Editorial: Why Steam Needs To Give New Releases A Chance

By John Walker on July 21st, 2014 at 5:00 pm.

Valve can’t win. And Valve always wins. That’s a fair starting point for any discussion about Steam.

From their vastly dominant position, with a concerning grip over the online PC marketplace, they’re both the bane and the boon of PC developers. If Valve makes a decision, you can guarantee that there will be more voices screaming dissent than those declaring joy (alongside those trying to work out how it’s a covert announcement of Half-Life 3). So you can see why they might start to form a habit of making changes, then stuffing wadding in their own mouths, refusing to talk about it. However, I think it’s time for the company to start taking notice of a mistake I think they’re consistently making with their Store page: hiding new games.

As most recently chronicled by Nowhere Studios’ Burak Tezateser, new game releases on Steam are promised “1 million views on the home page when released fully”. So when a game is released, that row of three (increasingly buried) “FEATURED PC GAMES” will randomly pick games from the newly released pool, until one million logged in Steam users have had it shown to them. According to Tezateser, that takes about one hour.

After this point, things get weird. If your game is selling well, Valve will continue to give it prominence. If your game fails to sell well in that apparent first hour, then, well, bye. Do super-well and you could get into that revolving main box at the top. Keep doing super-well and you’ll stay there. It is, without doubt, a self-perpetuating system, where games that are selling will be given massive opportunity to keep selling, whereas games that are struggling will instantly be lost from the store’s front page.

That’s not necessarily wrong, of course. If you’re a shop, you wouldn’t fill your windows with a copy of a game you knew people weren’t likely to be interested in buying – you’d stick up posters and line shelves with dummy boxes for the Next Big Thing. The issue being, of course, it’s a pre-determined system. The Next Big Thing is more than likely to be the big publisher promoted title, and not the obscure indie game.

As I write this, games appearing in that all-important top box are the likes of ARMA III, The Elder Scrolls Online, and Divinity: Original Sin, alongside a few more obscure titles that are in the current top 30 sellers. Games that have already succeeded pretty well. Appearing in that “FEATURED PC GAMES” box are, um, three Wildlife Park 2 add-on packs. Scroll down further and I can see three random games that have been recently updated, and then a list of “TOP SELLERS”, reprising the exact same games I’ve already seen above.

Until a few months ago, this list of games defaulted to the “NEW RELEASES” instead of yet more of the “TOP SELLERS”, and provided at least a glimmer of front page presence for new titles. Not a great deal, of course, especially now so very many games are released every week. But some. The decision to make this list default to games that are already being heavily promoted above is, I think, the point at which things have gone way too silly. Because God knows, I’m not sure Skyrim needs any more plugs.

To see what new games have been released on Steam, one now has to scroll the entire front page down a screen, then click on a tiny tab to select the list. Click on a new game that catches your eye, then click back to the front page, and that list is once again TOP SELLERS, and any laborious scrolling down you’d done is undone. Now, this is in a large part due to what a dreadful mess Steam’s front page design is in, certainly. But it also makes the process of looking through newly available games a tedious trial. That this is the case, when finding the damn things in the first place is already so difficult, makes Steam a pretty miserable place for new, unknown titles, to find attention.

There’s an argument that says this is how it should be. By giving games that achieve success on Steam greater attention on Steam, it is said to remove Valve’s role as curators, and puts them emphasis on developers and/or publishers to promote their own products, and gain them the attention they need. There’s no doubt that some games defy all the odds of such a tough front page and become massive break-out successes. Spintires, The Forest, X-Plane 10 Global, are all examples of names that have emerged from the blur, and become successes from word of mouth, positive press coverage, and in turn, sales that generated greater Steam presence. For some, the system works, and for Valve, they’re far more hands-off in the process.

The other large aspect here is that Steam is now choked with a lot of garbage. Piles of half-arsed RPG Maker games, and barely functional sandbox experiments, certainly do not make for an appetising trawl through that hidden New Release list. Finding the gems in there is becoming increasingly tough. And with the disastrous flop of Greenlight, that too has failed to provide a useful place for unknown games to get known.

When comparing Steam to a brick-n-mortar shop, their rationale makes sense. They want to make money, so they put the big-name games in prominent displays. The obscure stuff that appeared at the bottom of the delivery gets stacked on a bottom shelf, out of the way. But Steam isn’t a brick-me-do shop, and there are so many good reasons it shouldn’t try to emulate one. An online store offers so many opportunities for originality, inspired new approaches, and brand new ways of selling games. Right now, Valve is steering their store far away from that, and ever-more increasingly toward the old model that saw the rich get richer, and the rest vanish into obscurity. And that’s never been a good model for this industry – ask a high street shop… if you can find one.

So what’s a constructive response? There’s the vaguely philanthropic angle. Valve already makes a fantastic amount of money. For every sale on their store, they’re getting 30% of that money. (Let’s all stop pretending we don’t know it’s 30%, eh, games press?) And as a private company without vast masses of shareholders to answer to, they’re under no obligations to consistently make substantially more money than they already do. It’s perhaps fantasy la-la land on my part, but it’s not impossible to imagine a company as astonishingly independently wealthy as Valve being in a position to sacrifice some of their mo-money positioning of the front page for something that gives smaller developers more prominence. We hear rumours of a store redesign, and it would be fantastic to see something like this – something designed to let new releases get attention.

How? Some sense can be applied here. And I think it begins with Valve’s abandoning their pretence that they’re stepping away from curation. Because they aren’t. Currently, they are curating the big-name games, ensuring the success of the blockbusters. That’s not hands-off, at all. Accepting that being a shopkeeper means you have to keep your shop is essential. And in doing so, Valve must now take on board that as much as they may not want it, whatever action they take, they directly influence sales.

While a lot of games are released on Steam, it’s not an impossible number. It’s not as out of control as some like to suggest. It’s not unrealistic for a company the size of Valve to hire people whose job it is to look through that New Release list, play games, and highlight stuff that’s interesting.

“But!” people may cry, following with complaints about objectivity, personal taste, inevitable bias. Sure, that’s all true. But it’s better than the current system. It creates a situation where there’s at least a greater chance.

Without using actual humans in the process, there are ways to hugely improve Steam users’ knowledge of available games. Steam desperately needs a completely new “Recommended For You” system, where games sharing similar tags, or bought by people who bought similar, or a new, interesting means, are immediately visible. Front page visible. Currently the notion of such a system is a complete mess, hidden in a barely clicked tab, and appallingly laid out. Think Netflix, Amazon, Audible, and so on, where the feature not only makes you immediately aware of other available products you may not have heard of, but also feels useful. Unique front page elements that tailor for you as a customer, dig out the oddities that your profile suggests might catch your eye.

It’s really important to observe this isn’t about finding the next Rust from the pile of forgotten games. Those games, those huge extremes, tend to find their way to attention already. It’s about the moderates, the games that merit decent sales, which would find their audience if given a chance without making overnight millionaires of the developers. Right now, when a game already accompanied by an advertising budget of tens of millions gets to squish an original, inspired indie project off the front page of Steam’s store entirely, something isn’t working. Sure, those big-name games should be up there at the top, because Steam users want to find them. But at the same time, it’s simply ridiculous that the New Release list is utterly buried, when it could be alongside.

Valve are Valve. They already won. They already make more money from Dota 2 alone than they could ever spend. Hell, I imagine they could run the company on TF2 hats. Steam deserves to, and should be making, vast sums of money. But it could be doing it in a Valve way, in a way that offers glimmers of differences from traditional models, that deliberately goes out of its way to give the little guy a chance. Please Valve, commit to curating your store – it would make so much difference. And at the very least, introduce a new wave of automated “discoverability”, letting users see past the dominant headliners. There’s room for moderate selling games on Steam. Right now, Steam is drifting in a very different direction, and it’s not fun to watch.

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169 Comments »

  1. Emeraude says:

    Valve are Valve. They already won.

    Someone shoot me.

    • toxic avenger says:

      Ok, that’s a win-win.

      • Emeraude says:

        I concur.

        • Flopper says:

          Finally someone did an article about this. I’ve been bitching to my friends on voice chat since the first day they changed the steam client to default to top sellers.

          I thought I accidentally flipped a switch and was searching all over the internet to figure out a way to change it back.

          I frequently buy anything and everything on steam. Usually at least 6-7 of the 10 on the top sellers I already own. I don’t care about that page. I just want to see what was released in the last 2-3 days.

    • dorn says:

      Someone shoot Nathan. He’s partly responsible for this mess. He just had to keep harping at Steam over Greenlight because he liked a few turds that weren’t getting through.

      The end result is the gates were opened and now Steam is flooded with a river of shit.

      • Premium User Badge Melody says:

        ^ This comment is pretty funny, mostly because it’s hard to find any hint of irony.

        • RobF says:

          Oh come on, it’s ENTIRELY TRUE that Nathan unlocked the evil within Steam that unleashed more videogames onto the market and some people might not like some of them.

          And when you type it out onto the internet it sounds tremendously plausible too. I mean, in no way could Valve have spend years ramping up the number of releases on Steam in an attempt to bring every game they can onto Steam and nor was that ever the plan because that would be just a plain silly reason to open up a store and announce that you intend to have every game ever made on it if possible just like Valve did.

          It was totally Nathan’s fault. Anything else would be plain implausible.

          • Premium User Badge Melody says:

            I’m sorry Nathan, I really didn’t want it to come down to this, but the RPS community hereby condemns you to the death sentence for crimes against humanity, being sole responsible for the ruin of “Good Ol’ Steam” ™

            The sentence will be executed by feeding you to Horace. The night before the day of your sacrifice, you will be given one last meal of your choice, and one last game to add to your backlog even though you’ll never play it.

          • Sleepymatt says:

            The only option left is for Nathan to choose to eat Horace as his last meal, thus indefinitely postponing his own demise while there is still more Horace to eat. I vote for deep fried Horace rings, as is my national wont.

          • Emeraude says:

            Sadly no, Horace has been know to eat people back from their insides the few times some tried to pull that one.

          • Phasma Felis says:

            The Sarlacc has nothing on Horace: he can keep digesting you forever.

  2. Prolar Bear says:

    Completely agree. More curation, along with a new client (this one’s just clunky) would be nice.

    • rexx.sabotage says:

      Curation?

      GoG Galaxy

      Steam does what Valve want it to do, succinctly. What’s missing is an alternative and complementary service like Galaxy to fill that void.

      • pepperfez says:

        I have high, almost certainly delusional, hopes for GoGGal.

        • welverin says:

          Hoping GOG Gal is nice are you?

        • rexx.sabotage says:

          Yeah me too.

          GoG and CDPR certainly make mistakes but, they have a history of owning up to them and making things right in the end. They operate with a great deal of transparency and really listen to their community so, the very worst I would expect is that Galaxy might stumble a little out the gate before really hitting it’s stride.

  3. Radiant says:

    Wonderful stuff walker.

    • Hmm-Hmm. says:

      Is that his native American name?

      • Bursar says:

        Yes, and around the camp fire he sings songs about how large cows are, and how he suffers from vertigo.

      • SominiTheCommenter says:

        Nope, that’s Sitting-on-Fence Bull

  4. DanMan says:

    It’s about time Valve releases their announced user-shops, or whatever they call them. You know, where everyone can select games they want to promote and then you subscribe to them and if you buy through them they get a small bonus and so on…

    I think if that stuff was already in place, a lot of theses complaints would go away. Because I think they’re already doing it pretty well, given how difficult it is to manage that huge influx of games without human intervention. I can totally understand that they don’t want to let people make those decisions. It’ll just end in complaints about unfair judgment.

    • SpinalJack says:

      There’s already user collections but it’s buried deep in their crappy interface so no one can find them. There are featured collections on the greenlight home page though.

    • HadToLogin says:

      Pretty sure publishers don’t want to share with youtubers (they already pay them tons of money for ads). And same with Valve – youtubers already throws people into steam search, or even provide links.

      Adding third person/group isn’t in interest of two others.

  5. UKAzzer says:

    It irked me when they changed the default ordering. However – I do really recommend people use the “Enhanced Steam” browser plugin and stick to browsing the store in that instead, though – along with giving you cheapest and best prices, highlighting (or hiding) games you already own, warning you of 3rd party DRM etc. etc. – it also has the option to always default that front page to “New Releases”. It won’t fix Valve or Steam, but it’ll make your own life easier if you use it.

    • Knurek says:

      What’s really sad is that Valve has repeatedly shot down Enhanced Steam creator, Jason Shackles, as a potential employee.

    • NotToBeLiked says:

      New Releases was better when there were <10 games per day released. But since that list got flooded with mobile ports and ancient games it became completely useless…

    • daver4470 says:

      I just discovered Enhanced Steam a couple of weeks ago. It should be embarrassing for Valve that it exists, because there are so many features in it that should be no-brainer features for the site itself. Color-coding items that you already own in lists, for example.

      I recommend it heartily, if only for the price comparison feature. Saved me $9 on a game last week. Which I immediately squandered on other games, but hey, a buck’s a buck….

    • malkav11 says:

      Enhanced Steam does so much that Steam should already do it’s crazy. But I didn’t start really using it in earnest until Steam decided to default to the utterly fucking useless Top Sellers tab instead of the vaguely useful New Releases tab and Enhanced Steam fixed it back to how it was. I miss the game-wrangling functionality that using the embedded browser has, though, and although the web storefront tries to provide some of that, it doesn’t quite work reliably.

    • kalirion says:

      Too bad that option hasn’t made it to the Firefox version of Enhanced Steam yet…

  6. Delusibeta says:

    The problem with curation is that you’ll then get complaints of “why didn’t I get picked?” and developers such as Nowhere Studios would be complaining about Valve not being transparent as to what gets promoted and what doesn’t, in a similar manner to developers complaining about getting rejected by Steam for unknown reasons prior to the opening of the floodgates.

    In addition, I’ve found that automation like Amazon and Netflix still tends very much towards the most popular products, because more people buy popular products, hence why they’re popular. While I agree that Valve could do more on this front, developers such as Nowhere Studios would still be buried. Either way, neither will be the silver bullet that allows all indies being satisfied with their visibility and sales.

    Ultimately, this piece was written because a developer released a black and white puzzle platformer for $20, received a Metacritic score of 55 and is complaining that it’s not selling. Puzzle platformers are literally a dollar for a half-dozen these days, plus the game in question looks like a poor Limbo clone and does an extremely poor job of differentiating itself from the hundreds of puzzle platformers out there with its promotional material. Frankly, had they released it two or three years ago, the developers would be complaining that they were rejected from Steam wholesale.

    The fundamental point of all this is that the market hasn’t really changed for indies. The overwhelming majority would disappear without a trace, and the only real difference is that Valve now gets the 30% from what few sales they get, instead of Gamersgate, Desura or Amazon, and said indies are now blaming Valve for poor visibility rather than rejecting them wholesale.

    • Frank says:

      You’re saying automation is a dead end. I disagree.

      The automation Amazon uses makes sense there. They’re showing me complementary or alternative products that I almost certainly do not already have.

      If Valve showed me recommendations based on the same criteria… um, I would have already bought them all. It’s a different situation, and I’m sure if Valve ever got around to working on it, they would come up with a quite different solution. My understanding is that Netflix’s personalized recommendations are pretty good. Jinni isn’t bad, especially at showing the long tail of obscure recommendations.

      If they could manage to automatically show this mediocre platformer you mention to people that are really into that genre, that would be a good start. Personally, I follow the metroidvania tag on Steam, and would play the worst game in that genre before playing a CoD-alike.

      And whether someone blames Valve for this or that is not very interesting, and never was.

      • Ham Solo says:

        That makes sense to me, I also find the Amazon system of showing me relevant articles very smart. I’ve used it multiple times when buying article A, for which I need Article B anyway, and Amazon hinted me at a cheap and good kind of Article B. It works.

    • John Walker says:

      Actually, this piece was not written because of Gamasutra article. It was written because I was once more frustrated by Steam this morning. Jim reminded me of the Nowhere piece later.

    • Premium User Badge Stellar Duck says:

      That’s why Amazon keeps showing me more or less obscure works and monographs on the American Civil War? Because it’s popular and not because I’ve bought and wishlisted some of it? Same goes for that infernal Penguin Edition of The Deline and Fall of the Roman Empire it keeps pushing me? Also popular?

      Seems to me that Amazon works pretty well.

      • thebigJ_A says:

        Hello fellow traveler!

        One of these days I’ll pick up that edition of Gibbon, but Audible got me to get it in audio first.

    • Premium User Badge Nathan says:

      Would people really complain *that much*? Both Apple and Google, for example, curate their very successful stores, and you won’t often hear complaints it from developers.

  7. RobF says:

    Don’t disagree just wanted to note something. Doesn’t help new releases but the carousel is something you can book time on. It… well, it doesn’t buy you a lot of time obviously because of the amount of eyeballs the front page of Steam gets all told but it’s not out of limits or beyond a devs control to get on there themselves. These are what they call “visibility rounds” and everyone gets a small mound of them to use up. There’s a catch, obviously. The visibility rounds are now tied to developers making updates to their work and writing about the updates unlike when they first introduced them and you could just book a carousel slot.

    It seems fairly clear to me that this is to nudge developers into a certain pattern of behaviour, like, not just throw it up on Steam and hope for the best and leave your game there. So there is an out just not an easy out and the thinking is to improve things for players first in a roundabout way.

    As for the store, I’m vaguely aware of what’s coming and it’s going to be interesting I think and hopefully a more substantial change than most people are requesting. Whether it works, well, we’ll find out I guess.

  8. MaXimillion says:

    A recommendation system that didn’t pick half it’s recommendations from my wishlist sure would be nice.

  9. Sam says:

    “hire people whose job it is to look through that New Release list, play games, and highlight stuff that’s interesting.”
    That sounds a lot like being a games journalist.
    Valve financing the games journalism world would at least cut down on the apparent current model of Patreon-funded writers giving money to other Patreon-funded writers (thereby making Patreon very happy and the writers very poor). There might be some ethical issues, but if new new new media has taught us anything it’s to not care about ethics.

    • khamul says:

      That – if RPS are collectively wondering about their place in the world – is why I read RPS. Above all else, for curation. Not because I want 7/10 scores for something I already know about, but because I want to find out about interesting things that I otherwise wouldn’t have heard of.

      Sure, many of the interesting things RPS reports on I have no interest in myself – but I know the tastes and interests of RPS to be able to account for that. And RPS does a very *very* good job of letting me know what kind of interesting it is, so I can judge accordingly.

      I have little patience with automated recommendation systems. But what about outsourcing the recommendations?
      What about being able to pick ‘RPS’ somewhere in Steam, to get the RPS channel on the front page, with a list of the titles that RPS thinks are interesting?

      Let the curation come from the people who are good at it. And you know what? Let them take a cut. Give RPS 3% of anything I spend on a game through their curated lists. That way they could run their excellent website without the adverts, and the whole unpleasant question of who pays for reviews wouldn’t arise. I’ll probably spend more, because I’ll trust the content more, so developers get more, Steam gets more, and RPS gets more. Everyone wins.

      And if they – or say, your PC Gamer’s of this world – recommend a AAA pile of mass-market donkey-droppings a few too many times, I’ll take my business elsewhere, and I think they’ll see that revenue stream dry up surprisingly quickly. When reviewers live or die on the quality of their reviews alone, I think we’ll see better shops, better reviews, and better games…

      • daver4470 says:

        I was going to say the exact same thing — I started reading RPS primarily because I thought it could help me sort the wheat from the chaff in the Steam new releases lists.

        It would be nice if Steam did something similar. But I don’t see them ever going that route. The problem you know would arise if Steam got into what amounts to direct advocacy of certain titles is cries of favoritism, bias, etc. I doubt they want to go down that particular rabbit hole.

      • Urthman says:

        The only drawback to that plan is that it creates incentives for reviewers to highlight games they think will sell more than games they think should sell.

        RPS currently gets ad revenue for writing interesting articles about a game even if the game itself is not something the reader would like to play. If they only got paid for articles if the reader ends up wanting to play the game, that would be a pretty strong incentive to change which kinds of games they write about.

        • khamul says:

          Which would give RPS more freedom to write the kind of articles it wants to write?
          (A) Money from advertising, typically from big name, big budget publishers
          (B) Revenue share from consumers buying games

          Yes, there would absolutely be an incentive to promote popular games. If I were working for Steam, I’d give a 1% share for the first, say 10K sales of a game, just for the reference. For the next 30K, you get 5% because that’s the tipping point, that’s where you go from unknown to successful. For everything after that, the referee would get 0.005%, because all you’re doing is riding the wave.

          If you structure things that way, the money is all in finding unknown gems, no piggy-backing on a big publisher push, which is going to win anyway.

          RPS would still need to write the opinion pieces, the reflective pieces, the industry retrospectives. That’s what gives RPS its voice, its position in the industry, its identity – and that’s what would draw people to their recommendation list. Without that, what would they be but another humble bundle-alike?

      • Reapy says:

        Same here. Steam is a store, I’ve never, ever, picked a product highlighted from the store selling it unless I had no other option for reviews. Let the store be a store, let review sites be review sites. If you want to go find a game off a store’s promotion page that seems pretty silly.

        Let the press do their thing and curate for us as they have… I honestly don’t think I’ve missed anything in 30 years of gaming thanks to the media, I don’t see why they suddenly aren’t cutting it.

        As long as I can type in the name of the game in steam or follow a link, and the thing is purchasable and downloadable, steam is doing exactly what I need it to do.

      • rmsgrey says:

        Ideally, the incentive for a reviewer would be based not on whether they successfully sell games, but on how well they help people discriminate between games they will like and games they won’t. Part of that is just bringing attention to neglected gems, but another part, and the harder part to do well, is telling someone why they might not want to buy a given game. Just keeping track of how many people check out a given reviewer’s reviews is likely to be a better indicator of how well they’re doing than their upsell rate.

        If you want to get into more depth, looking at average time played for users who bought the game after reading a given review will give a reasonable proxy for review value.

    • Premium User Badge Nathan says:

      I think “journalism” is a stretch. Is the iTunes curation of its storefronts really the same thing as journalism?

  10. Distec says:

    I’d like to point out that the developer in that Gamasutra article might have had other issues with getting his game noticed. Metacritic reviews were pretty mediocre and its art style is going right up against titles like Limbo, which are arguably better known. Not to excuse any weirdness with the Steam metrics, but if you read the piece it does sound like he’s blaming Steam for the lack of success when there are probably plenty of other reasons for that.

    Ultimately, this tells me that you should not be relying on Steam for visibility. There’s still this assumption from many that getting on Steam is your golden ticket, but those days are pretty far gone IMO. You need to have good buzz, an ability to market your product, and a community that will evangelize for you. Steam definitely needs to improve its layout and discoverability, absolutely. But until that happens, you’re going to have to put some work into those areas yourself.

    Plan on getting your game out there with the assumption that it’s NOT going to be on Steam, even if it is.

    • RobF says:

      “There’s still this assumption from many that getting on Steam is your golden ticket, but those days are pretty far gone IMO”

      Heh, I know quite a few people who’d happily ask where their golden ticket was in the first place so yeah, it’s a weird idea that’s cropped up because some successful people found success on Steam. It was never realllly all that for everyone.

      But generally, the maybe-problems with the game are certainly a thing but the stuff on Steam’s visibility at the mo is absolutely bang on the nail and worth listening to.

    • Emeraude says:

      There’s still this assumption from many that getting on Steam is your golden ticket, but those days are pretty far gone IMO

      The impression I got was that you needed to already have succeeded before Steam was of any use. Then and only then did access to Steam magnify your success.

  11. toxic avenger says:

    One big thing that needs improving, imho, are the way those scrollable lists function. When I’m 3-6 pages deep in “New Releases” or “Coming Soon” tabs, then click on a game to read about it, Steam (and Internet Explorer, or Firefox) forget where I was at, forcing me to scroll down throughout all those games once again. Valve needs to either fix that problem, or find a much better way (it’s about time, me thinks) of displaying that information to make it easier for gamers to find what they want without knowing about the product beforehand and simply searching for it.

    • Bostec says:

      Yep, this has pissed me off for fucking years. its worse in a sale, making browsing lists so horrible and I just don’t do it. The whole of Steam needs a face lift.

    • daver4470 says:

      YES. I despise how Steam does this. (And other websites too — it’s not just them.) I shouldn’t have to open a new tab every time I want to look at something in the list if I don’t want to lose my place 5 pages into the “more” clickfest. Heck, just take me to a separate page for a list of the new releases if you want to — I’m fine with that, Steam.

    • Wulfram says:

      Why don’t you open in a new tab?

      • Premium User Badge Stellar Duck says:

        Not possible in the client.

        On a browser sure.

        On that note: they should get a proper browser so I don’t need to reload the store tab when I go check out my community tab. Like they used to have. But then, this is Valve, so half arsed downgrades are par for the course.

        • Baines says:

          Don’t use the client for such stuff then.

          I gave up on using the client for anything other than installing and playing games quite some time back because the client was slower than viewing the website through Firefox. Particularly stuff like the inventory page.

          • P.Funk says:

            But the only reason I ever go to the store is because I’m looking at my steam client and think “oh why not have a gander”. Its pretty hard to divorce yourself from looking at your library and then looking at the store in a single click.

        • jrodman says:

          Hilariously, the reload should be near-instant because the browser keeps a large cache of the content on your disk (in a badly managed binary database). However, it doesn’t make use of it properly and thus gets every last thing from the network again.

    • dE says:

      Let me introduce you to the magic of the Shift Key. Clicking a game in the list while holding shift, will open a new window within Steam, without forgetting your position in the queue. It’s not exactly tabbed browsing, but doesn’t screw up looking around as much either.

      • Premium User Badge Melody says:

        Majicks!Hacker! How did you do it :D

        Honestly, I didn’t know, I always used the middle mouse button on my browser, and since Steam doesn’t like that I thought the “new window” command had to be inside the link you were clicking, or nothing.
        What I do know is that ctrl+f works inside the steam browser too, luckily. Although I’d be happy if they just replaced it with firefox, already.

        • dE says:

          I found out by accident when my cat insisted the slightly overheating Notebook Keyboard was sufficiently warm to satisfy it’s need for a comfy place to lie down. On a slightly amusing sidenote, I asked the very same thing.

          • Premium User Badge Melody says:

            It was too great a discovery for a human being, it had to be a cat!

  12. NotToBeLiked says:

    If Valve is making more money than they could ever spend, how much are they making? Unless you’ve got some meaningful insight into their books, I don’t think you have any right to claim that they are so rich they can do whatever you want them to do. I’m sure they are profitable, but keeping a service like Steam up can’t be very cheap. Multinationals like EA or Sony can’t keep an online gaming service online & running well with often much less people online compared to Steam.

    I agree the current system doesn’t work. But everyone was complaining as well a few years back when they curated more. They tried Greenlight, which failed because people just voted for whatever. Then they opened up the floodgates and now they had to change the default tab from showing the New Releases to showing the best sellers because of companies dumping ancient games and mobile ports by the truckload each day. The ARE trying, but ‘just curate it’ isn’t really helpful advice. You can’t just do recommendations like Amazon of Netflix. How many Steam users have never played half of the games they own? I don’t want recommendations because of some games I own on Steam because I bought a Humble Bundle. Steam can’t tell if I like a game, even when I’ve played it. The best it could do is: ‘hey, you like FPS games, here is another FPS game’. Or when I play 50 hours of Terraria I don’t want to be bothered by Steam trying to sell me clones of that game that release every week. Games are much more complex and diverse than movies, tv series or books.
    And even if they tried curating, people would still get angry because game XYZ they think is the best ever is not recommended enough by Valve.

    If people want to be informed about worthwhile games, I think there are a few websites on this internet thing that talk about how good video games are… This is not something Valve can solve on their own. They’ve given us the tools by letting their customers recommend games, and I think that is probably a better way to go. The way GOG.com allows people to set up lists of games they think are worthwhile, is promising. I’d like to be able to easily follow the lists of certain reviewers whose taste I share for example.

    • JFS says:

      Games are NOT more complex and diverse than movies or books. TV series, well okay, yeah, I’ll give you that. Problem is, our tastes are extremely diverse. How could this diversity ever be taken into account? I don’t believe it ever can, so in that regard, Valve has lost. And gaming journalism, devlog forums and word-of-mouth has won.

      • NotToBeLiked says:

        In my experience, people who like a certain type of movie, are usually interested in all movies of that type if they are up to a certain standard. A romantic comedy is a romantic comedy, a big explosiony summer blockbusters is a big explosiony summer blockbuster. But even when you look at the FPS genre and compare Call of Duty, STALKER, Duke Nukem and Halo you will find there are many people who like only one or a few on that list and will really dislike the others because even in that genre they are so wildly different. So in that way they are more complex to compare imo.

        • Merry Hell says:

          But that’s not an even comparison – you’re holding subgenres up against a whole genre. Big explosiony Summer blockbusters are a subdivision of action films in general. Of course people tend to like something in their preferred subdivision.

          People who like survival horror FPSs like STALKER will generally like other survival horror FPSs. People who like one big explosiony Summer blockbuster will generally like other big explosiony Summer blockbusters. That doesn’t mean they’re hot for serious, slow-paced gangster films.

          That’s like saying ‘Gamers’ tastes are so narrow! If somebody loves jingoistic shooters like CoD, they’ll like any other jingoistic shooter, while a romance film fan might love sad stories about unrequited love, but hate romantic comedies.’.

    • RobF says:

      “Then they opened up the floodgates and now they had to change the default tab from showing the New Releases to showing the best sellers because of companies dumping ancient games and mobile ports by the truckload each day.”

      That’s not really why they changed it at all. They don’t want Steam to be the thing that decides whether a game should sell or not, that was never really the plan. Which is kinda contradictory in a way given the focus on Top Sellers but it was an attempt to remove Valve from “does this game make it on day 1″. It wasn’t in the slightest bit because of the more games added to Steam thing because *that* was always the plan for Steam.

      • NotToBeLiked says:

        Do you have any evidence of that? I know I’m not giving any evidence for my idea, but I did notice many people, including big sites & YouTube channels complaining about the uselessness of the New Releases list in the weeks prior to the change. I figured that was a big reason for the change. That and also the fact that even Valve must realize that showing people games that are either ancient/forgotten or poor mobile ports resulted in poor sales. They were advertising games on prime time, but no one was buying them.

        • RobF says:

          This is part of the reasoning behind the transitioning of what Steam is now into what Steam will be. It’s just kinda, well, Valve. They’re implementing a lot of changes behind the scenes in what developers can do for themselves and in the meantime, because the storefront stuff is due for a more substantial change we’re only seeing minor tweaks here and there but along with the tags, visibility rounds and other stuff, it’s all leading up to the same thing.

          Beyond saying that, I can’t offer up much else, soz.

      • aiusepsi says:

        This is a thing a lot of people don’t realise. Valve used to do more curation more as a matter of necessity; their technology and process previously didn’t support releasing lots and lots of games, so they had to make the most of the few games they could get released in a year. Valve’ve spent a lot of time improving that, so now their technology supports delivering thousands of games, and devs can mostly self-administer things like their store page etc.

        Hence why Valve’s releasing lots and lots of new games. The next step in their process is improving the front-end user experience so that they can drop Greenlight entirely and let anybody and their dog upload a game to Steam.

        • SominiTheCommenter says:

          So better technology actually made everyone’s lives more miserable. Seems par for the course.

    • Leaufai says:

      Steam has 70 million active users and has a majority of the PC market share. It makes 30% off every purchase (with just 15 million per user that’d be more than a billion dollars), a percentage off all those trades (which adds up to millions during Steam Sales), a percentage of the Hats and other things modders make for a few super-popular titles like TF2 and Dota. And it also makes hand over foot from the cosmetic items that they have produced. Aside from simply being the biggest, unlike Microsoft and EA Valve isn’t a hardware engineer or publisher. All of the money from Steam is either going to the devs, Steam or Valve’s games and nothing else.

    • Moraven says:

      2005
      http://www.forbes.com/forbes/2005/1212/064.html

      Valve, a nine-year-old Seattle company owned by Newell and a few employees, will do at least $70 million in revenue this year, double last year’s sales, with operating profit of $55 million.

      2010
      http://www.forbes.com/sites/oliverchiang/2011/02/15/valve-and-steam-worth-billions/

      Given that, Steam made around $300 million to $400 million for Valve in 2010.

      Valve tells me that the revenues for Steam and its own videogame publishing arm (Valve puts out its own titles like “Half Life” series or the upcoming “Portal 2″) are comparable. So, doubling Steam’s revenue gives Valve around $600 million to $800 million in 2010 revenues.

      More specifically, Newell says of the 250-person company that on a per-employee basis, Valve is more profitable than tech giants like Google and Apple. Google made an average $350,000 in profits per employee in 2010. That means Valve sees profits of around $87.5 million at least.

      Now given they have expanded and retracted in size, spend money into hardware, who knows what their profit is. But their revenue has to have certainly grown in the past 4 years due to increased users on Steam + Dota 2, along with the few millions Steam Market and Cards makes due to fees.

  13. Drake Sigar says:

    “It’s about the moderates, the games that merit decent sales.”

    Yes it is. We don’t need a system that punishes developers for PURPOSELY catering to a niche market, or creating a decent time-waster that was never intended to sell in the millions.

  14. Volcanu says:

    An interesting and thought provoking read. That said, I didnt really feel like you came up with a compelling solution to a difficult problem John. A couple of my thoughts:

    (1) The problem with your proposal, as you yourself acknowledge, is who decides what get’s promoted and on what basis? Having a team of people playing things and deciding what get’s featured would be open to massive abuse, without some very large safeguards. I also think it would be largely meaningless without knowing something about the people picking the games out. Who would these people be? Games critics? Average joes?

    (2) Hopefully a lot of this will be addressed through the introduction of individual store fronts which can specialise in a certain area (e.g. RTS) or be attached to a community whose views you as a consumer, feel like you can trust.

    (3) The problem of the average consumer not being able to see the wood for the trees as it were, is surely a good thing for the likes of RPS no? I know this site is a lot more than a review site but it just underscores (to me anyway) how important it is to have a place where you can hear about interesting new games that might be worth a try. Having steam (or amazon or the app store) recommend anything to me carries little weight.

    So shhhhhh John. You’ll have yourself out of a job!

    (4) I have some sympathy for indie developers trying to get noticed out there. But it only extends so far. If you ask me, it’s swings and roundabouts.True, the field is thick and standing out is a problem. But on the flipside, the barriers to entry for game development have probably never been lower and access to markets has never been easier. If you have a genuinely amazing product, it will succeed to some extent I’m sure. If it’s merely ‘ok’ it may struggle to find it’s audience without luck or canny marketing. But that’s true for almost any ‘product’.

    • Jericho says:

      Regarding your third point, after reading this article I had a little think and I wondered: “Self, am I just an unusual customer, or do I never ever use the Steam store to actually browse for new games?”

      By that, I mean that in the entire time that Steam has existed, I have never actually used it to browse for potential new games to buy. I’ve always used websites and magazines (well, USED to use magazines) that catered to PC gaming to learn about new, upcoming, and interesting titles. When I heard about something that captured my interests (let’s take, oh I don’t know, Xenonauts as a recent example) I’d look for previews/reviews of the game around the web, maybe look for some footage of the game being played, and then if it looked like something I would truly like to purchase and play, I’d add it to my Steam wishlist (or Gamersgate, or GoG, etc) and purchase it when I had the spare time/money to do so.

      I mean, I’m probably not the average PC gaming consumer (I have pretty niche tastes and odd working schedules that keep me from being able to enjoy MMOs and competitive multiplayer games these days), but do most people really use stuff like the Steam front page to determine what new games to buy? I mean, there are so many good gaming news/previews/reviews websites out there that talk about new games for your platform of choice every minute of every day. Why rely on Steam (or any other storefront) to sell you on the game? Do indie devs honestly expect that they can make a game, put it on Steam, and through its own merits and zero marketing “magically” become the next DayZ? Or Spintires? Or whatever?

      Those games didn’t “magically” do anything. They are all decent to great games that worked hard to market themselves. They contacted websites for previews and reviews. They gave out free copies to Twitch/Youtube/Blip personalities in order to get their names floating in the social streams. And so on, and so on.

      Anyway, my question stands: Do game devs honestly think that Steam store front page coverage is their ticket to mass sales? Because to me, that seems to be incredibly naive and silly.

      • RobF says:

        “Do game devs honestly think that Steam store front page coverage is their ticket to mass sales? Because to me, that seems to be incredibly naive and silly.”

        Mainly no. Most devs see it as, for want of a better way of putting it, somewhere they need to be because a lot of the audience demands that a Steam key comes with a purchase in no uncertain terms.

        But also yes and it’s a story sold to people and believed in a vaguely large enough number (and as we saw with Vogel’s Indie Bubble posting, also spread by people who really should be more aware of why they are where they are and how their world is not everyone elses) to make it worth pointing out at regular intervals that it really isn’t that at all.

  15. Dowson says:

    Steam are under no obligation to promote your game.
    You promote your game.
    People buy it
    Steam keeps it on the rotation because its being bought.

    Why should they have to play games and decide whats good and whats bad, what should be promoted and what shouldn’t?
    Trust your audience, that the stuff they’re buying is good and deserves the attention its getting.

    Not every game is a gem waiting to be discovered, in fact looking over the New Release list, they’re more turds waiting to be avoided.

    • Dave Toulouse says:

      You seem to assume only devs would benefit from this.

      For example Steam keeps recommending me the same games over and over or push in my face games that couldn’t more different than what’s in my library or wishlist. You can try to convince me to buy a racing games for months by putting them on the front page but if I have not once displayed interest in such game why not try to point me toward new releases that might actually fit my interest a bit …

      Seems to me it’d be an intelligent way for them to try to get some more money out of my wallet …

    • SkittleDiddler says:

      “Why should they have to play games and decide whats good and whats bad, what should be promoted and what shouldn’t?

      Looks like you answered your own question with this:

      “Not every game is a gem waiting to be discovered, in fact looking over the New Release list, they’re more turds waiting to be avoided.”

      Valve not curating their own storefront and inventory is why you’re seeing all those turds.

      • SominiTheCommenter says:

        And yet, when the WAS curation, people cried bloody murder, speaking of censorship and the like.

        • SkittleDiddler says:

          I’d personally love it if Steam went back to those days. Less shit to shovel through.

    • DanMan says:

      I tend to agree, but it depends on what Steam is really trying to be. If it’s really just a store, then I fully agree. If they try to be some kind of service beyond that, then it’s not as black and white.

    • SurprisedMan says:

      Actually, Steam ARE under an obligation to promote your game.

      They take a 30% cut of sales, and it would be incorrect to say that’s just for providing ‘shelf space’ for the developer. Written into the contract – after all, this is a contract, so obligations go both ways, are obligations to promote the game, for example the million guaranteed front page views mentioned in the article.

      I very much doubt anyone has the clout to heavily negotiate those terms, but Valve are not publishing these games, they are taking a 30% cut to provide a space to sell them (and provide a centralised platform for updates, etc).

      Developers have a right to question, then, whether an hour’s worth of guaranteed front page exposure is sufficient in this day and age, and as people who shop on the store, we have a right to question whether we are being exposed to games in a useful way.

      In the end, they sign the contract, and so do we by buying the games, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have serious concerns about the fairness of the terms.

  16. JFS says:

    I gave up on Steam about two years ago. The client just kept getting clunkier and useless-er, and their regional pricing sucks. They’d have to change a hell of a lot to win me back as a customer. Of course, they’re so big they needn’t really cater to minority criticism.

  17. hemmingjay says:

    Well said! I am a developer of an upcoming game that already has 25k+ fans waiting to buy a copy and multiple publishers offering to make the game a hit if I only give up control and a huge sum in addition to Valve’s 30%. What’s disgusting is if I had released 6 months ago I would be on the front page of Steam along with the top 6 commercial giants and theother 4 or 5 indie gems. Now, Steam REFUSES to help true indies by separating the re-released dogs of games that flopped 8-10 years ago and now get re-releases clogging the store with garbage. Further, more and more abusers of the Early Access fiasco release non-functional prototypes devoid of any content for $15-25 on a regular basis. How then are users supposed to notice actual completed quality games when they are bombarded by so much crap if they even bother to dig deep enough to get away from the Publisher dominated front page?

    I am waiting. My game is ready for release but I refuse to damn it to potential obscurity on a broken system. Steam reps promise me change is coming at some crystal ball obscured future date, but I find it hard to believe in. I also refuse to give up half of my game to a publisher who will do nothing but collect money by brokering a backroom deal with Steam, a deal they refuse to make with me. I hope that GoG’s new Galaxy store is a success and offers a curated alternative to Steam, but once again, the future is uncertain and it’s real gamers and honest developers that are suffering.

    http://www.ArmsDealerGame.com

    • Frank says:

      It would be nice for everyone if Steam improved discoverability, but I don’t think they *owe* you something better than their unpleasant deal (30% for relative obscurity); the business climate is not (entirely) their responsibility; and you’re writing like everything they do that does not help you (selling old garbage, early access) is automatically terrible for the world, which is silly…

      Your game sounds cool and I’m sorry to hear what’s happening with it, though.

    • Volcanu says:

      I’m sure it must be frustrating having poured your heart and soul into something, only to feel it’s chances of success would have been better 6-12 months ago. I have some sympathy.

      However, let’s be honest. If this had been the 90s- early 2000′s you would have had almost ZERO chance of getting to market without getting in to bed with a major publisher. And that publisher would have had to convince a bricks and mortar retailer that your game was worth a certain amount of their (finite) real estate.

      Steam don’t owe developers anything. They are essentially a retailer. If I came up with a fancy new laundry detergent and managed to convince a supermarket chain to stock it, yes they would do a limited amount to push the product (i.e. give it some shelf space) but not necessarily anything beyond that . It would still be on me to spread awareness and promote the product and convince people to buy my detergent over another brand’s product.

      It seems to me that you should be careful what you wish for- if you go to a model where you have to persuade the retailer (steam) to stock your product in the first place, who’s to say you’ll get to market at all?

      P.S Your game looks like a cool concept and one that could be pretty interesting. So consider me intrigued – this isn’t a personal attack on you, and I can understand why you might feel the way you do.

    • NotToBeLiked says:

      I’m sorry, and perhaps completely mistaken. But based on your website, if you had released a year ago you would have just not gotten on Steam at all because your games doesn’t really seem to be one of those indie gems that would be released on Steam. I really wonder if 25 000 people would buy that game based on 2 screenshots on an otherwise almost empty website. If you thought that many people would buy the game, you would have started selling it on your own already awaiting better days on Steam.

    • subedii says:

      Look, I’m sorry but can I be candid here?

      Your site. It’s a blog. It consists of a gallery with 5 pieces of art, no forum for these apparent 25,000 fans and a grand total of 5 posts spread across an observable development history spanning back to June the 9th of this year (so less than 2 months). Posts which in themselves have comments specifically disabled on them. And that alone looks sketchy, believe me. Aside from your concept blurb I don’t even know the basic mechanics by which the game is going to be working and implemented, or even what your influences are.

      No offense but I wouldn’t think your project’s far along enough to judge either, at least from the impression your own posted website gives to me. Nobody owes you time on their store, and not for something which, in all honesty, mod teams have done far better jobs with presenting.

      I don’t mean to be so harsh, but I literally went in knowing nothing about the game, and beyond the core concept “idea” of it I still don’t, let alone why I ought to be excited over it (way before any big corporation or storefront should). If there’s more, then it needs to be presented. And if you’re looking for a popular fan-push to get it onto those stores, then that goes doubly-so. If there isn’t more to show yet, then crikey, it’s way too early to be angsting at stores to pick up your title. Either way, it’s hard for me to blame the stores right now.

      • Distec says:

        I see this conversation pop up pretty regularly. A small developer is convinced that their game is “quality”; that it’s an ingenious little piece of work that deserves recognition. When it doesn’t blow up in popularity, the arguments I typically read are:

        1.) The audience just wasn’t ready for all the innovation. AAA has conditioned gamers to reject my brilliance.

        2.) Reviews were mean to my product for problems that got fixed early on. Yeah, the controls sucked at launch and there were bugs out the ass for a month, but that doesn’t explain why I’m not selling well now!

        3.) Steam didn’t give me enough time on the front page. I was robbed.

        I mean… I’m sure there are cases where these might be legitimate gripes. But on the whole, it reads like a deflection of criticism, or an inability to own up to the state of your product. Instead of something being wrong with the game, the problem is with the system or everybody else on the planet. I can’t imagine how frustrating it must be in a position where a game you’ve worked hard on doesn’t go anywhere. But some people need to take an honest, critical look of the game they’re trying to sell.

        Not taking a dig at the OP or anything. I’m not familiar with his game or its development. But the narrative is common, and I do often wonder if much of it is justified.

      • Bostec says:

        Hes right thought, I went on to the website and I saw jack shit. No demo, no forum, “no buy now alpha”, hardly any screenshots, no videos, no clue on the want the game does or how it plays just that you smuggle weapons(I think) not to mention that it states the game is coming out next month?!?! and hes crying about how Steam is giving him the middle finger? Jesus, I could ask the missus to paint me up some concept art of the street I live in and that would have more then what this ‘game’ has. I’ll send it too Valve too, they will probably welcome me with open arms.

    • Premium User Badge Melody says:

      To add to what the others have said, even if you hate Steam so much/are waiting for Steam to change, you could in the meantime still release it DRM-free, (or try to get it) on Desura, on Humble, on GoG, itch.io.

    • hemmingjay says:

      In response to the predominant comment that the game’s website currently doesn’t offer too much information, it’s intentional. We are keeping a tight lid on the game until we are ready to release the demo to the public. Too many games set the hype machine on overdrive way too soon and user expectations spiral out of control. It then becomes nigh impossible to meet those expectations. We will post gameplay videos, LP’s and a demo once we decide positively on a launch window that “fits”. I refuse to ask consumers to pre-order a game. I find the practice unsavory, much like early access. As for releasing DRM free, we intend to on GoG once they launch their new service, Galaxy.

      I fully appreciate the criticism and support that has been offered. If you have any serious inquiries, hit us up at contact@armsdealergame.com

      • Carbonated Dan says:

        if you have no hype train, how are 25000 people on board?

        • hemmingjay says:

          Through a standard social media and web presence. 22,000 Facebook likes in six weeks through normal discovery and word of mouth. Reddit, IndieDB and organic conversations on other game’s forums as well as almost 6,000 letters of inquiry through our own site(plus @400 hate-mail pieces) and finally, around 1500 people from the personal lives of myself and the rest of the team ….without any concerted hype or advertising.

          Perhaps 15,000 would be a more accurate estimation? It’s far from the point I was trying to make, but I should have been more careful regarding numbers. I ask you to try to look past that.

          • SAM-site says:

            If your game is ready to go, release it via your site initially. You don’t need Steam to be successful (ask Mojang). By the same measure Robocraft hit Steam just this week, but has been available to play for the last year via their site, or check with Cliffski, or the nice chaps behind Factorio. They’ve all succeeded in releasing games (albeit sometimes in early fashion) without Steam.

            There’s nothing to stop you releasing it elsewhere further down the line, but if you’ve got a few thousand people ready to play the game what exactly is stopping you? Every smash hit game every started its life with 1 sale.

          • shaydeeadi says:

            Did you buy those FB likes? Your like/comment count per post is tiny compared to other game projects with far less likes associated. I don’t want to be mean/rude, but the numbers don’t add up to be honest. If your game has been ready to go for as long as you say it has why haven’t you been promoting it at all? Selling it yourself via your site? There is a huge dissonance between what you are claiming and what your publicity indicates.

          • RobF says:

            That’s really good going for around 30 posts since July. With that sort of motivated fanbase you should absolutely release the game now and get it on the market otherwise, you’re just wasting time. If you’ve generated that sort of interest on Facebook, when IndieDB failed you with only 148 views total, you should absolutely get those people buying now before they forget about your game entirely. It’s even more amazing given you’ve said next to nothing about it beyond showing a couple of pictures here and there. That’s one heck of a marketing campaign right there.

            Incredible work. Keep going. You’ll just walk through Greenlight too if you do that now. Don’t worry about the storefront, if you can convert even 1/10th of those 22 thousand likes into real people spending money, you’ll be off to a glorious start for a game that size. Get to it!

  18. InternetBatman says:

    I think a better recommended for you system (and doing a better job of separating DLC) is the answer rather than more curation.

    However, I’d much rather prefer they completely redesign their front page and get rid of all the clutter. Merchandise, Mobile, Big Picture, Gifting, Demos, and Greenlight would probably be better served by tabs at the top rather than widgets.

    • Premium User Badge basilisk says:

      Yep, it’s quite obvious that pretty much any given page on Steam is the result of many features randomly slapped on top of one another and growing there like happy mushrooms. In other words, a complete mess. I can’t think of any part of the store or community pages that would have a sensible, streamlined and functional design. The current form is basically an archaeology of web design.

  19. Frank says:

    “There’s an argument that says this is how it should be.”

    You’re giving Valve way too much credit. They clearly spend (rounding error) hours per year thinking about and improving the store’s interface.

  20. Frank says:

    FYI: Automation without curation is sufficient.

    If you never see this “garbage” that you speak of, it will do you no harm, poor overwhelmed you.

  21. Lion Heart says:

    well 99% of the new releases are garbage anyway,aperature tag for instance is a mod that you have to pay for which lasts a couple of hours has no auto save and reuses assets from portal 2…. why would i care about new releases when i have rps to report the note worthy new releases and top sellers to show me whats on sale and good.

  22. HothMonster says:

    Let’s stop calling game that are new to Steam but released 10 years ago “new releases” while we are at it. If a game sucked 10 years ago but someone finally decided to get it onto Steam anyway it really shouldn’t be eating up the space that actual new games belong in.

    • SominiTheCommenter says:

      Indeed. Fuck whoever tries to re-release Torment on Steam.
      Even those Baldur’s Gate rereleases are literally taking bread from indie-du-jour’s mouth.

      • Urthman says:

        Because a Torment re-release would die in obscurity if it weren’t featured on the Steam’s New Releases chart?

  23. Dale Winton says:

    I bet ubisoft don’t give them 30%

    Steam system seems fine to me , good games will always sell well after all

  24. Wulfram says:

    I find the new releases tab exceeding useless. The “top sellers” is much more likely to give me information that might lead to a sale.

  25. purpleaardvark says:

    Lovely though this idea is, I’ve got to confess that it is a rare occasion when I will buy a game I see on steam. The things which let me know about cool things exciting concepts are the gaming press (mostly RPS, PC Gamer, Polygon and Eurogamer). If there isn’t something about a game on any of those, odds on, I won’t buy it. There is nothing Steam could do to remedy this, especially since the review system is so overwhelmingly positive on nearly everything, simply because unless you have a lot of hours in a game, it is ignored, and the only thing to convince you to put hours into a game is if you think it’s good…. but that is another issue. The onus to promote new and cool games is on the gaming press, not on steam.

  26. kwyjibo says:

    Valve have previously stated how they wanted to open up store front curation to their users. Just like how users can curate collections in the workshop and on greenlight, they would be allowed to do so with the main store. An RPS presents… section on Steam would be great.

  27. John Walker says:

    A quick tip for the furious:

    Someone’s writing something with which you don’t wholly agree isn’t a personal attack. It doesn’t make an enormous amount of sense to respond with anger. If you disagree with this piece, or indeed any other on RPS, the comments are here for you to express your opinions. They don’t need to begin with rage, however. You can just pleasantly say what you think, and then get on with your day.

    • TechnicalBen says:

      Can I respond with indifference? Though I understand this is a massive problem to sellers and game makers.
      I already filter out 99% of averts, steam including.

      Though as the poster above wrote “they already won”. As with most things, it becomes a monopoly, it becomes self perpetuating and it becomes too powerful.

      • Pixieking says:

        “As with most things, it becomes a monopoly, it becomes self perpetuating and it becomes too powerful.”

        Valve vastly understimated the power of competition, as well as the love that they engendered, and it shows through in Steam. Steam (afaik) was never meant to be the one digital distro retailer to rule them all, but EA didn’t initially “compete” against Steam with EA Downloader/Origin, and MS didn’t even try with GFWL, and that’s had a knock-on effect of Steam being its own competition.

        EA pulled their new games from Steam (ostensibly over DLC payment issues, but also as a means to leverage Origin), when they could have tried matching/overtaking Steam’s service and pulling in customers that way. Certainly it would have been hard to do, but that competition from EA would have meant Valve (and EA, and MS) could have one-upped each-other with newer and better offerings in terms of digital distro retail clients. But, since EA went for the nuclear option, they never provided a better service, and Valve have iterated Steam based on internal design, rather than external competition.

        So, yes, it’s become too powerful, but that massive amount of power is accidental in a way, and the new store-front and Greenlight is a means of shrugging away that power.

        Edit: As an example of what external competition can do, several features from Jason Shackles Enhanced Steam have made it (or are making their way) to Steam. I doubt that’s a coincidence.

    • Henson says:

      Huh? I’m confused, John. I’m not seeing much rage here, just a few snarky comments. Am I missing something?

      • spacedyemeerkat says:

        Yeah, I think he must have replied to the wrong comment.

        • Dances to Podcasts says:

          It’s also possible that he’s been moderating/censoring the comments. Or just seeing things. This is John Walker, after all.

  28. Tychoxi says:

    It’s nice to see more people calling VALVE into attention regarding their messy frontpage.

  29. Emeraude says:

    I do think it’s pretty interesting that Valve would be held to standards that could basically be those that apply to a public library on some respects. It certainly shows the peculiar place held by Steam on the DD marketplace, being basically both Gamestop and Walmart (ie: “they won”).
    One basic issue is that, of course, shelf-life used to be both problem and solution: it ensured that old games would disappear to make place to the new. But there’s no such thing anymore. At the same time, I don’t remember anyone ever holding a mortar shop accountable for its shovelware selection (correct me if I’m wrong). We used to blame publishers if anything.

    Which we can’t easily do anymore when said shovelware is getting released by a myriad of individuals and becoming indistinguishable from actual indie hits as far as the mass market is concerned (one person’s indie hit is another’s shovelware I learned).

    There’s not even a minimal level of quality of released product left to filter titles now that we’ve accepted mandatory patching and (to a lesser extent) early access. From the shop’s side I mean.

    • TechnicalBen says:

      Don’t remind me of the quality being released.
      Steam use to be a good store. Now it’s a replacement for a google search and paypal on a website. They dropped the standards, but sadly in reality it just means more cash to them, so they’ll never change. :(

  30. aiusepsi says:

    Cliffski and some other indie devs got invited up to Valve a few months ago to see what Valve’s working on for the store, and Cliffski thinks it looks awesome: http://positech.co.uk/cliffsblog/2014/05/10/the-future-of-steam-vr-and-other-seattle-stuff/

    I’m personally looking forward to seeing what it is Valve’s going to put out.

    • TechnicalBen says:

      For some reason I don’t trust his ability to make that call. :P

  31. mpk says:

    While I really hate Netflix’s recommendations, I noticed in the recent sale that Valve seemed to be hinting at a similiar labelling system with their community choice sales.

    I really hope they don’t follow the same process for rating games: “How often do you play games featuring mute scientists saving the world?” or “How often do you play games where you can teabag fallen foes?”

  32. derbefrier says:

    indie games are a dime a dozen, big AAA games are a dime a dozen. There never going to be enough room for everyone on the front page so this is just a case of wanting to have your cake and eat it too. Threes no one way to do this thats going to make everyone happy. The same issues will still persist no matter what changes are made. perhaps valve hasn’t done much in this sense is because they understand that its a futile effort

  33. Geebs says:

    Excellent article, thank you. Made me realise that the reason I hadn’t thought that there was any problem with using Steam for game discovery was that I’d subconsciously assimilated that it was terrible for that purpose and therefore never actually used it.

  34. Leaufai says:

    Steam (and virtually every other site for that matter) needs to switch over to responsive layouts. Widescreen displays are the standard these days, but too few sites still limit us to layouts designed when 1024×768 was still going strong. If Steam used more than 50% of my screen, there would already be less of a problem of visibility.

  35. Master_of_None says:

    Re: curation, it seems like what you’re asking for is a Steam Affiliate Program (re: Amazon), where RPS can host it’s own “store front”, you could do your own curation (which in effect, you’re already doing), and then could also get paid for promoting those games.

    I, for one, would be totally fine with this as a reader, although some would argue that it would diminish your journalistic (?) integrity.

    Have there been any indications that Valve is going this route?

  36. Tei says:

    The question is… whos the job to filter all these games and tell us about gems ?

    Maybe journalist don’t think is them. It seems that the Yogcast don’t think is them.

    • Grygus says:

      It is mine. I am terrible at it, but there is no-one to fire me.

      Go play Saints Row IV, I totally meant to tell all of you that months ago but then the microwave dinged and I forgot.

  37. DrManhatten says:

    There is a very simple solution to this problem: Don’t use Steam! There are enough good alternative some of them even come without Steam’s stinking DRM and consumer unfriendly EULA.. Besides no one really can benefit and I mean neither consumer nor producer that one marketplace becomes too dominant.

    • Pixieking says:

      Steam is more than DRM. It’s a modding community, chat system, server-system for online play. And, for the latter, it’s the most economically stable out there. Just witness Gamespy’s server shutdown to see how useful a long-term server-system is for consumers.

      It’s also possible to argue that a monopoly that encourages consumer interaction (through modding and creation of items, where the creators get paid) is a “friendly monopoly” that doesn’t harm the consumer as much as it helps them.

      • JFS says:

        That’s Steams big problem. It’s everything at once, but nothing is working really well. Okay, maybe multiplayer servers, but apart from that it’s happy mushrooms, as a fellow commenter called it above.

      • Emeraude says:

        That’s part of the issue; it’s trying to be everything at once, when there is no need nor I think much demand for it. Most of the people I’ve talked to who use Steam it seems to me are only interested in a fraction of what it does and see all the rest as some bloatware whose existence they can at best ignore, at worst have to suffer as a price to access the part that interest them.

        Not to mention other issues, but I’m all out of cardboard boxes right now.

        • SominiTheCommenter says:

          The fact that Uplay, Origin and GFWL failed to gain traction proves the demand it there.

          • Emeraude says:

            Not really: the very reason for which I assert there is no demand for it is the one for which there is no demand for other clients too: no one wants to forced into using a redundant piece of software. People already locked into Steam (a platform that in itself imposes redundancy, but at least had the saving grace of proposing something unique/new when it was released) are not going to want to be tied to another that does just the very same thing.

            As I’ve stated several times: for Steam to lose market share, not only a competitor would have to be much better, Valve would have to commit some terrible fuck up at the same time. The Steam set up generates tremendous inertia, if only by technically appropriating all your games.

    • Distec says:

      This doesn’t sound like a solution.

      Just sour grapes.

      • Emeraude says:

        That doesn’t sound like a solution because of the way DRM and store are coupled if anything: there is no such thing as competition to Steam. There is no real competition between clients on the DD space.

        If you want a game that’s on Origin, you have to use Origin.
        If you want to use a gamer that’s on uPlay, to have to use uPlay.
        If you want access to any of the games that’s on Steam, you have to use Steam

        • Premium User Badge Melody says:

          That’s not entirely true. Since the Humble Store has opened, I’ve tried buying all my games there, and they give you steam keys anyway. (I’d much rather give my money to Humble, even if occasionally the prices are slightly higher) Other stores do that too.

          • Emeraude says:

            I’ve used the Humble Bundle as well. It doesn’t change the fact that, If one wants to get a game that is tied to any of those clients, one will have to use said client.

            Hell, that’s why we ended up with Humble Bundle that did not give DRM free games: you had to use Steam or Origins there too in the end for some editions.

  38. Moraven says:

    Steam desperately needs a completely new “Recommended For You” system, where games sharing similar tags, or bought by people who bought similar, or a new, interesting means, are immediately visible. Front page visible. Currently the notion of such a system is a complete mess, hidden in a barely clicked tab, and appallingly laid out. Think Netflix, Amazon, Audible, and so on, where the feature not only makes you immediately aware of other available products you may not have heard of, but also feels useful. Unique front page elements that tailor for you as a customer, dig out the oddities that your profile suggests might catch your eye.

    Pretty much that. Run a contest like netflix to create algorithms for a good recommendation system.

    Otherwise Daily, Midweek, Weekend deals is the only easy way I see things.

    I do like the GoG user lists, which tend to have some missed gems in them.

  39. Ninja Foodstuff says:

    Rather amusing to see so much discussion on “why can’t I find more games to play”

    • Emeraude says:

      Is this about more ? Or is this about the “right ones” ? However you end up defining “right”.

  40. The Sombrero Kid says:

    welcome back John ‘click bait’ Walker!
    jk, I completely agree. It was an excellent article.
    If valve didn’t want to curate their store it would just be an api.

  41. Metalhead9806 says:

    This is why i think more people need to give GoG a chance. Once GoG Galaxy the optional client releases i think more and more developers and publishers will push their games to GoG. GoG is a curated service so if their games make it we will know they were worthy of that platform.

    Steam is massive, its the way it is and it wont change. Now its time for other shops to rise up. GoG, Desura, Gamersgate, Humble, Greenman, Amazon and Impulse need to step it up imo.

    • RobF says:

      What you’ll actually get is “like Steam but with less games on” rather than games “worthy” of a platform.

      That’s obviously totally a thing that’s OK to want but it’s probably best not to confuse the two things.

  42. Lemming says:

    Valve being Valve, we all know they’ll fix it..eventually. They are just unbelievably slow at prioritising stuff like this. I’d bet anything there’s a prototype new store in their offices that keeps getting tinkered and added to rather than being released in useful chunks.

    Alas by the time they do, there will already be hundreds of indies claiming that’s what killed their game.

    I think a much cleaned up front page and a focus on new releases is a must, of course.That entire right-hand column can be hidden away, for a start.

  43. sd4f says:

    My perception of a problem with steam is that valve isn’t impartial; they make games themselves, and no doubt get to provide preferential treatment for their own products. This makes it incredibly difficult to compete against valve on steam.

    There’s a few multi-player games that I’ve enjoyed in the past, but ultimately have died because of a lack of a community, two of my favourites were Monday Night Combat and Lead & Gold, I guess the player base is being eaten up by DotA 2 and TF2, amongst a few other games.

    With that said, it’s a difficult situation, but I think that we’re rapidly approaching a status quo again, where once steam liberated many developers from having to publish physical copies, and didn’t require the investment to get a production run going, now, there’s so much competition in the gaming space, that it doesn’t really matter; if your game community isn’t organically (or astroturfed) grown outside of steam, it definitely won’t grow inside steam.

    Bring on GoG Galaxy!

  44. Felix says:

    “According to Tezateser, that takes about one hour.” What a load of horse manure. As is much of your post. What I can agree with is a more visible recommendation list, like what you see on Amazon, the gods of getting people to buy stuff.

    A lot of the stuff I haven’t heard of or seen on Steam is junk I wouldn’t buy anyway. Make a good game and the story writes itself. Well, you guys write it, bad or good.

  45. MadTinkerer says:

    “To see what new games have been released on Steam, one now has to scroll the entire front page down a screen, then click on a tiny tab to select the list. Click on a new game that catches your eye, then click back to the front page, and that list is once again TOP SELLERS, and any laborious scrolling down you’d done is undone. Now, this is in a large part due to what a dreadful mess Steam’s front page design is in, certainly. But it also makes the process of looking through newly available games a tedious trial. That this is the case, when finding the damn things in the first place is already so difficult, makes Steam a pretty miserable place for new, unknown titles, to find attention.”

    I was annoyed by this too until I unconsciously started to treat it like grinding XP. I always check the new releases tab for games to add to my wishlist and I was annoyed at the change at first, and then for some reason it started to feel like “hard mode” and I started getting endorphin flow from being frustrated every day, but sitting through it and “grinding” through the list and adding to my wishlist despite the inconvenience.

    But I the fact remains that I SHOULDN’T BE CONSIDERING SHOPPING FOR NEW GAMES TO BE A CHALLENGE. Adding games to my wishlist in itself shouldn’t feel like “winning”. At the very least, if they don’t want to fix it, Valve needs to implement achievements and leaderboards…

  46. canman says:

    “While a lot of games are released on Steam, it’s not an impossible number.”
    And this is where I have to disagree. Looking at the last week, here are the new games (not including DLC) that were released on steam:
    7/21: 5 games
    7/18: 7 games
    7/17: 16 Games
    7/16: 9 Games
    7/15:12 Games

    So in the past 7 days 49 games have come out. That’s one every 3.5 hours.

    Think about that. All of those titles are little indie games so far removed from being triple A that they’re releasing in July, the middle of gaming’s dead season in an effort to gain a tiny shard of limelight for themselves.

    75 games get Greenlit every two weeks. that’s an average of 1 every five hours.

    How are we supposed to ever sift through a torrent of games that is racing past at a rate like that without any curation? There’s not enough time in the day to play all those games and most people don’t have the free time to spend to even look at them all.

  47. Deadeye666 says:

    So Valve has enough money to create an OS that nobody wants or needs, a controller nobody wants or needs and a console nobody wants or needs but they don´t have the money to hire like 5 people whose sole job it is to curate the store? They could probably finance their yearly salaries with what they make off of TF2 hats in a month. At least hire some guys who check if the games you are selling in your store are actually functional and work on modern PCs.

    • Premium User Badge RedViv says:

      “God, Valve, stop developing this shitty online platform that nobody wants or needs and focus on making more Half-Life!” – someone 2004

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      Maybe they don’t have the money/manpower because of those things.

  48. jasondesante says:

    the problem is Valve isn’t every developer in the world so why would Valve do something that doesn’t benefit them fully? when they can continue working on Dota 2 instead of fixing the curation problem. The curation problem won’t make Valve as much money as continuing work on Dota 2 and since that curation problem isn’t an immediate problem Valve needs to fix right now for their own games, and it only negatively affects other games, they dont care.

    This is the problem of Steam. Every big new feature is made to promote some Valve thing in some sort. Never made to promote some other game or to make it better. The best thing they did was that Skyrim Workshop support but it wasn’t long at all for people to give up using the Steam Workshop and prefer to use Nexus because the mod creators get money on top of other things. Basically the only time you could say Valve did something to help another company out, it actually wasn’t a help at all.

  49. SquidLord says:

    If you believe it would bring value to Valve to add curation to Steam, perhaps you might find it profitable to take that curation off of their hands. Maybe it would be a good idea to – I don’t know – create a website which is devoted to writing about video games, dissecting and digesting the ones that they consider to be worth a readers time and ignoring the ones that aren’t. You know, providing curation to an audience, with the expectation that ad revenue for a site which provides a meaningful, frequently useful service might be rewarding.

    You could even call it Rock, Paper, Shotgun.

    What’s interesting here is that the implication this editorial provides is that Valve could do your job better than you do, by your own advocacy. Is that really what you think or are you just being kind of dim?

    I absolutely and completely believe that better curation is a service that is worth providing my eyeballs and attention to. And I follow that up by actually doing so. But if you believe that Valve is better placed to do that job, curation, the one that you have – in part – taken as part of your calling and business plan… Who am I to argue? I should definitely stop providing you my attention, my ad revenue, and my consideration and instead go find someone who believes that they can do a better job.

    If your objection is that it is costly and requires resources to do proper curation – I completely agree. If you’re admitting that you don’t have the resources to do so properly and that you are now advocating for Valve to invest their resources in a project which you admit that you cannot do as well… I suppose I have to support you in that.

    But that seems like piss-poor journalistic integrity, to me. That seems like the opposite of what you are telling me by doing RPS. Seems intensely self-defeating.

    And that’s kind of sad.

    • SurprisedMan says:

      Why can’t there be both things? Not everyone who is a Steam customer is (or even wants to be) a regular RPS reader. It’s probably safe to say that most or at least a large number of them either don’t regularly read games websites or don’t look to those websites to discover new and interesting games. For those people, Steam’s front page might be the first place they learn about new games. so why not make it better for doing so?

  50. Premium User Badge Ninja Dodo says:

    Good points made, though I still think you completely misunderstand the purpose and value of ‘disastrous flop’ Greenlight. As an intermediate step on the way to a more open store and a platform for building better tools (on Valve’s side) for releasing games it does what it needs to do just fine. And for unknown indies, it is (or was with recent traffic slowing) another way to get more eyes on your game. In that way it’s similar to IndieDB, a place to tell people your game exists without needing to go through press (great if you can get it, but nice to have alternatives). Getting on Steam is almost secondary.

  51. sd4f says:

    It’s hardly a measure of success that some decent games came through. The goal of greenlight was to allow the community to help valve cut through the noise. It hasn’t worked, it has just generated more noise. Greenlight is a failure like steam on PS3. It’s dead and valve doesn’t care about it anymore.