Valve just rolled out what they’re calling “The Discovery Update 2.0" on Steam. It revamps the front page of the store and (slightly) changes the role of curators in Steam’s broader ecosystem.
The new front page is similar to the old one, but with a few key differences. Handily, game listings are now accompanied by screenshots, and if you mouse over them, you can see them in glorious Big-O-Vision. It’s a cool change that, in conjunction with a new policy requiring developers to only post actual game screenshots, should give people more immediate information about the games they’re looking at. No more judging books by their covers, or games by their logos, as it were.
There’s also a new section for friend activity, so you can see what your friends are into and, if you’re willing to fork over the cash, join them. The sidebar now includes more information, and many sections like “recently updated” and “under $10" are now personalized based on the games you own. Also, many buttons are now bigger and bluer. It’s a bold new world.
On the curator front, it’s no longer just about recommending games. For quite a while, curator groups like The Framerate Police and the Anti-Consumer Practice Report have used the system to provide information and warnings as well as recommendations. Valve has finally baked that feedback into the system’s DNA, allowing curators to indicate whether they’re recommending a game or not, or if they’re just offering information.
So anyway, those are the basics. I haven’t had enough time to render a verdict, but to be honest, beyond the screenshot thing, I’m not super impressed with what I’m seeing right now. As I’ve discussed at length in the past, Steam has serious issues. Valve’s positioned this as their big update for 2016, and all it really solves are a few minor usability problems. Ultimately, yes, discoverability of games is one of Steam’s core problems, but it emerged from the bowels of a monster fed by busted systems like Steam Greenlight and Early Access, systems that only grow more busted as people and groups figure out new ways to abuse them. Curators and personalized front page panes might make small dents in the problem, but they don’t touch the core of it, not to mention the many community issues (toxicity, a widespread “developers vs Steam users” mentality, scams) that emerge from it.
I’m not looking for a silver bullet, but an indication that Valve is moving Steam in a different direction would be hella reassuring. I’m sure they’ve got more cooking, but it’s hard to say when they’ll roll it out. For the time being, Steam remains largely the same—which is to say, deeply, deeply flawed.
Have you had a look around? What do you think?
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