Last week Valve’s Steam product team participated in a series of zoom-based closed-door Q&A’s. Typically Valve does these Q&As as part of major conferences… but we are in a different world now where those are not possible. The sessions were not recorded and I don’t think they will be shared publicly if they were. 

However, I was able to attend 2 of these Q&As and I took extensive notes. Here is a high level summary of the notes. I originally had more detailed notes but took them down at the request of the organizers of the event.

CZ Side note: I really applaud Valve for doing these remote Q&As. These events were free and the team really is listening to the indie game development community. Now I know your preferred feature might not make it in (mine is still not, more on that below) and it might seem like they aren’t listening but I respect them for doing this. I have worked on huge legacy products before and something that we on the outside think is “easy” and “obvious” is so much more complicated (from a technology, from a business, and from a company politics standpoint). There are so many more reasons why stuff happens that you are not aware of. I really do respect the openness of Valve for doing this. 

TL:DR takeaways

Note these are interpreted by me reading between the lines and not officially endorsed by Valve:

  • The algorithm doesn’t care if your cumulative review rating is “mixed.” It only hides your game if your reviews are lower than “mixed.” However, consider the the purchases algorithm – people will probably by your game less if it is “mixed” so that will hurt you with the algorithm but it doesn’t explicitly look at that rating provided it is “mixed” or better.
  • Your game is not penalized by the algorithm for being old. As long as your game is selling, they will start showing it in more locations. Just look at the success of Among Us (to read how they did it, check my other blog). Now, the general buying public might not purchase your game because it is “old” but there is nothing in the algorithm that takes that into account.
  • Demos and virtual festivals put on by Valve and others like PAX have been extremely popular with the Steam buying public. So they are here to stay. Valve likes them, players like them, game developers like them.
  • Keep your Steam page under 10MB total. You can check this in your Chrome Developer tools.
  • Use the support tool to reach out to the Steam reps. Seriously I feel like too many people complain about a problem but never use it. They want you to reach out to them.
  • Use the Artwork Override feature as the next best thing until they fully implement A/B testing.
  • Here are some recommended videos from Valve:
  • And this one:

*Title Image credit Photo by Artem Maltsev on Unsplash

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