Go take a look at your Steam front page. Huuhhhhhhh?! It’s changed! Valve have launched a major update to how Steam will appear to you. No, you. They’ve personalised the front page, in an effort to adapt to the far more rapid flow of new releases.
Valve reports that over the last nine months over 1,300 new games have appeared on the service. Which makes up about a quarter of the total number of games on the service. Thus the Steam Discovery Update, an attempt to make the front page more relevant to individual users, based on sniffing around their histories. Apparently purchases, playing time and friend recommendations all come into play in defining what you’ll have highlighted.
There’s also a new search, with “extremely detailed features”, and a much rumoured feature called Curators, letting people create their own store pages, with their own purchase recommendations – the idea being you follow those whose tastes match yours.
Some of it is customisable, and will apparently filter out games you’ve already bought, or said you don’t want to hear about any more.
They’ve also added a Discovery Queue, which guesses at games you’ll want to know about, and lets you pre-order (don’t pre-order), add to wishlists, follow, etc. Mine is suggesting me all manner of RTS games, so it’s both a) not working, and b) assuaging me of my fear stated above.
All of which appear to be ways of ensuring you see games like games you like. Which, I dunno, seems a bit of a shame. Half the joy of Steam is stumbling upon a game in a genre you usually avoid, that for some reason intrigues you.
Rather hugely disappointingly, the one thing they haven’t done in this update is offer a simple way to just see what new games have come out. We wrote in July about how new games are buried on the Steam front page, and how it’s hurting newer titles that don’t have immediate attention. That seems to have gotten a whole lot worse. Now, even if you do scroll down as far as the new release list, there’s not even an option to just default to showing all the new games on the front page – it’s actually a backward step! Now you can only see “popular new releases” on the front page stream, making life even tougher for those obscure releases that haven’t lucked out. They’ve gone and removed the complete list altogether. Damn it.
This is all the more frustrating when so many other features on this new front page boast customisability, but the lists (greatly improved by tabbing without achingly slowly reloading, it should be stressed) can’t be adapted at all. The complete list is now on a completely separate page, linked by a tiny button at the very bottom of the front page. It’s the precise opposite of what would have been good for the struggling new games.
This is endemic in the new design. Head to the Early Access or Free To Play pages, and they too have ditched just telling you what new games have appeared, in favour of “Popular New Releases”. And here there’s no way to just bloody show what’s recently come out. It’s like the cool kids at school get to decide who’s allowed on the playground.
So there’s a lot of effort into helping you “discover”, but a very minimal amount of actual customisation that can be done. It’s definitely a huge technical improvement over the extremely slow mess it had previously become, but it might well be a huge backward step for small indies with first releases.