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Valve’s recommendation system algorithm on Steam negatively affects Unreleased games.

Steam changed their recommended games algorithm at or around September 12th 2019. The new store update featured several algorithmic changes and bug fixes. The change was an effort to be more precise and diverse in how Steam presents games through game tags. This update changed the Recommendation Feed, and the “More Like This” and the “Recommended for You” portions of the store. It also changed the games that are recommended when visiting the steam page of a game.

Changes to steam algorithm

This last change was the most important. Some indie game developers relied heavily on traffic from this Steam page section. Tagging a game correctly was one of the single most important aspects of game promotion. It allowed indie games to showcase themselves at the bottom of similar types of games. Since the algorithm change traffic and sales for some indie game developers plummeted.

Multiple indie game developers have taken to Reddit and found similarly affected colleagues. Developers have also taken to Twitter to express their discontent. One of the biggest gripes developers have are wishlists. Wishlists are one of the primary ways that indie games can gauge interest in their product. It’s also a powerful forecasting tool that allows budgeting in anticipation of expected revenue.

On Twitter multiple game developers have showcased their wishlist graph after the update. The data is quite compelling.

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Wishlist Game Data from Twitter account @mark_viola

Vicarious PR then did some digging through various Steam game pages. We found some unsettling trends and patterns in the “Recommended for You” section of game pages. The games that were negatively affected the most were games that were unreleased. Released titles have actually seen no change or growth since the update.

Recently EPIC and Discord announced their revenue sharing percentages which are better than Steam’s. It is safe to assume that the algorithm changes were made to increase revenue. It stands to reason that Steam would get more money by recommending games that have been released.