Valve Software is introducing a lot of new features to improve the experience of finding games on its Steam platform. And the reasons it needs these upgrades is obvious: Steam has a lot of games. How many? Well, thanks to the new Steam search that launched today, we have some idea. The “indie” category alone has more than 40,000 entries.
It’s not exactly accurate to say that Steam has 40,000 different indie games. That number includes every store entry with the “indie” tag. Some games have separate listings for their various collector’s editions. And a lot of downloadable content also falls under the “indie” category.
Still, the point is that Steam is difficult to navigate, and 40,000 different products in one category is evidence of that. This is why Valve is testing new discovery tools like microtrailers and its interactive recommendation system.
Something like “40,000 indie games” should make you feel overwhelmed. Humans aren’t supposed to think in quantities that high. This is why so many people long for a return to strict curation. Valve used to only permit certain games onto Steam, and many of its customers preferred that.
40,000 indie games on Steam is normal
But while gaming fans may pine for a return to the old ways, it’s not going to happen. And that’s because Valve’s old curation model was weird. It was an outlier relative to other mediums.
A store with tens of thousands of creative works is the standard if you look at books, music, and movies. Hell, if you search Amazon’s books category for “indie,” you get 50,000 results.
And no one frets about Amazon having too many books or iTunes having too many songs. That’s because this is normal.
What’s strange is relying on a store for discovery. Most people aren’t finding their next book on Amazon. Instead, you get recommendations from friends, social media, or hear an author interview on NPR.
It’s undeniable a good thing Valve is trying to help connect people with games they’ll love. But it’s probably never going to actually “solve” this problem. Having too many games is Steam’s natural state, and the real answer is for all of us to just accept that we won’t get to see — let alone play — everything.