As the most used platform for PC gaming, Steam is constantly being updated. In the past few months, big changes have hit the platform as part of the Steam Discovery Update. The update featured a new store front design and the Steam Music Player so that players can jam out during gameplay sessions.
Another big part of the Discovery Update was the introduction of Steam Curators. There are now over 3,000 games on Steam, including big budget blockbusters as well as smaller scale indies that have received votes on Steam Greenlight to get onto the platform. The Curators feature allows trusted individuals such as gaming magazines and popular streamers to recommend different games. These recommendations are featured on a game’s store page too and can help influence whether someone buys a game or not.
However, although most Steam Curators mean well, the feature started being abused after just one day. After gaining some influence, a few Steam curators have started accepting money to publish positive reviews; even if a game doesn’t deserve it. Platform holder Valve wants to stamp this sort of behavior out and have now updated the Steam Subscriber Agreement to do so.
In section 6 paragraph C, the agreement now reads:
“If you use Steam services (e.g. the Steam Curators’ Lists or the Steam Broadcasting service) to promote or endorse a product, service or event in return for any kind of consideration from a third party (including non-monetary rewards such as free games), you must clearly indicate the source of such consideration to your audience.”
For consumers, this is good news as it means that they’re less likely to be duped into buying bad games, and for Valve it means that they’ll have to deal with less complaints about false advertising. But unfortunately, there are several problems with the updated agreement. For example, Valve doesn’t explain what it means by ‘clearly’. Streamers and YouTubers are also forced to disclose paid-for endorsements under Federal Trade Commission rules but they often get around these by only including a line of text in the video’s description or a quick mention in the video. That may end up being the case here too.
On top of this, the Steam Subscriber Agreement doesn’t explain what happens to people who violate these terms. If the Steam Curator is an entire publication, does that entire publication get banned from using the service or just the author of the review? How will Valve find out who is doing paid reviews or not and will users be able to report Curators? And will Valve put together a team to investigate violations? There are so many questions here that need answers, so hopefully Valve will provide some soon.
Do you think that the update will stop Steam Curators from abusing the feature? Do you look at Steam Curator reviews before buying Steam games?