Valve details Steam overhaul plans

September 26, 2016 // 9:58 a.m.

Tags: #digital-distribution #early-access #steam #steamworks #valve

Valve is planning an overhaul of its popular Steam digital distribution system, the company announced to registered developers this weekend.

Valve is constantly tweaking and revising the way its Steam platform operates: most recently the company banned children from using the service following a series of fines levied against US companies for breach of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), allowed rival GOG.com to offer users DRM-free copies of selected Steam games, and introduced bundle discounts when you already own one or more game from said bundle. Other changes made to the service over the last year include a fix for a privacy glitch that saw users able to access others' accounts, trading restrictions introduced in an effort to curb account hijacking, and the dropping of the traditional 'Daily Deals' sale format in favour of a longer-lasting discount period.

Now, the company is looking to overhaul the platform's user experience. In an email (requires Steamworks account) sent to registered Steamworks developers over the weekend Valve has outlined a number of changes it will be making in an upcoming platform update, starting with visual tweaks to the homepage that will 'use bigger game images in some places, add some new ways of surfacing games, and remove some visual clutter.' The left column will also include 'a new section of links to main destinations such as new releases, top sellers, recently updated, upcoming releases, and specials, while logged-in accounts will also see 'links to sections for you such as popular among friends, recommendations by curators you follow, and your discovery queue.'

Another change to the Steam user experience comes in the form of a 'Popular Among Friends' homepage section, which offers exactly what you'd expect: adverts for games your Steam friends are playing but which you do not yet own. A final new section will also list the top-selling new releases on the platform.

The changes aren't all about sticking more game adverts under users' noses, though. Valve has promised to introduce 'Global Customer Preferences,' a new section in Steam's settings which is to allow users to 'specify their preferences for which product types they wish to see across the entire home page, rather than managing each section individually.' With this, Valve promises, Steam users can forcibly exclude certain categories from ever appearing on the homepage and selected other browsing pages; removing virtual reality titles if you don't own compatible hardware, for example, or ash-canning Early Access titles entirely.

The majority of other changes are of interest only to developers, aside from new abilities for 'Steam Curators' due to come along with the update. While the official announcement is locked down to Steamworks registered developers only, the curious can find a copy in its entirety on the Neogaf forum.
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