Valve have pushed out a new tagging system for Steam games overnight. It works thusly: whatever Steam users want to be a tag, is.
It might be the first step along the road to the user-driven storefront Gabe Newell has envisioned for the future; the first tangible sign that Valve are taking a step back from their curative role at the head of Steam.
Now we get to see what happens when the gamers run the asylum.
Steam’s existing tag system was in need of a rework - its Adventure genre covers everything from point-and-click classics to platformers and Myst remakes - and this new system is certainly that.
The new beta feature allows users to tag any game with a genre, theme or trait of any kind. The idea is to let users filter their searches according to their tastes, rather than force them to browse through hundreds of pages of broadly-categorised games.
User-created tags are recommended to users under the new ‘For You’ tab on Steam’s front page. Popular and recommended tags can be browsed as automatically-generated pages made up of included games.
“As the catalogue of products available on Steam continues to grow, we want to ensure that it is easy for customers to find the particular types of games or software they are looking for,” said Steam developer Al Farnsworth.
“With this new feature, we are providing another powerful tool to help organise and browse products on Steam.”
Also, a very nice way for valve to start beta testing bespoke store fronts through user generated sorting... Anyone else notice that ;)
— Mike Bithell (@mikeBithell) February 13, 2014
A potential problem becomes apparent in games tagged with words like ‘rip-off’, ‘Broken’, ‘Crap’ and ‘Dont buy this!’. Swears are a no-go when naming terms, but more or less everything else seems fair game.
The most popular tags for a given game will appear on its Steam page, so that users can find other, similar titles. As a result, users are exploiting tags to associate damning verdicts with games they’re not particularly fond of.
Whether or not you agree with the sentiment, it’s clear that developers might take issue with users warning off potential customers at the point of purchase. But Valve think even this inflammatory data might be of use:
“Tags can be a good indicator of when there is a mismatch between how you perceive your game, and how your game is perceived by customers,” they wrote. “Often this is simply because there is some piece of information regarding the game that customers feel is missing from the store page.”