Update April 4, 2017: Jim Sterling and John Bain have discussed their visit to Valve.
YouTubers James Stanton, aka Jim Sterling, and John ‘TotalBiscuit’ Bain were invited to Valve last week to discuss Steam’s supposed discoverability problem. Now, both have released videos discussing their visit, and the measures that Valve intend to take to correct the issue. The big idea: Steam Explorers.
Related: here’s a list of the best free Steam games.
A fun fact for you: according to SteamSpy, 38% of all games ever released on Steam were released last year. Many of these are what Valve apparently calls “fake games”: derivative, poorly-made titles churned out by cynical devs looking for a fast buck. Imagine how dispiriting it must be, as a hard-working indie, to see a game in which you’ve invested something of yourself get drowned in a flood of such crap.
According to Sterling and Bain, the Steam Explorers scheme is Valve’s solution. New videos on each of their channels describe the plan in detail: Explorers are recruited from among Steam’s users, and will be asked to play through queues of games, with the option to flag anything that looks good. The more flags a game gets, the more Steam's algorithms will favour it, and the more visible it'll become.
Explorers' queues will be comprised of games that haven’t been selling well, to ensure a promising indie hasn't been lost in the flood. Any Steam user can become an Explorer, and those who do will get their own forum.
A previous attempt to crowdsource reviews, the Curators system, is also getting some tweaks - Valve will add new functions such as video embedding, top ten lists, and different types of sorting. Devs will also be able to give game keys directly to curators through Steam, rather than relying on more vulnerable external channels. Curators will also be given information about how their work affects game sales, and Valve is considering further incentives for them to keep at it, up to and including payment.
In other news, Valve also admitted that "fake games" make most of their money from Steam trading cards, so you can expect some changes to that system as well.
Original story March, 31 2017: Both James Stanton, aka Jim Sterling, and John Bain, aka TotalBiscuit, have been to Valve HQ to discuss the future of Steam as a retail platform. During these talks, they spoke to Valve about the storefront, Steam Curation, and future features that could possibly be implemented.
According to TotalBiscuit, this consultation covered “curation, scam games, discovery and more”. The discussions also were not bound by a non-disclosure agreement, so more details should be coming in the next few days.
These so-called “scam games” are when a developer pumps a high volume of low quality content onto the platform. Sterling was likely chosen because of his experiences with Digital Homicide, a games company accused of using this practise who unsuccessfully attempted to sue the YouTuber recently.
Hopefully Valve also lend an ear to developers, as they are the ones who any future decisions will affect the most. As the voice of the gaming community, Sterling and Biscuit are probably decent choices, however. They’ll no doubt generate some good publicity for Valve off the back of the visit, too.