Any Steam users on PC know how useless the storefront's "Upcoming" category can be. The list is typically an unorganized mess filled with games that have no intention of releasing anytime soon. The phenomena has been dubbed "release date abuse" by indie developers in the past.
Developers are able to alter their release dates freely, allowing them to constantly keep their games perpetually in the Upcoming section where they'll get more attention, stifling other games that have a legitimate upcoming release date in the process.
Valve has previously commented on the criticism but is only now acting on it. Reddit user HeadlessIvan, developer of indie game Police Stories, posted a message to the Steam subreddit that they'd received from Valve. The message indicated that in order to change their game's release date, HeadlessIvan would have to contact Valve directly and receive verification. While Valve has yet to issue an official statement on the change, HeadlessIvan describes this new practice as a requirement for all games on Steam going forward.
The full text of the message sent to HeadlessIvan indicates a new level of discretion when it comes to approving release dates:
"Your intended release date is currently set as "Sep 19, 2019". If you need to make changes to this date, please contact Valve here with the reason for your new release date and what date you'd like it set as. You should be pretty certain that your new date is the date you will release."
A note on the message also adds that developers will be able to release their game after the listed "Release Date" at any time. This reads a lot like Valve warning developers that they will be rejecting some release date requests. Which leaves developers being forced to actually launch their game well after the release date found on their game's Steam listing.
If HeadlessIvan's account is accurate, then it shows a clear effort by Valve to improve the Steam store based on developer criticism. The Upcoming category of the storefront may soon be accurate, and may soon be worth the average Steam user looking through. It's not going to necessarily provide much more visibility than before, given Steam's flooded with targeted marketing. But it's a start.
For some perspective on the matter, Valve has previously spoken about the issue candidly. After publisher No More Robots publically spoke about its frustrations, describing Steam's lists as, "a (sometimes accidentally) manipulated mess." Valve's response was the say that the issue "frustrates us for the same reasons it frustrates you." However, it also described how much of a priority it was to maintain the ability for developers to control their own release timings. Valve has clearly shifted its views since.