Steam Store Pages Now Only Able To Use In-Game Screenshots

A part of the big Steam update that’s been rumoured for a good long while appears to be a new rule that games will no longer be allowed to use misleading screenshots in their store page carousel. The news, reported by Kotaku’s Nathan Grayson (Who he? – Ed), says that Valve have confirmed an update to their guidelines for sellers, and from now on only in-game shots will be acceptable.

This all came up when a member of the Facepunch forums screenshotted a Valve letter, which Kotaku then had Valve confirm was for real. (I’ve not taken the further step of double-checking this with Valve myself, because HAHAHAHA! Valve replying to an email?! What a funny idea! In fact my first response to this story was to IM Nathan to demand he tell me how he managed this seemingly impossible feat. Then I copied all his hard work on here and he should never have left me.)

Valve explain in the email to Steam developers that guidelines haven’t been clear so far, which has led to renders and concept art being displayed in a box that really ought to be for screenshots. They say now,

“We ask that any images you upload to the ‘screenshot’ section of your store page should be screenshots that show your game. This means avoiding using concept art, pre-rendered cinematic stills, or images that contain awards, marketing copy, or written product descriptions.”

Which does rather make me wonder whether this will finally see an update to No Man’s Sky’s page, astonishingly still displaying misleading shots of content not found in that game. Even the intervention of the Advertising Standards Authority doesn’t seem to have seen this get changed. Although the new rules have apparently led Valve to finally update DOTA 2’s store page to remove the concept art!

Quite how Valve intends to police this I’ve no idea, with dozens and dozens of games getting added every day, seemingly woefully vetted before they’re allowed to even appear on the store, let alone for whether their screenshots are accurate. I suspect this will end up falling on adversely affected users to report, after the fact, as seems too often to be the case when policing the online shop. (And indeed when the mobs turn on a game they don’t like, they’ll inevitably falsely report it for the crime.) But who knows – perhaps with the much rumoured big update they’ve also considered the out-there notion of spending some of their untold hundreds of millions of dollars on hiring some more bloody staff to actually do the job.

We’ll keep you posted.

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72 Comments

  1. CarthAnne says:

    Finally some good gaming news for once. Not to mention good Steam news. They haven’t been exactly hitting it out of the park lately, Consumer Rights wise, at least not since the changes made to the refund system last year.

  2. DailyFrankPeter says:

    But… how do you define ‘in-game’ for when there isn’t strictly a game yet? Such as for barely announced games, which I still would like to see on Steam if only to wishlist them and not forget; or for early access? Even NMS’s famous misrepresenting shots were still made in-engine.

    • Sakkura says:

      They’re creating a lot of grey area, but at least that allows them to crack down on those who abuse the grey area.

      It’s probably perfect from Valve’s POV.

    • aerozol says:

      Just spitballing here, but if they define it as having to be an image that a user could possibly achieve/see using the product that’s being advertised, that would leave only the tightest of loopholes? Pre-orders are tricky though…

      • Javelin says:

        Anything that makes it harder to abuse pre-ordering is a good thing. I wouldn’t mind seeing pre-orders go away forever, to be honest. They made sense back when you had to buy physical media, because with a popular game the store could easily run out of stock. In the digital age, pre-orders are just a tool that greedy publishers use to take advantage of the consumer with pre-order only bonuses and the like.

    • Assirra says:

      Don’t allow games being on sale before there is an actual “in game”.

  3. thegooseking says:

    I was so disappointed as a child when I would take my Spectrum game home and find out the screenshots I’d been promised by the box were from the C64 version.

    Has it really taken us 30 years to finally say “enough is enough”?

    • Rhinowarrior says:

      Long time lurker. I had to create an account to say Amen brother.

    • syndrome says:

      My mind always “scaled” those down. Every C-64 cover used to look like something I thought I would never see in a game. So real, so pretty. In reality it was two shitty boxes chasing each other.

      And whaddya know, now Battlefield looks even better than its seminal intro cinematic.

      Hm, let’s pretend I’m still young.

      • inspiredhandle says:

        I hate to admit it, but the graphics in BF1 are just about the best I’ve ever seen. Was infinitely impressed with the beta. Unfortunately for EA/Dice I’m a complete cheapskate. Hehehe.

        • Premium User Badge

          Syt says:

          Yes, the Frostbite engine is a thing of marvel. I was already impressed by it with Star Wars Battlefront (about the only thing that was impressive about that game), and BF1 raises it even more. I’m playing on medium settings and I’m just in awe. My new right will arrive soon, and I look forward to playing it on higher settings (just for the wow-factor, I suck at the game).

          • inspiredhandle says:

            IIRC I played the beta at ultra settings with a 4790k/gtx970/16gb ram/ssd system (1080p 60fps), ran buttery smooth. I imagine you’ve opted for something current gen and probably 1440 resolution, no? You’re in a for a treat indeed.

      • FurryLippedSquid says:

        “In reality it was two shitty boxes chasing each other.”

        :D

        We really had to use our imaginations back then.

    • KDR_11k says:

      And on the C64 boxes the screenshots were from the Amiga which was another tier up.

      • Marr says:

        As Sir Terry quipped on the dust jacket of Only You Can Save Mankind, “Suitable for IBM PC, Atari, Amiga, Pineapple, Amstrad, Nintendo. Actual game shots taken from a version you haven’t bought.”

        At least those ‘other computer’ bullshots were glaringly obvious, though, given they used colour palettes and screen modes physically impossible on the cheaper target systems.

    • Maxheadroom says:

      Your comment gave me flashbacks to The Last Ninja whos preview screenshots promised all sorts of features like food and water meters, none of which made it into the final (much delayed) game.

  4. brucethemoose says:

    Someone big and stubborn (Hello Games?) could easily fight it and say that those are indeed in-game screenshots, and there’s no way to prove them wrong. You can’t go to that exact planet with those exact conditions and prove that the screenshot is a fake.

    On a smaller scale, devs can still doctor up screenshots and get away with it… Though to be fair, buyers can achieve the same thing in-game with ReShade anyway, so there’s no reason to complain.

    Still, this is a step in the right direction.

    • KDR_11k says:

      People have datamined the game files enough to know that these images are impossible in the game. There’s even a folder in there with the trailer assets (including planet and such), separate from the game assets.

    • OvalCoyote says:

      Fake screenshots have always been a thing in the gaming industry. Most games have “Bullshots” that are used for game boxes and magazine articles. In some cases you can even find the original screenshot versus the version they put on their websites/game cases.

      Actually Bullshots are also used as a way to interview potential graphic design employees for game marketing/media positions.

      I wish I could say that ‘gamers should simply know better’, but as gaming becomes more and more mainstream, the ignorance of how the gaming industry works also rises. This change to Steam could help that a bit, if only to push devs in the right direction. (Although marketing/advertising will never stop trying to sell their stuff, by any means. It’s just the fundamental truth of the medium).

  5. C0llic says:

    It’s a positive step in the right direction. As an aside, No Man’s Sky has become such a poisoned chalice for Hello Games I wonder if they’ll ever recover. I can’t recall another time when a company had to shoulder disappointment and consumer backlash on this scale after their first high profile project.

    • Premium User Badge

      DelrueOfDetroit says:

      Yeah, I can’t wait for the Kotaku article in 6 years time where Sean Murray basically explains that answering the phone when Sony called was the worst decision of his life.

      • fish99 says:

        On the other hand his bank manager would heartily disagree.

        • Regicider 12.4% says:

          And Satan. Also his lawyer.
          The anti Trinity.

          • satan says:

            I cheated after my first couple dozen hours (unlimited everything) and just turned NMS into a game of infinite exploration, found it far more enjoyable that way.

            I still consider NMS’ transgressions minor compared to some of the more disastrous releases I’ve been a part of (looking at you, X3: Rebirth), in that while NMS overpromised and underdelivered, you could at least play and (imo) enjoy it.

          • Marr says:

            It’s not so much the limitations of the game itself that launched a Holy War, it was the orchestrated campaign of misinformation around the launch, clearly designed to maximise the number of disappointed pre-order customers and string them along past the Steam automatic refund window. The concept screens on the Steam page are merely the archaeological remains of that event.

          • Thurgret says:

            X-Rebirth’s substantially better a few years on. Still not fantastic, but I got a good thirty hours out of it over the summer – with a couple mods, admittedly, but I played X3 with mods too.

    • Shushununu says:

      Ion Storm and Daikatana?

      • C0llic says:

        Oh yes, good catch. Didn’t work out very well for Romero though. Still, let’s remember the next game after that was Deus Ex, and that’s a tough comeback to match.

        • Shushununu says:

          I guess it goes to show that even though Ion Storm followed Daikatana with Deus Ex, one of the greatest games of all time, they still went bust a few years later.

          Based on that, it doesn’t look good for Hello Games.

          • KDR_11k says:

            Ion Storm were notoriously wasteful. They released that Dominion: Storm over something-something game for a quick buck after having bought it from a bankrupt dev, cost them a few hundred thousand but their Eidos contract granted them 3 million per game. All that money then went to Daikatana.

            They also released Anachronox and it was a horribly buggy mess.

          • Archangel says:

            Wow, the memories! I worked at that bankrupt developer (7th Level) and was actually the voice actor of the briefing officer in the game. And today I learned that it is probably the most mediocre game to ever earn three million dollars. =/

        • mactenchi says:

          Daikatana and Deus Ex were separate teams. Not even the same offices.

    • Premium User Badge

      keefybabe says:

      I keep hoping they’re going to do an Orion Prelude with it and basically fix it. But I think I’m dreaming with that.

  6. Premium User Badge

    AutonomyLost says:

    Day-um. Good to hear, though I share the same cynical sentiment as John — how will this be enforced? I suppose the triple-A titles will be easy enough to keep on the straight-and-narrow but with how many indies release each week/day/hour/minute etc. this will indeed be a difficult policy to employ to great effect.

    Still, a welcome move by Valve.

    • Baines says:

      Triple-A titles are possibly the worst violators.

      • Premium User Badge

        AutonomyLost says:

        I agree with that; I’m saying that with as much exposure as comes along with triple-A releases, there will be next to no room for any shenanigans or screenshot fuckery.

        It will be (and usually is) exceedingly easy to call bullshit/bullshot on overly-curated screens, which should prompt the developers to post actual in-game screen-grabs from the outset. It wouldn’t be worth it to them, the dev’s, to have Valve offer refunds galore on a big-budget game or penalize them going forward for pulling the wool over a few gamers’ eyes. That’s what I meant.

  7. DanMan says:

    Good. Someone tell Konami to remove the console screenshots from the PES games then. They use a different engine on PC.

    • Baines says:

      That’s probably true for several publishers.

      Koei-Tecmo uses screenshots based on its current gen console builds, even when the PC ports are based on last gen builds. And even there, they cheat, as they use their PR screenshots which are actually higher quality than even the current gen console versions will actually display in-game.

      And I don’t see it getting policed very well at all.

      Nor is it that Valve just didn’t have clear guidelines. Valve didn’t care until the No Man’s Sky backlash blew up. People had reported misrepresentative screenshots for multiple games in the past, and Valve didn’t do anything about them. Even when they’d pull misrepresenting videos (which itself could take weeks, and wasn’t always guaranteed), they’d leave the screenshots alone.

  8. RichUncleSkeleton says:

    Even allowing technically in-game screenshots with no specific restrictions leaves a lot of room for intentional deceptiveness and misrepresentation. What’s to stop an unscrupulous developer from cranking up the graphical settings to a quality level that would be completely unattainable for the vast majority of systems? Crysis 3 at 4K with 8X MSAA is probably absurdly beautiful. It also won’t be playable at that level of fidelity in the next century. And that’s to say nothing of trickery using developer-only tweaks that wouldn’t even be theoretically accessible to the end user. Something that is obviously pre-rendered or conceptual almost seems more honest by comparison.

    • Premium User Badge

      Marclev says:

      Well, I’d expect them to show off their game in the best like. This has been the way screenshots have worked on back of boxes since the dawn of computer gaming.

      If there are fancy developer settings that make the game look better, I’d ask why they’re not included in the video options for people with crazy powerful PCs.

      • Thurgret says:

        Total War: Attila included an ultra setting that the developers clearly warned would not work on PCs available at the time, but would be smoother as available technology improved.

        People complained, loudly, that their then high-end computers could not run the game on ultra settings.

        • Premium User Badge

          DelrueOfDetroit says:

          Which used to be a common practice with PC games was not t not? Crysis obviously comes to mind. Nobody could run that thing on high back in the day but nowadays a budget system will run it smoothly. I also recall Unreal being released with impossible to achieve settings.

          [Edit] I could correct my error but “not t not” is now going to be part of my regular vocabulary.

    • Premium User Badge

      AutonomyLost says:

      This is a good point.

      I suppose it’d be too much for Valve to make it incumbent upon developers to disclaim: the above screenshots were rendered at X-by-Y resolution with W,X,Y, and Z options enabled.

      Of course it’d be incredibly simple for the dev’s to do so, but… probably not gonna happen.

  9. RobF says:

    Just to explain what this is for a bit further because I think John’s got the wrong end of the stick a bit here at times, it’s not “a new rule that games will no longer be allowed to use misleading screenshots in their store page carousel” at all. The intent behind this is to remove marketing copy and concept art from the store – not to police screenshots in this way.

    The thinking behind this is that right now, before the update is rolled out, only ‘key art’ will be shown around the store (that’s the boxy promo art pics in a couple of different sizes) – once the update to Steam rolls out, that won’t be the case any longer and they’ll be featuring screenshots in places as well as the key art. Whether this extends to videos too, we’ll see – it wouldn’t surprise me though. We’re also being asked to mark off mature content so that doesn’t get shown.

    They already police the store fronts but so far, they’ve kept a fairly light touch for anything that isn’t the main banner art (the example they use themselves as ‘how not to do this’ is for DOTA2, never mind), all they’re doing here is extending the main banner policy out to every other screenshot to try and help sell more games. What they don’t want is app store style pictures covered in awards, concept art etc…, wrapping this up into the recent NMS stuff is disingenuous and not really what this is about – it was coming regardless.

    But yeah, this is intended to help people sell more games not to crack down on anything. It’s part of the rollout for the new look front page and that. It’s not intended to keep developers honest or whatever else the internet’s concocted today. That’s still going to be up to the public and the press.

    • John Walker says:

      Rob, I think the disingenuity is yours here. While it’s true that these clarified rules make clear they don’t want awards and marketing copy over screenshots, they also cover everything else mentioned in this article, specifically stating that the shots need to represent the game the customer will play. In Valve’s words:

      “When the ‘screenshot’ section of a store page is used for images other than screenshots that depict the game, it can make it harder for customers to understand what the product is that they are looking at. Additionally, we’re going to start showing game screenshots in more places as described above, and these images need to be able to represent the game.

      “We ask that any images you upload to the ‘screenshot’ section of your store page should be screenshots that show your game. This means avoiding using concept art, pre-rendered cinematic stills, or images that contain awards, marketing copy, or written product descriptions. Please show customers what your game is actually like to play.”

      • RobF says:

        They’re pretty clear in discussions that this is primarily around ensuring marketing copy, cinematics and concept art are removed and this is mainly what they’ll be checking.

        Given games are generally in a state of flux on Steam, much else would be not impossible but certainly more work than they’ll likely put in. They do check and approve every store front and suggest corrections, always have and they will not let it go live unless a developer complies but this is more to fit with their format and to ensure assets are fit for their use than ‘to police stuff’, for want of a better phrase. And this is an extension of their fit for use policies.

        The advice, much like most of the advice Valve provide in the back end can essentially be boiled down to ‘just don’t be a dickhead’ – given they’ve pretty much nodded through No HUD stuff already with a ‘just be sensible’ disclaimer, I doubt it’ll have any other significant impact. It’s not really intended to. Like I say, what they’re pushing for here isn’t policing the store per se, it’s saying that if you don’t use screenshots, then their front page will go to crap and all their hard work will be for nothing so they won’t stand for that. It’s to optimise sales not keep developers in line. How up to date or current the screenshots are would mean running through whatever build is uploaded at the time the store goes live and that’s not really doable or desirable, especially as you’ll be approved days or weeks before launch and can continue to make as drastic a change to the game as you want in that time. To cater to that, Valve would have to check each build before launch and I can’t see that.

        Not that I disagree that the NMS page is well off, I’m fairly sure there’s ‘reasons’ for no change given it’s a 20 minute job at a push to fix it and this has not been done – no sane developer would leave that unless they had to, but it is definitely in need of looking like the game right now not the game at the time the pics were taken. Valve will clearly want to nudge developers away from getting into that sort of pickle just so developers don’t get into that sort of pickle, just this isn’t really related. This was happening anyway as they work to improve discovery.

        It might (and I’m hopeful it does) have the knock on effect of improving the screenies situation but it’s not *for that*, which is why I say linking the two here is a bit off. In many ways, it’s an unfortunate coincidence that A Game Fucked It whilst they were working on this. But all that said, I do hope it has that outcome because everyone wins from it. But I don’t see Valve doing much about it, they’re moving further into hands off territory rather than hands on here.

        • spacedyemeerkat says:

          I am intrigued. What reasons could there be for Hello Games not taking the mooted 20 minutes to correct a rather disingenuous piece of advertising? (Other than wanting to perpetuate the mistruth in favour of additional sales.)

      • mewse says:

        With respect, accusing people of “disingenuity” for not agreeing with your interpretation really isn’t a good look.

        You know perfectly well that “represent the game” doesn’t necessarily mean “be an image that the player might precisely see while playing the game”. That someone doesn’t choose to subjectively interpret the meaning of Valve’s words in the same way that you do is absolutely no excuse for accusing them of being disingenuous.

  10. Raoul Duke says:

    In other words, Steam’s lawyers have finally worked out that it might be liable for misleading consumers by hosting this stuff, so they are now making a rule so that when it happens in future they can make whichever publisher is responsible pay for it.

    • RichUncleSkeleton says:

      I highly doubt that. I’m sure that both customers and developers accept various EULA’s when registering for and buying or selling stuff on Steam that disclaims any right to sue Valve for misrepresentation of products.

      • Raoul Duke says:

        In most developed countries, as the retailer you cannot contract out of obligations not to engage in misleading trade practices. The best you can do is force your subcontractors etc to indemnify you if they cause you to breach your obligations.

  11. Unsheep says:

    I think this is mainly aimed at the myriad of Greenlight and low-budget Indie games being released on Steam. Users and popular gaming personalities have complained about Steam’s lack of quality control for some time now, and this is one thing that addresses this issue.

  12. TheSplund says:

    Ah maybe this is a step towards seeing the end of those, quite frankly, ludicrous RPG trailers with Orcs, Goblins ‘n’ such, swinging axes in glorios 3D that never represenets the true gameplay (regardless if you like them or not). They’re only superceded in inaccuracy by similarly overblown phone ‘games’ now being advertised on TV etc.

    • inspiredhandle says:

      “ludicrous RPG trailers with Orcs, Goblins ‘n’ such, swinging axes in glorios 3D”

      I’d suspect that you’d time travelled from the mid nineties were it not for your knowledge of mobile games. Are you speaking of the Blizzard type trailers? All way over animated and cinematic? Come to think of it, I don’t think blizzard have ever had a trailer with actual gameplay in it.

      • TheSplund says:

        it’s easier to list a couple of generics than witchers, assassins, hackers, hitmen, and whaddever you call those things that are in Warhammer etc – I’m sure you get the point though :)

  13. MrLoque says:

    A game like No Man’s Sky would still be considered “legit”. The disclaimer is still completely useless if a game is incomplete, misleading or just a great scam.

  14. Pogs says:

    I know this is extending the issue but the thing that irks me most is TV ads that always use the ‘not in game footage’ disclaimer line in their adverts. e.g. Clash Of Clans. Surely this should be banned as well.

    Edit: Just noticed I posted this after the the other advert comments above ! I agree with you!

  15. inspiredhandle says:

    I haven’t bought a boxed copy of a PC game in about a decade or so. Do they still come in cardboard boxes with shiny embossed screenshots/cover art? (Please say yes)

    • Marr says:

      The £100 collector’s editions with cloth maps and die-cast miniatures do, bog-standard retail copies are the usual crappy DVD case.

      • Regicider 12.4% says:

        With toilet paper sheet instructions to insert disc.
        Contents of DVD (even for the £100 collector’s editions):
        Autorun.inf with the option to install or go to support site.
        SteamSetup.exe 1.4MB Forget pre-installing game data.

        Manuals are dying out because 1% ever read one. They don’t even exist for releases like Fallout 4 or MGS5.
        Not even PDF files even though previous iterations had excellently designed manuals with fun stuff.

        • inspiredhandle says:

          Damn, that’s grim. Couldn’t you guys of just lied to me?

          “Yes of course boxed PC games are as good as they were in the late nineties/ early 00s, better in fact, you don’t have to download anything, and the cd rom somehow contains all of the 60GB of game files despite the fact that you only needing a £10 DVD ROM drive to install them… Also all the game manuals are pop up now.”

          Is that so hard?

  16. Marr says:

    Well that’s all very nice, but I’m sure they’ll be happily keeping their 30% of all the dubious transactions that led to this moment.

  17. AbyssUK says:

    Reading the wording, Steam arn’t banning anything everything is a suggestion or a request. I doubt they’ll police anything.

    Until they change the developers contract/terms of use to include terms such as “You must use in game images for x y and z” then its as worthless as the virtual paper it’s formatted on.

    • Marr says:

      We’ll see, it does give dissatisfied punters something concrete to point at when raising complaints. Given their position in the industry, it’ll be effectively a contract *if* they enforce it consistently.

  18. 8itmap_k1d says:

    Mandatory in-game video would be better, so we can see the actual PC game running.

  19. tslog says:

    So Valve once again reacts when it’s already way too late.

    Which means Valve are quite happy with publisher/ dev/Valves own BS, until it looks bad for Valve.

    Now, if only valve would stop Dishonered 2 selling on their store till enough reviews came in, then I’ll be temporarily satisfied

    • Distec says:

      I don’t get your last sentence.

      Why should Valve deny willing customers the opportunity to buy Dishonored 2? The kind of person who buys a game at release before reading the reviews clearly doesn’t want this sort of “benevolence” employed for their protection.

  20. Moonboy says:

    Valve is not saying that they don’t allow bullshots. Modified screenshots will always be a thing (Also because it’s damn hard to pack all the cool stuff your game offers in a single image, honestly).
    They just merely stated that the list should contain only in game shots. Of course that doesn’t mean you should be able to showcase stuff that’s not even in the game in the first place

  21. J-Rigity says:

    Not like it matters but I brought this up on Aug 29th with my own post on Steam… here: link to steamcommunity.com

    Nice to see that action has been taken!!!

  22. whiskiz says:

    After following this website for over a year i finally made an account – this is what finally got me to do so, to be able to say:

    As much as there are good intentions behind this move, its unfortunately going to now more than ever make developers focus on the pretty graphics of a game and not much else. You thought graphics were 9/10 times the only focus of a game before? try only being able to advertise screenshots of actual gameplay. Profits and so biggest playerbase (casual gamers and kids) and so pretty graphics = number 1 (and only) priority.

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