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The new Steam seen from a small indie

by Olivier Penot on 09/24/14 03:01:00 pm   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

As you may all know, Valve have published a new Steam interface and I think here is a good place to start this conversation between devs!

Having a front-page spot for my game is about 95% of my sales, if not 99%. As a small indie dev with little community, having a banner on a store front is very important. I actually ran the "French Indie Sale" last week as daily deal with Valve and it made a big difference for most of the indies in that sale!

So yeah, every time Valve change the Steam visibility rules, everybody is getting nervous and looking at everything very closely as, well, Valve never communicate before hand. We basically try to understand the new rules on the go. It's not written anywhere but "Early Access" games are not ticked by default anymore on "New Release" customisation, which says something that is not told by Valve. So I guess most indies are looking at these little things here and there...

Also, the "New Popular Release" obviously means a game can now release 100% invisible from the front store page. Even if the old "Most popular" being the default tab wasn't helping (plus the 15 new games every day), there was still a little chance to get noticed. Of course you can still browse the full new release list, but that's one (less accessible than before) more click away which means some (most?) people won't get there = missing potential audience.

An interesting new thing is the average % of positive reviews next to the title of a game on the store page, as many people actually look at other gamers review before buying. Will Valve use this % to show more hidden gems? E.g. games that have a 1 000 sale but 95% positive reviews? Or will they recommend games that have 100 000 sales on a category I'm playing? Right now on my Steam page, for recommended "Indie games", I have Terraria and Garry's Mod suggested... Not exactly the kind of games that need exposure.

That's where curators can be interesting and in my case it starts well:



These are famous indie games but I'd say they had less exposure on Steam, so having the right "indie" curators can actually help me find/remind me of indie gems. As of today, curators only have power on one' Steam homepage. I'm curious about having feedback from devs to see if anyone had a bump on their sales because of these curators and this new UI.

Question is: will Valve extend curators' power to the full homepage without really telling us? And thus, the example of Total Biscuit putting on top of his list a promoted game, making "buyable" space on Steam indirectly, which is totally impossible at the moment? As Total Biscuit said, " I have no doubt that somewhere down the line some people will be offered money to place games on their list." after he pulled off the promoted-games of his list, which is fair enough.

As a dev I remember Gabe Newell saying he wants to move Steam to an open API with customer-based store. The tags were one move to this direction, curators seem to be a new step to it. No word on Greenlight for almost two months now...

I've always thought Steam will become this API when Steambox launch, killing Greenlight and making it open to everybody. Will Valve give themselves until Christmas to polish its "Netflix" recommendation algorithm and then make Steam the new App Store? Down the line that's, I think, what we're all afraid of. 


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