Valve’s move to an ‘anything goes’ approach to deciding which games will appear on Steam is a controversial one, but the company defended the decision by offering up some hard numbers that help describe the scope of the problem at a games industry talk this week in Russia.
Earlier this month, Valve announced that the company would allow any game on Steam so long as it wasn’t either illegal or “trolling.” The move came after outcry over emails the company sent to the developers of adult-themed games, primarily visual novels, telling them to either censor content or have their games pulled from Steam.
Valve might not be doing much curation these days, but we still are! Here’s our list of the best free games on Steam.
Now, Valve is explaining the subsequent decision to cease curating games almost entirely. Jan-Peter Ewert, head of Valve’s business development, gave a presentation at the Business Conference for Games Industry that laid out some of the numbers the company deals with when it comes to the sheer number of new games coming through Steam Direct.
In one slide, provided via Twitter by HeroCraft’s Michael Kuzmin, Ewert shows how the number of new games on Steam has increased with each successive indie discovery program. Before Greenlight, which launched in 2012, about five games were released a week. With Greenlight, that number grew to 70 per week, and now with Steam Direct, Valve is seeing about 180 weekly game launches.
Those numbers couple with an ever-expanding Steam playerbase. Ewert said 13.5 million first-time purchasers have arrived on Steam in January through April of this year. They add up to a daunting challenge, wherever you fall on Valve’s decision about curating games.
Ewert went on to say that Valve’s approach allows for a “huge variety of business models” and that “great games find their audience” on Steam. In a slide titled ‘Steam is a different kind of opportunity,’ Ewert says “We aren’t the taste police” and “we don’t sell ad space or pick winners & losers.”
— Michael Kuzmin (@kuzmitch_ru) June 28, 2018
Ewert’s job, of course, was to paint a rosy picture of Valve for the audience of indie developers at his talk, and it’s clear that Steam provides a unique set of opportunities – another slide he presented shows a graph charting the ever-increasing number of games earning more than $100,000 in their first 30 days on the storefront.
But while the numbers help explain the sheer size of the platform and the high volume of new releases, they don’t address some of the core problems with Steam’s reliance on automated processes for curation and moderation, some of which we’ve covered here. Review bombing, hate speech, and discoverability are all still issues that Valve must reckon with.