One of the biggest changes on the Steam platform over the last year has been an increased focus on events, large conventions like E3, Gamescom or the Game Awards. They're a chance to highlight the natural spike in interest around the event and, for the first time, Aussie games are getting the biggest spotlight Steam can provide.
From tomorrow morning, Steam will be running a separate event page to highlight PAX Australia and the various games being exhibited there. In a panel earlier this week at the Game Connect Asia-Pacific developer conference, Valve's Molly Carroll and Sophie Mackey explained that the event page would be visible across the whole Steam platform, rather than being geotargeted to Australians.
It also won't be restricted to games that are available for release now, or from tomorrow. Mackey said that event pages can highlight pre-release games connected with the event, provided that game's event page is live. "If you are planning on attending one of these events, put up your coming soon page beforehand; if you don't have a coming soon page, we have nothing to feature," Mackey said.
Given that most Aussie games are smaller indie projects that often don't have the weight or budget to break through the noise of the hundreds of games launching on Steam any given week, getting pride of place on the Steam front page for a few days can make an enormous amount of difference. It changes the economics of exhibiting at PAX Australia enormously: the games get greater worldwide attention for a few days, resolving the lack of foot traffic compared to other events (like PAX East), but the general size of PAX Australia means there won't be too much competition for that front page spotlight.
Another interesting tidbit from the platform update was how some of Steam's backend works. If gamers have a game wishlisted on their account and that game gets a discount, they'll automatically receive an email — but only if the discount is 20 percent or greater. Developers can also manually trigger five "update visibility rounds", which are basically ways to tell the Steam platform that a game has just had a significant expansion or content update. The games then go into a rail on the front page for anyone who owns the game or has it wishlisted, and it also gets listed in Steam's front page section for games that have been recently updated.
For general users, there's an interesting quirk with the discovery queue. Mackey explained that the queue is a list of 15 games, and while users can scroll through as many lots of 15 as they like, every game is only ever shown to a user once. If you skip past it, it won't be shown in the discovery queue again, which is undoubtedly frustrating to developers trying to get their game highlighted, but also to regular users who see a cool game, skip past it accidentally, and then can't remember what the game was.
Mackey and Carroll didn't take questions at the end of the session, but they did quickly outline some of the updates to the store lately that the assembled developers might not have known. A new bit of information was that Valve is working on rolling out updates to the Steam mobile app, although there was no ETA on when those updates might land or what the improvements would be.