The Steam Store has been a thorn in many PC gamers’ sides for a long time. While Steam’s overall service is good (in comparison to competitors like Games for Windows and Uplay) the Store itself presents users with thousands of titles to choose from but makes actually finding titles of interest a real struggle.
That all changed yesterday. Rolling out a massive list of new features was the Steam Discovery Update which aimed to help Steam users find games that they’re more likely to enjoy whilst giving equal weight to smaller indie titles and big blockbusters. Ideally, gamers would be able to find more diamonds in the popular rough.
One new Steam feature that could also help us with this is Steam Curators, a system which allows uers to read reviews and recommendations from publications and Steam community groups. But, after we suggested that the feature would be abused, this has now become a quick reality with Steam’s creators Valve being forced to take action.
The most egregious bit of Steam Curators abuse has come from third-party key sellers. While there are plenty of Steam sales (of both the Summer, weeklong and flash variety) plenty of people like to bypass these discounts along with the Steam Store altogether and buy the code for even cheaper from a third party seller. While they are often legitimate sales, it’s not a rarity for bogus codes to leave buyers out pocket, which is why they’re such a big issue.
In an effort to either scam Steam’s users (or to simply take a profitable cut of sales) these third-party sellers have taken to the Steam Curators feature and rather than providing people with useful, insightful reviews about the games, they’re using it as free advertising.
The self-promotion hasn’t stopped there either as users have also screenshotted instances of the game developers themselves abusing the system. While it’s easy to understand their logic – piggybacking on a massively popular game to try and catapult your own to superstardom – if there’s a right way to promote your title then this certainly isn’t it.
But it’s no wonder that they are taking it upon themselves to do so when Valve practically sanctioned it in the first place, saying in the feature’s official description that Steam Curators could be “developers” and “industry types.”
Not that that makes the advertising abuse of the Steam Curators feature acceptable though, nor does it side with the other nastiness including users who have told readers to kill themselves. It’s just incredibly unfortunate that some bad apples had to spoil the bunch and it’s something that Valve needs to work towards.
Thankfully, it’s being reported by Kotaku that Valve is already taking steps to remove the offending posts but it’s concerning that it got this far at all. As mentioned, it’s something that we said could happen but in general it doesn’t taken a genius to understand that a community-curated feature has the potential to be used incorrectly. After all, that’s what happened with Steam tags.
Even though users are able to report groups who misuse Steam Curators, they have to jump through hoops to do so which will only deter legitimate users from doing so. And, to make matters even worse, you can’t just report individuals. Not only does that lead to entire groups being unfairly blacklisted but it gives Valve’s own moderation team more of a task as they’ll have to sift through the group to find the lone culprit and their posts.
So it’s a huge problem for Valve at this point then that despite the warning signs across the board, from Steam tags, Steam Curators and Early Access, they seem to be reluctant to heed them. For an experienced business they seem remarkably blind-sided each time these things happen even though they’re old hands at this and should be able to see it all coming.
Practices that are unfriendly to users don’t help anyone in the long run and it’s what turned so many gamers off of Games for Windows, EA Origin and Uplay and encouraged them to use Steam in the first place. But what is good news is that Steam users who are disgruntled are pointing it out on message boards and with screenshots like those above.
So while it’s unfortunate that that’s what it takes for Valve to stop being so complacent, hopefully it will push them in the right direction from here on out.