Steam has had a curation problem for as long as I can remember. First, it was an issue for indie games to get listed. Then it was an issue because there were so many games that many indies would get lost. Valve has tried redesigning the Steam front page, introducing curators and any number of other measures to try and ensure that quality games are found and fake games are caught. Unfortunately, it’s still a major problem.
According to Jim Sterling and John “TotalBiscuit” Bain (as reported by The Verge), Steam is aware that they have a “fake games” problem. These are “derivative, broken, and poorly made titles churned out by potentially unscrupulous developers looking for quick cash.” In fact, most of the “fake games” don’t even make their money from sales of the title, but rather through percentages on trading card sales. In a bid to work around the issue, Steam is introducing Explorers, while also tweaking the Curator program.
Sterling and Bain say that Explorers, “will focus on games that haven’t been selling well, digging through Steam’s vast catalog to ensure that interesting titles weren’t overlooked in a deluge of releases. Any Steam user can become an Explorer, and that those who do sign up will get their own forum.”
The introduction of the Explorer program will also come with tweaks to the existing Steam Curator system. At present, Curators can simply list their favorite games on the platform, but Valve is reportedly adding a swath of new features. They’ll include the ability to embed videos, make smaller, discrete lists, and let users sort game selections by different metrics.
Most interestingly, Curators will also be told how a game’s inclusion in their list impacts its sales, and may even receive financial incentives from Valve itself. It’s not clear how Curators would earn or receive payment, but the company specified that it would now give game keys to Curators via Steam itself, not through email.
Very interesting indeed. In fact, Steam even indicated that general users will also be able to see how many page impressions a game on the Steam store has, which should help to show just how popular a title may be. I’d also like to see great transparency in general sales figures, but each bit of information from Steam helps. Of course, it’s strange that new transparency features would be revealed through two YouTubers rather than made through an official announcement.
I’m glad to see that Steam is trying to solve the issues of fake games, and also help deserving indie games get discovered. Many indie developers are truly atrocious at marketing themselves, and this can be a way for excellent games made by less PR-savvy developers to still be discovered. That said, the curator program is already fraught with issues.
If there are already scandals with curators selling their opinions, how much worse will it get when their recommendations could yield them some form of profit sharing with Valve? Imagine the uproar when curators approach developers asking to be paid for their recommendations, sharing their profit boost stats as proof of value.
How sad is it that the first thing I think of with a cool new set of programs like these is how they will be exploited? I really do hope that Explorers help all of us find better games on Steam, separating the wheat from the chaff. There are so many talented developers who go unnoticed and unappreciated – here’s hoping that Explorers can discover their awesomeness and share it with the world. Oh, who am I kidding, PC gamers only play CS:GO and MOBAs, right?