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.