Steam’s marketplace has so many games that it’s difficult for any one to get a lot of attention. Valve Software, which owns and operates the platform, is always working on news ways to address this problem. Some creators, however, have found their own creative and sometimes underhanded ways of improving their visibility. One of these methods includes frequently changing the release date for a game to ensure it keeps floating up in Steam’s Popular Upcoming list. But now, however, it appears that Valve has done something to address that issue.
In a post on the Steam sub-forum on Reddit, a user with the handle “HeadlessIvan” posted a screenshot from the developer backend on Valve’s service. The image includes a warning from Steam that developers will need to contact Valve to change their release date on the platform.
“If you need to make changes to [your game’s release] date, please contact Valve here with the reason for your new release date and what date you’d like it set as,” reads the message. You should be pretty certain that your new date is the date you will release.”
How will this help Steam
This should create a barrier for developers who were taking advantage of Valve’s algorithmic tools. Since Steam is so large, and Valve doesn’t attempt to pick-and-choose winners, it has focused its curation efforts on programmatic services. The idea is to present a customized version of the store for each customer.
But as with any system, bad actors will find exploits to improve their chances of making money. By adding the friction of having to ask Valve directly to change a release date, most studios will likely give up attempting this particular strategy. And if a developer does frequently ask to change their date, Valve will likely spot that suspicious behavior.
Of course, as with anything, this will affect everyone — not just the people manipulating their release dates. A small studio will now also have to wait for Valve’s approval to change a release date. But that’s the cost of improving the quality of the store for the end-user.