realized that nearly two-thirds of all the games currently on the platform were released within the past two years, or that over a third of them were released in 2016 alone. It would be silly to try to argue that such a deluge has no effect on the customer experience. An explosion in available titles adds to the workload involved for gamers searching for new titles to play, as they must weed through more titles in more genres, searching for the gems they want amongst an ever-growing number of rocks that they don’t want.

And, in fact, Steam recognized this a ways back when it introduced its Steam Curators program, through which gamers can pare down game searches using curators they have come to trust for recommendations. However, the Curators program quickly managed to suffer from the same problem as the game titles deluge: there are thousands of curators, at times more than there are game titles on Steam. At some point, if Steam wants to remain useful to gamers as a platform on which to find new games, as opposed to simply buying them, it’s going to have to do something to get out ahead of this.

That could take many forms, of course. The worst idea of the bunch would be for Valve/Steam itself to get involved in pimping some titles while pushing others to relative obscurity. This is a solution to the deluge problem offered in other arenas, notably in the way Apple restricts access to its iTunes platform and App Store, partially as a way to play quality police. It’s not the optimal solution for two main reasons: it benefits existing entertainers more than newcomers, and it’s partially the reason why Android and other music services are the preferred platform of users.

Better would be a solution that weaponized the Steam community itself, relying on reviews and feedback of both games and curators to lead gamers to “expert” curators, or something of the like. Alternatively, Steam could implement a matching system to match up gamers and curators by interest. This idea was laid out by James Beech at Gamasutra, who delightfully compared it to the matching system for dating sites.

If Valve really wants to make this system useful, they should implement a OKCupid style matching system. No really, make me fill out a one-time profile where I list my five favorite games, my five least favorite games, genres I love/hate, game elements I appreciate, (exploration, story, twitch gameplay), preferred game length, subject matter, etc. Have curators fill out a similar profile, and then generate match percentages, (just make sure it doesn’t use the same match algorithm that the Discovery Queue uses; a feature theoretically far more useful than curators, if it weren’t so consistently off the mark).

Anyway, all the answers would be private, with an option for curators to display theirs publically, so other users can see what those curators value. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’ll get me in the ballpark a lot quicker than manually sifting through thousands of curation pages with the same, “only great games within,” description.

Steam is going to build on its curator system at some point to battle this issue. The last thing anyone should want to see is Valve itself getting in the business of picking winners and losers, as it were. Force-feeding recommendations like that to gamers will make the problem worse, not better. Instead, they should trust their gaming customers and empower them, even more than they already have.

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Companies: valve

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Comments on “Amidst The Game Release Boom On Steam, It's Time For Valve To Weaponize Its Community For Curation”

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Ninja (profile) says:

The idea seems awesome. You could also have a multi-rating system where you could give grades or some other scale (ie: short, medium, long game starting at 20- up to 100+ hours or something like that). The overall rates would be some sort of average of all rates, weighted to favor more seasoned, older Steam users somehow. This along with the Okcupid style curation would provide good mining abilities to the hordes.

Mat (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

The problem is the do not show again does not keep it out of your search results, just off your front page, and I’ve managed to prove, with screen shots, that you can’t get through the game pile faster than the game pile grows (because the same names keep showing up again and again on later pages.) I’d honestly kill for the ability to say “No DLC or software, has Mixed or Better reviews, and is under this price point” at the same time.

Anonymous Coward says:

With the moist recent update to Steam, the UI has become almost intolerable. It’s nice that they finally let me remove indie game spam from my main presentation feed, but it was replaced by old, out-of-date game spam.

As a consequence, I have spent far less time on the Steam store page than ever. The search tools needed to find the games I want are missing or obscured. Instead, the store page is increasingly becoming useless and poorly targeted junk advertising.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“Should I be checking it out?”

I will say that if you’re lucky enough to find a few curators that fit your interests, they can really be a boon to searching out new and interesting titles. The problem, as I stated in the post, is that the curator program has the same problem as game releases on Steam: glut.

crade (profile) says:

I would say this is mostly a non issue. People can (and should imho) find which games they want to buy using an independent source and just punch them into steam directly to buy them.

Steam needs some other updates to the core software far more urgently like some organizational tools for games you own, and steam chat needs work, it has serious bandwidth struggles. I actually wonder what they have been up to for the past… 10 years or so

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