Valve is changing the rules for developers on Steam, which means they can no longer add review scores or awards to their games’ main store images.
The new rules will take effect on September 1, 2022, after which games like The Quarry, Hades, and It Takes Two will need to update their images to match the clutter-free photos from games like Elden Ring.
Explaining your reasoning official blog post (opens in new tab), Valve said the move is to make finding and buying the best games on Steam as “clear and straightforward as possible.” Review scores and prize logos clutter the images, making it difficult for players to get a proper feel for the game, or even see what it’s called. Valve also claimed that some games were using outdated or inaccurate review scores, adding even more confusion to the mix for customers.
So they’re leaving, at least in certain images.
Steam store pages will still have a dedicated space for developers to share their awards and reviews, they will only require a little scrolling. Also, the rules don’t seem to affect every image on a store’s page – just the game’s banner images or “Capsules”, which are the first pictures you see of the game when browsing the store.
If a developer wants to share an update post about how well their game was received by critics with an image full of scores and quotes, that should still be possible.
Additionally, Steam’s new text ban won’t affect game logos, nor will it prevent developers from highlighting new updates or if the game is on sale – but there are some new restrictions.
Review: Judging games by their pods
As the old saying goes: you can’t judge a book by its cover. But, if he has a lot of criticism, you’d think he’d have a pretty good sense of whether it’s worth your time. But clearly developers sharing misleading information is a problem, plus (as Valve points out) this typically English-only text can isolate players who can’t understand the language. Steam’s changes to the capsule images make a lot of sense.
Looking at some of the awards and accolades being highlighted, it’s clear they don’t have the same value – an image shared by Valve showed games celebrating their award in the “Probably Win More Awards” category. But with a little text on the banner, you can only see the text “Winner” without approaching the monitor.
However, this latest ‘clear all text’ plan doesn’t seem to be the best solution.
While top AAA titles from the world’s biggest studios likely don’t need more than your company’s clout to stand out, smaller indie studios may struggle. If a gamer has never heard of a game before, or the people who have, how can their titles expect to be picked from the sea of games released daily on Steam?
Being able to share review scores on that first image players see is clearly a good strategy to combat this. Browsers on the Steam store would see that the title ranks well at a glance, and as a result would likely be encouraged to click through to the game’s page to learn more. However, this will no longer be an option.
Instead, Valve could have set rules about what awards and reviews can be used — perhaps limiting them to just a few approved outlets. And to get around any language barriers, it may also require developers to create localized images for each region they’re selling their game in – rules they’re already bringing for images that want to include details of the sale.
Steam is already struggling with the game’s discovery and this latest move feels more like a step backwards than a step forward. We’ll have to wait and see if Valve decides to cancel the change or find a new strategy, but on September 1st be prepared for it to become a little harder to find Steam’s hidden gems.
If you’re looking for a new game to play, check out our picks for the best PC games we’ve ever played.