A Paladin’s Steam: Valve Needs to Fix Steam’s Curation Now, Not Later…

Something that has been pretty well discussed in the gaming community of late is the criticism of Valve’s handling of Steam’s front page and the lack of quality control before games get published to Steam. Well, here’s my thoughts on the whole deal as it has been on my mind lately. So let’s get right into it.

Editor’s Note: May 1st, 2015. This post came out before Steam implemented the Curator system and the unique front pages for all customers. Most, if not all, of my complaints were pretty much addressed in that update. I still leave this up for posterity’s sake but keep in mind the date of when this post came out.

last federation mock small

A game I’ve been following for some time, The Last Federation by Arcen Games, launched last week on Friday the 18th of April. It was launched to great critical acclaim and has sold very well for them. It even made it to the carosel on the front page of Steam as well as the top sellers list several times after it launched. For a time, it was even the latest game released on Steam for a couple of days. Arcen is happy, customers are happy, everyone is happy. But then, I noticed something when I opened up Steam’s front page today.

A week has passed since TLF was launched. Life has happened as it usually does during that time and when I go to store.steampowered.com to do my irregular perusals of the latest game releases, I see some rather disappointing things up for sale. But what disappoints me most is this:

wtf

10 “new” games with The Last Federation nowhere in sight. TLF has disappeared from the carosel at the top as well, replaced with recently updated “gold bundles”, newly released Early Access games and pre-orders galore. Worse still, when I do finally find TLF on the “New Releases” list, it’s at #38 when I’m writing this blog post. You have to scroll through 38 games just to see TLF on this list. Worst still is just what type of games that have been published through Steam in that time-span. I checked what types of games those were up to the spot that TLF current holds and this is what I found:

  • 19 of them are actual new releases,
  • 4 are those are mobile ports by the looks of it
  • Maybe half of them that aren’t mobile ports are worth looking at.

The rest are either old games being re-released onto Steam as “new” releases or just garbageware. Keeping in mind that this is just looking at a week’s worth of games. This has been going on for months now and I’m pretty sure it’s getting worse as time progresses. 100s of games have come pouring onto Steam and the quality of said titles is all over the place. Many titles look and feel like scams while the really good titles have all but been buried. How is this not concerning to Valve in any way?

I use TLF as an example but it should be noted that this is probably not the only game to suffer a very familiar fate. This is a major issue for Steam that Valve has shown no interest in fixing and I wish they would! What makes this situation worse is the clear double standard that Valve is using now. If you don’t have a publisher, you HAVE to go through Greenlight. Considering that Greenlight is its own special kind of mess, having over 1,500+ titles that aren’t well organized nor easy to sift through, many perfectly good games are also likely buried in that mountain. After all, who wants to go through 1,500 games and decide if they should go onto Steam? And I also have to ask at this point: why aren’t any and all games being allowed on the Store at this point? Especially when you have a game like this on there?! I just, I, WHY?! WHY IS THAT GAME ALLOWED ON STEAM!? It doesn’t make any sense! Yet you still cling to Greenlight like its some sort of magic system! But yet, you let this incredibly pointless game on there!? WHY!?!?

Here’s where it gets really sad. Arguably one of the biggest competitors to Steam is GOG.com. Here is where The Last Federation stands on the new & coming list:

Screenshot 2014-04-25 15.10.38

#4. I say again: #4. Compared to #38 on Steam, that’s a far cry better place to be. If I was Arcen, I’d be pissed at how poorly Steam is treating their game’s advertising. Especially if a smaller company like CD Project can handle curation and keeping the front page clean better than one of the biggest PC game distribution platforms in existence. After all, it’s one of Arcen’s biggest successes and it’s already pushed off the front page of Steam. Wow. I can’t imagine a worse slap in the face if I was an indie developer. I have little doubt that other Indie and AAA publishers have gotten the same treatment and I have to wonder how they tolerate it. Furthermore, it wouldn’t surprise me if Dark Souls II, a game just released today, gets shoved out of the front page as quickly as TLF. If I was Namco, I’d be extremely ticked about that happening. After all, you invest years of time, effort and money into your game only to get it shoved off the front page in a week or less. Geez, even Gamestop doesn’t treat AAA games of this profile that badly when they’re in the stores.

At this point, I have to give up. I give up on sifting through this giant mess every week. I give up trying to figure out which game might be worth it and which ones aren’t. I give up looking at games that don’t provide demos. I give up risking my hard-earned cash on games that I can’t get a refund on. I give up on all of this because it simply isn’t worth my time, effort or money. It’s not my job to do your curation Valve, it really isn’t. I used to use the front page of Steam as a way of keeping up on the latest games being released onto PC. (In addition to keeping an eye on what other gamers play, what the blogs I follow are talking about and word-of-mouth). If a game looked interesting enough, I’d bookmark it and check it out later when I had the time and/or cash. Now? I’m just going to have to rely on word-of-mouth and that doesn’t catch everything that gets released.

The ultimate question becomes: how is anyone supposed to find their next Dark Souls or The Last Federation in this mess? How are people who don’t make searching through games their full time job supposed to find anything good in this mess? Additionally, how are devs supposed to sell games if they’re just going to get buried within a few days and be out-of-sight, out of mind? Finally, how are you going to prevent complete and total burnout in your customer base who tries to sort through this? I burned out on looking for new games on Google Play and the iTunes App Store because of very similar issues. After all, why did I want to risk money on yet another potential freemium scamfest? I now have to rely purely on word-of-mouth for mobile games because I don’t want to wade through the morass of games on GPlay anymore.

Let me be clear before I finish this up, I’m not advocating for a return to the old ways of how Valve used to curate content on Steam. But this current situation is intolerable for core-gamers, nevermind the regular consumer. Valve needs to take a cue from it’s competitors like GOG.com and do a better job on game discovery. Otherwise, more devs and studios will suffer from this onslaught. Worst of all, gamers will be buying less games because they won’t see them and that’s not good for anyone on Steam. Valve or otherwise.

I also want to point out that since I started working on this post, three new games have been published to Steam in that time. I’m publishing this only hours since I started working on it. If that isn’t indicative of the problems Steam has, I don’t know what is. 

Thank you for reading.

-KingIsaacLinksr

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