Plans for updating Steam's front page and several other major changes leak, including changes geared towards 'targeted visibility' for game launches and updates.
With how popular PC gaming storefront Steam has become, any changes to the service and its user interface are likely to effect users dramatically. This means that when news leaks that Valve is planning a substantial update to Steam's front page, with changes that allow users to customize how they interact with the storefront, it's big news. Changes include shifting front page listings based on customer preferences. Big changes are coming.
As impactful as the changes may be on users, developers may feel the real knock. Tied into the customized preferences for users, developers will have to deal with a marketplace where their games are advertised through more targeted means -- rather than blanket front page advertising across all users. That's probably why Valve is sharing this news with developers first, before going public with it. That's where the leaks are coming from, as the changes have been shared by several developers.
Here's a short list of the major changes coming in the storefront update, according to the leaks:
- Home Page Visual Refresh - Bigger images, removal of clutter, and new ways of "surfacing games."
- Additional Left Column Navigation - Addition of several destination links beyond genre and platform.
- Friends Activity - New friends activity section featuring what friends have bought and played.
- Top Selling New Releases - A new section for top selling new releases, to avoid games being ignored due to popular older releases.
- Global Customer Preferences - Users specify preferences and Steam will target games towards them, or users block types of products like Early Access of VR.
- Targeted Visibility for New Releases - Rather than advertising to all users on the front page, new releases will be shown just to users who might be interested.
- Targeted Visibility for Game Updates - Same as with new releases, but with newly updated games instead.
Steam will also be adding additional visibility for curators, focusing on curators that users follow. To help with this adjustment, curators that provide useful feedback and not just positive reviews will be promoted more often.
Users are understandably excited about the changes. The ability to customize one's preferences allows Steam to show more interesting advertising to users, which will perhaps encourage more users to visit the storefront in the first place. Changing curator tools to focus on those who provide interesting recommendations rather than just positive recommendations will also be useful to store users, and it can't be understated how important the ability to block certain types of tiles like Early Access, VR, Software, or others will be as well.
The developer response, however, has been understandably conflicted. Up until now new releases and game updates have been guaranteed advertising space on Steam's front page -- specifically 1,000,000 and 500,000 impressions respectively. While targeted advertising on paper is certainly a preferable idea over all, there's no guarantee here that Steam will provide as much reach to developers as prior. A million random impressions versus a few hundred targeted impressions is not an equal value, and smaller games definitely need that broader share of views to succeed.
Could Valve be making these changes to better represent popular large games over smaller niche games? Certainly. Could they also be making these changes to better promote smaller games to more users who would actually buy? Certainly, as well. Making the system more efficient, in a perfect world, would benefit everybody. Will it play out like that in the real world? Hopefully, but only time will tell.