Steam's new algorithm is making it harder for independent developers to be seen on its platform. This news comes following a recent report indicating Steam indie sales are down 70% this year, thanks largely in part to the rising popularity of the Epic Games Store, which acts as the only real competition besides GOG that Valve has ever had in the online PC gaming distribution marketplace.
This is far from the first issue Steam has experienced in regards to the way it displays and recommends indie game titles. From decidedly not taking a stand on controversial topics like rape games to displaying anime sex games on their best-sellers list, Valve's platform has not only become the largest depository of PC games available but also a collection of lies, asset flips, and rip-offs, with a somewhat smaller amount of actual quality content that often gets buried underneath the rest.
A recent change to Steam's algorithm was supposed to show popular games less frequently in order to boost awareness of independent titles, but according to a Twitter post by Flying Oak Games' Thomas Altenburger it appears as if the opposite effect is happening. The developer claims that the new algorithm ignores game tags and only suggests titles that are best sellers or already on lots of people's Steam wishlists, saying their game ScourgeBringer took a 66% loss instantly, ruining months of promotional effort.
The new Steam algorithm is not better, it's a catastrophe...— Thomas Altenburger 🍕🍍 (@mrhelmut) September 16, 2019
We're getting reports from many devs that their daily wishlisting dropped considerably.
ScourgeBringer took -66%, an all time low.
Months of effort ruined in an instant...
I don't see anything "more fair". (cont.) https://t.co/5Hp0a1HPT1
After talking to a number of other developers to gauge how their projects were affected, Altenburger surmises most of the games that received the largest drop in numbers were unreleased titles, while some post-released games that were already performing well got a huge increase. He also notes the majority of affected titles got their traffic from the "more like this" function, and multiple responses in the thread contain other independent developers posting their game's Impressions Over Time graphs, nearly all of them showing drops which coincide with the new update.
With literal thousands of games to sort through, it cannot be easy for Valve to organize and recommend appropriate titles to everyone all of the time. However, every new iteration of Steam geared towards helping indie developers always seems to end up hurting them in some way, be it the influx of low-quality cash grabs that came in on the Steam Greenlight wave or the present-day issue of burying small titles in favor of ones with bigger marketing budgets. While some developers have slammed Steam's business model and moved on to the Epic Games Store instead, many others simply want Valve to buckle down and do some real, useful work on their storefront without hurting them in the process.