Full Steam Ahead For Steam’s Online Service

If you haven’t been on Steam in a while, you might not recognize the place. The recent Steam Discovery Update changed things even more, adding personalized shopping, granular searches and the ability to become a curator or expert on games who makes recommendations to others.

Alden Kroll of Valve
Alden Kroll of Valve

We talked with Alden Kroll of Valve about the newest updates, and what people can expect to find the next time they log in to search for a great new game to play.

GiN: Hi Alden, thanks for taking the time to chat about the new Steam Discovery Update. As a little bit of history, how long as Steam been in operation now? It seems like forever, but I bet you know the exact timeline. 

Kroll: The first product sold on Steam was over 10 years ago (Counter-Strike: Condition Zero in March 2004). Steam the backend service for games was first launch just 11 years ago.

GiN: Can you give us a little information about how many people use Steam on a daily basis, and how many games are currently available to play through the service? 

Kroll: We just announced that we now have over 3,700 titles available on Steam and over 100 million active accounts. Our current peak simultaneous user number is just over 8 million. 

GiN: I suppose in some sense, the sheer number of titles works against players, hence the new Discovery Update and personalized shopping. I know when I personally look for something new through Steam I click on, say, the RPG tab, but then seeing hundreds of titles can be daunting. I’m sure I don’t get all the way though that list! Can you talk about the new filtering system and how granular you can actually get to help find what you need, perhaps using the old RPG tab as an example? 

Kroll: Your example highlights one of the key issues we are trying to address as Steam has grown. When Steam hosted only a few hundred titles, simply using “RPG” was enough to get you there. But with almost 4,000 titles that level of search can yield hundreds of titles. 

With this update you will be able to dive much deeper by combing tags, terms, titles, and more parameters such as OS, POV, and/or controller support. So, for example, if you are looking for a co-op RPG experience with gamepad support included, you can get right to it.

GiN: The Steam homepage has also been changed. How does it work now to recommend titles that gamers might enjoy? Will it become more accurate the more someone uses Steam?

Want to be a curator? With the new update, you can!
Want to be a curator? With the new update, you can!

Kroll: If customers do absolutely nothing to customize the feeds on their homepage, they will still see best-sellers and new releases. The Home page will also make recommendations in the new areas, such as the Recommendations Feed and Discovery Queue. These will be based on what they’re playing, what they’ve purchased, what their friends are playing, etc. So, nothing is required of the customer to get an updated, smarter home page.

If a customer wants to take it further, they dive deeper into many of the new sections and have a more direct influence what is being shown.

And yes, if we’ve done our jobs correctly (and continue to do so), both instances should get smarter over time.

GiN: The Curators is a fascinating new feature whereby people can set up channels to recommend games on Steam to others. I assume that people will likely specialize in certain areas like sci-fi games or zombie adventures, shooters and the like, so that each person can become an expert recommender in an area that others can follow. Can anyone become a Curator under the new system, and how will Steam help gamers find and follow the Curators that interest them?

Kroll: Yes, any group, entity or individual can become a curator. And any curator can become a specialists or generalist in their coverage. There is a new area dedicated to finding Curators, with the number of followers and other details exposed. In addition, we will surface Curator comments in relevant places and will show a variety of these if you have not selected any to follow.



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