Steam is (finally) looking at improving its game recommendation algorithm for its PC marketplace, with an updated version that shifts the balance towards smaller and more personally relevant titles over just the biggest AAA games.
Developer and publisher Valve has received a fair amount of flak in recent times for the way it prioritizes the marketing of high-profile games on the Steam platform, often to the detriment of indie developers who struggle to get the same traction.
A blog post to the Steam community outlines the "algorithmic changes and bug fixes" going into the recommendation engine, adding that "we were receiving lots of feedback that 'Recommended for You,' felt too biased towards only the most popular games and didn't feel very personalized."
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After testing the updated algorithm on 5% of users – and finding that users were 15% more likely to click on the games recommended to them, with "increases in purchase and wishlisting across a broader set of games" – Valve has now rolled out the update to the entire user base.
What's in a bug?
The description of "bug fixes" is an interesting one, as the narrative around Steam's recommendations has tended to think of them as being actively biased towards large-scale developers – Bethesda, EA, and the like – given their pulling power for a wide range of gamers.
The Epic Games Store has an explicit mission to shift the power balance in the favor of indie developers, with 88% of profits to game creators, rather than the 70% currently meted out by Steam.
While the algorithm fixes will no doubt help gamers find titles they actually want to play – and, therefore, put some more cash in the pockets of small- or medium-sized developers – there's more work Steam could be doing in the area.
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Henry is a freelance technology journalist, and former News & Features Editor for TechRadar, where he specialized in home entertainment gadgets such as TVs, projectors, soundbars, and smart speakers. Other bylines include Edge, T3, iMore, GamesRadar, NBC News, Healthline, and The Times.