Valve Says They're Making Big Changes To Steam To Stomp Out 'Fake Games'

Recently, Valve had two popular YouTubers, John "TotalBiscuit" Bain and Jim "Jim Sterling" Sterling, visit their offices. Over the course of a day-long series of meetings, the company laid out a roadmap for the future of Steam.

Both Bain and Sterling posted lengthy videos about their descent into GabeN's mystery dungeon. You can watch those here:

For those who don't have the time to watch a cumulative hour and 24 minutes of video, here's a blow-by-blow (bear in mind that this information is secondhand from people who, while generally trustworthy, are not Valve):

  • Valve is about to overhaul Steam in order to ensure that good games are visible and lazily developed games created for the purpose of making a quick buck -- which Valve apparently calls "fake games" -- sink beneath a sea of algorithms. They have already laid the groundwork, which is why they recently announced Steam Direct.
  • The problem with this system, of course, is that it risks burying a handful of good games, as well. To combat this issue, Valve is going to introduce a program called Steam Explorers. Explorers will play through queues of games that haven't been selling super well. If they dig a game, they can flag it. The more games get flagged, the more the algorithmic gods will smile upon them.
  • Anybody will be able to be an Explorer, much like Steam Curators. They will also get their own forum, so they can do things like arrange multiplayer matches in games that nobody else is playing.
  • Speaking of Curators, that system is getting overhauled too. Valve will be adding functionality like embedded videos, top 10 lists, and different types of sorting. Developers will also be able to give game keys directly to curators within Steam, as opposed to doing so via email or other means outside Steam (which has led to confusion, attempted fraud and other issues).
  • Curators will also be given more info about how their curations affect games' sales.
  • Valve admitted that so-called "fake games" make the bulk of their money off Steam trading cards, something that's been long theorised but never confirmed. As a result, Valve will be changing the trading card system so that doing so is no longer an option.
  • Regular Steam users will soon have access to a lot more data on games. They will be told why a particular game is being shown to them, how many impressions that page gets, and where those impressions come from. Valve apparently wants to show people that crappy games are not, as many have speculated, clogging up the service.
  • Valve believes that once Steam Direct launches, fewer (though probably not drastically fewer) games will be admitted onto the service, and quality will generally be higher.

So basically, a lot is about to change, but the goal is to make Steam a better, less sketchy place. Apparently, Valve also added that they hope to be more open and communicative about the future of the platform going forward. An admirable goal but, well, I'll believe it when I see it.


    Sterling and Bain aren't trustworthy.

    They're performers, for a start.

    Their niche just happens to involve a lot of what Steam deals in, and I don't imagine for a second they did this without any sort of carrot. A Portal 3 (let's say) announcement that comes from one or both of them and circumvents the traditional sites sounds like something right up their alley. Makes too much sense for it NOT to happen.

    Credit where credit is due to Valve, Steam is really not a nice place and hasn't been for a long time. PC gaming deserves better and if this goes some lengths to addressing that, hopefully it works.

    Yes, the 'fake games' label is a whole 'nother can of worms. Do we see Netflix calling some of the stuff it lets on to its service fake television?

      Speak for yourself, I find TotalBiscuit to be quite trustworthy, he has a long-standing policy of disclosure when it comes to sponsorship or any kind of benefits in exchange for coverage. I've never had any issues with Sterling on that front either.

        Indeed, if anything Sterling makes a little bit of fun about the whole sponsorship thing whenever it happens. Take Boglings for example.

      Yes, the 'fake games' label is a whole 'nother can of worms. Do we see Netflix calling some of the stuff it lets on to its service fake television?

      Not even remotely comparable in any sense of the word, at all. If we were to say, have people sending in camcorder recorded footage of themselves running around 'sweding' currently popular shows, presenting themselves as 'Caredevil' or 'Greg Cage', with ultra low production values, then pushing it onto Netflix under the guise of being a quality product? Then maybe. But as it stands, your example is completely off the mark.

      Last edited 04/04/17 9:26 am

        By your logic you're saying you and I can do the comparable thing in Steam already.

        As a matter of fact, that's how Undertale was created. Toby Fox took his Earthbound rom hacking expertise and used Game Maker Studio (where can we buy that from again?) to create not only a 'fake game' but one of the best selling and critically acclaimed independent video games of the last five years.

          Except that Netflix doesn't accept content in the manner you claim it does, it accepts content only through a strict moderation process whereas at the moment any asshole can get their garbage onto Steam. So the example doesn't hold up to scrutiny at all. Try again Leigh and stop comparing apples to oranges.

            I am saying Netflix does not do that, that's the point.

            I'm going to go out on a limb and wager Valve would have rather not let that little in-house label out into the public for discussions in comment sections like this :)

            EDIT: I don't know happened with the replies just then. Some how mine got bumped, or I replied to the wrong one?

              Wacky kotaku moderation. Sit back and enjoy the ride.

          It doesn't sound like you actually read the description of 'fake game' in this context. Undertale wouldn't possibly qualify as 'fake'.

          Okay, hold your horses there, buddy, because you don't seem to understand what a "fake game" is.

          Undertale is not a "fake game". You can certainly argue that it's not a very good game, but quality is not the only qualifier here.

          A fake game is a EXTREMELY low effort game made by people who just threw a bunch of bought assets together and called it day, make a whole bunch of giveaways, and then wait for users to idle the game for the cards and sell them on the market (remember the developer gets a cut from every card sold, even if it's only a cent a piece). It's basically the new shovelware: it's profitable because it doesn't take any real amount of time, effort or money to make compared to the money gained from Card sales.

          Undertale is not a fake game. A fake game is NOT simply a game you don't like. It is NOT a game made on an engine you don't like. It is NOT a game that took over two and a half years to make. And it is CERTAINLY not a game that manages to become one of the biggest internet darlings in gaming history.

          Yes, in case you haven't noticed, I'm an Undertale fanboy. And while I respect your right to your opinion, you are not entitled to warp definitions whenever it suits you.

          TL:DR version: games you don't like are not 'fake games'.

          Last edited 05/04/17 2:46 pm

        That's not a great analogy to what's happening on Steam. A better one would be to imagine a film school that gives a sample script to its students, along with some footage shot from the script, with the intention that students could use it as inspiration and possibly as scaffolding to build their own film.

        Then 20 students submit the unmodified test footage as their own film. Another 20 shoot their own footage without making any changes to the script. Another 20 take the footage from a number of these sample scripts and shuffle them together in a confusing way.

        These would be the "fake games" when placed next to the original work of others.

          Both examples would actually qualify, mine does absolutely adhere closer to the blatant piracy/plagiarism example which itself does exist on steam especially in Greenlight, but I do concede yours is quite definitely the better example which is far more prevalent.

            I didn't think piracy was that big a thing on Steam. For most of these asset flip cases, the developer bought the right to use the assets and game code: the complaint is that they don't put any work into making their version original.

              Surprisingly it has been, Jim Sterling pointed it out a few times especially in terms of asset textures, even some models in the past. A lot of people tend to buy their textures etc from the Unity store etc, however some of them (I THINK Digital homicide was one???) got caught simply pilfering them without paying, reproducing them in their games. Again not as common as what you were mentioning.

                I think actual piracy is probably the easier problem to solve: one DMCA take down notice, and the game will be gone from the store. Even if you got rid of all games with pirated assets, you'd still have many games that were legal to sell, but not likely to find many buyers.

                I'd personally prefer to see these games remain on Steam but only be found by those who explicitly go out looking for them, than go back to the old walled garden. So the announced changes seem like a good step forward (explorer program, and tweaking things so trading cards can't be the primary profit centre for a game).

                  Hopefully that'll happen. Watching Jim and TB''s videos this morning the whole process being fixed sounds very refreshing. No doubt exploits will exist for the future issues but what's potentially coming up sounds like a MUCH better option. I also liked Jim's idea that there should be legitimate repercussions for spurious claims against youtubers, developers and gamers alike from shonky devs.

      I take from your response you didnt watch the videos or their content... they have fir years provided constructive (while entertaining) feedback and critism for both Steam and the whole industry. I find them more honest than most as they have for many years stated their position ethics and points of view to the point that Valve themselves have said you are the first three people we want opinions from.

      Steam have always hidden behind the too big to jeopardise too big a problem to tackle mentality... its great to hear they are both listening and trying. A lot of good ideas with a few risks but with consumers being punished for Steams inability to act has hurt them and allowed Amazon to take position and cause both Indie and AAA developers wonder why bother with Steam.

        Indeed, just finished with TB's video, Jims earlier, found both to be a great watch. Thank god for *them*.

    I'm skeptical about the Explorer process. I mean... anyone can be one? Doesn't that just mean that fake games will thrive on the support of buying reviews? Passionate communities will band together to brigade for their favourite title, just like Greenlight only the developer pays an extra hundred bucks?

    There's so much crap out there that no-one could possibly make a dent in that without dropping literally thousands of dollars a month, gambling on whether 'fake games' are any good as a form of charitable community service.

    If those users aren't subsidized/registered/restricted, they're going to be limited to refunding shitty titles en masse, resulting in 2hr front-loaded content, possible bans on refunds for Explorers due to 'abuse' of the system (one hopes they'll anticipate this), or limited in their scope and range by how much money they can justify throwing into the absolute garbage pile that will be Steam's new attempt to rival the iOS app store for virtual raw sewage.

    Nevermind that the manipulators will still be there. Developers WILL be offering free keys to Explorers to boost their visibility if you allow 'free key' reviews to 'count' towards an Explorer's role. But without free keys, it's up to the Explorers to fund their own expeditions into fuckery-town. Expect to see underground pay-for-review sites?

    And what's to stop EVERYONE from signing up as an Explorer purely to make sure that their reviews count for more than they did before? It's basically the review system on steroids?

    This is... just so fraught with risk.

    Last edited 04/04/17 8:42 am

      I agree. I can't see what they're fixing here - the same problems will persist. They're hoping the community will do their work for them, but the Steam community is, by and large, absolutely awful. We only have to look at the reviews for awful memetic Steam reviews to see a lot of recommendations for "Couldn't figure out controls. Killed by polygonal monster. 11/10 would get confused again."

      IMO Steam shouldn't be a free for all and should go back to being curated by Valve. I'm sure with the money they make off the platform they can come up with a team specifically to vet games against a few basic criteria. Handing this over to the community was a mistake from day one. They're trying to have their cake and eat it too - Valve are very much a publisher now, and yet they don't want the responsibility of actually publishing anything.

      While I assume anyone can be one... unless your a community group and individual probably needs to play/buy a lot of games to gain benefit which would rope in Streamers, Reviewers and Influencers.

      The Jim Sterling video hinted that there would be incentives for participating in the Explorer program, possibly including free access to some of the games. If they get the balance right, hopefully it'd be too expensive for developers to astroturf the program.

      I'm not sure but it almost sounds like as an explorer you can't just go to a game and flag it. You get a curator list that you can review. So to be paid they would need to cycle through there list (dismissing games they could potentially be paid for) until they found the one they needed to promote
      Also sounds like you get a weekly no questions asked refund so you people can potentially play a new game each week no questions asked. Use that to do a review and try to get a but of a publicity/review channel going

      According to a tweet made by Jim, he pointed out to Valve that the Greenlight Booster Groups might just change tact for Explorers. We don't know what Valve's solution to that is yet, but they're not oblivious to the issue.

      Just have to wait and see I guess.

    Also Steam has been too expensive for at least 8 years so why use it

      To redeem keys you bought at much cheaper prices elsewhere ;)

        Last 8 years... my game library went from 20 to 200. Steam sales and Humble Bundles. Lot more free games too on the platform.

        That said Australia tax sucks

      I miss the old Steam sales... when everyone else started creating their own platforms it went to shit. The death knell for Steam was Origin, when EA bailed out of Steam, it lost all its true value.

        To me, the turning point was when they opened the floodgates to turn their store into an endless flood of waste with a few rough diamonds floating in it.

          for me it was when they allowed 2K to up the price of Borderlands 1 to 80USD from 49.99USD 2weeks after the game was released and used "it was a pricing error that the game was only 49.99USD form first going up for preorder to 2 weeks after release, australian and new zealand customers were always ment to be charged 80USD" as an excuse.

            That's happened a few times and it sucks, but Steam doesn't dictate what price publishers can sell their games at. If Valve tried to stop a publisher from setting their own price there'd be a mass exodus from the platform.

            Or to rephrase, price hikes are a publisher problem, not a platform problem. It's likely to happen on any platform the publisher sells on, not just Steam.

              Im not blaming valve, but it was because of that, i started looking elsewhere which was GMG and Ozgameshop at the time, then 2k pull the same bullying on GMG so i know longer by from gmg.

              it was because of that, other publishers like bethesda now do it, in fact bethesda and 2k are the prime arseholes when it comes to screwing us over when it comes to prices on steam

        While Origin has improved and taken impact... its Amazons ownership of Twitch and the plan to turn it into sn Amazon store front which is greater risk. Hence the new community and open data model underpinning the change.

          It's a greater current risk, however I'm talking about what had the greater initial impact. What changed the steam sales, what impacted the greatest change. Origin, Uplay and GOG arising definitely impacted Steam greatly that's for sure, harming its ability to deliver what it wanted to. I remember when all the EA games disappeared, that was a massive blow.

    Will they clean up the interface too? It is in desperate need of it and while they're at it seeing as it is just a glorified web browser can we have multiple tabs? It is the 20 blurst century after all.

      Yeah it's literally a web browser (a crappy one) embedded in a window..
      But Valve doesn't care about customers anymore, they wont spend a small amount of money on a new UX designer for our sake. (Gaben needs all that money for snacks)

        They use Chromium, as far as embedded browsers go it's as good as it gets. Origin works the same way, but I haven't loaded UPlay in an eternity to know if they do as well.

    "Valve" "Change" HA!

      "Change is a three step process..."

      "How many?"

      "Three step..."

      "Th..... th.......t....."

      "Gabe.... it's a three step process."



    If this will reduce the number of similar Early Access games popping up on Steam that are just a rehash of an existing game using the same "game development engine" but different skins, then I'm all for it.

    It would be better if Steam relaxed the rules around refunds. It's too easy to create a game using some dev tools that is interesting for a couple of hours, then falls flat on its face with no content, no story, and no future.

    Survival games are the worst examples of this.

      It won't stop them being on Steam, but it will stop them showing up for people who search queues or categories. That's the way it should be in my opinion, that way people can still buy it if they want to but nobody's going to get tricked into thinking it's good because it appeared in their queue.

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