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Valve confirms changes to Steam’s “confusing” release date system

August 8, 2019 Valve has confirmed an update has been made on Steam.

Valve has made a significant change to the way studios manage their games’ release dates on Steam. A Reddit user by the name of HeadlessIvan earlier this week posted a screenshot of a message received on Steam indicating that changes to a title’s release date now need to be approved by Valve, and that developers need to have a solid idea of when their games will actually launch. Valve has now confirmed there’s been an update to the platform.

Reached for comment, HeadlessIvan told us that they work in publishing at an indie label, and received the message “while updating the release date for one of our titles.” The message gives the game’s current launch date and says “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 to set it as.”

It adds, “you should be pretty certain that your new date is the date you will release.” As HeadlessIvan explains in the comments, this means developers can no longer alter the release dates of their games without Valve’s approval.

We reached out to Valve and a spokesperson confirmed to us that the platform has issued an update which means that developers now need to contact them to change the release dates on their store pages for their upcoming games. They said that “this change was made in order to help guide developers that either intentionally or unintentionally changed their release dates multiple times, causing their game to show up on certain lists in a way that was confusing to players and frustrating for other developers.”

Valve added that “along with these changes, we’re also now sending reminder emails to all developers two weeks ahead of their specified release date to help make sure they are on course for the release date they had indicated. We previously were sending these reminders for a small set of games as a test, but as of today [August 7] we are doing it for all games that are on track to release in the next two weeks.”

In their post, HeadlessIvan suggests that the change is “a good thing because lots of people used it to appear in Coming Soon section without releasing a game.”

Finally the end of Release Date abuse in Steam from r/Steam

Earlier this year Mike Rose of indie studio No More Robots raised some questions (via GamesIndustry.biz) about how developers manage their games’ release dates on Steam, saying on Twitter that the platform’s Popular Upcoming list was “unfortunately […] a (sometimes accidentally) manipulated mess.” Rose added, “you can set *any* date for your game’s release in the Steam backend, and it means nothing. You can set a date, and let it go by. Then you can set another date, and let it go by again,” with the effect being that it would appear in the Upcoming list.

At the time, Tom Giardino at Valve responded saying that it was a “big topic of discussion” and that “it frustrates us for the same reasons it frustrates you.” However, the company acknowledged that it was “super important that devs get to control their own release timing so we don’t want to mess with that.” Giardino said that Valve was “trying to fix it” in a way that balanced making Upcoming Releases valuable with devs sometimes needing to “shift” their release dates.

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