Barely days after Steam shows its new face it’s become apparent the curators are the new emerging power in the game of discoverability. This early on Valve is probably standing by to see what should be done in response, but trends can already be seen.
I’ve already found at least one article pointing this out, and the latest episode of Idle Thumbs has done a good job pointing out the effects.
The first problem I’m already seeing is, it’s hard for me to scroll through the list of Steam curators to find new ones to follow. Valve has learned what happens when you group games in a linear list in order of popularity or release dates. Everybody has seen what this has done to the iOS App Store, and that’s pretty much what the current list of curators looks like — the guys at the top are staying at the top, and it’s tough for anyone not among the top 10 to get noticed. It takes too many clicks to find them.
In my last post I wondered if anyone outside the popular YouTubers and big press sites would ever break out and become popular Steam curators. The answer to that question remains to be seen. I don’t yet see the mechanism where someone could become popular entirely within the Steam curator system and not from somewhere outside. Again, the curator list right now is just that — a simple list.
I’ve already seen one tweet basically saying “I wish someone would make a list curating the curators.” I think there definitely needs to emerge another way to group curators. I know Valve is smart enough to realize this. I just don’t see what that way is. Curators of course aren’t the sole window to getting games on Steam noticed. The discoverability update added a lot more, but it is a centerpiece that I’m sure Valve is watching, ready to adjust when they think they need to.
The major effect of the current selection of top curators, as Idle Thumbs pointed out, is that the selection of recommended games from these curators is looking pretty homogeneous. It also looks very similar to the games that are already getting significant press — both AAA and indie. This could potentially leave out under-the-radar games that people probably expected would see a boost from this discoverability update. Even if some of those curators recommend some off-the-wall games, the ones that bubble up to the top of everybody’s page are the ones that get recommended by multiple curators. This could also potentially push down curators that focus on specific niches (like Manga Gamer or Sneaky Bastards).
So, there is definitely concern with both how curators are displayed on Steam right now and how their recommendations show up on the front page. The Curator section of my Steam front page is mostly dominated by successful indie and middle-budget games I already know about.
This all begs the question: How deep can you really take your visibility solutions in a digital marketplace? The curation initiative has appeared as one tool to solve the visibility problem, but then it might fall prey to a visibility problem of its own, thus not really helping the original problem. This all arose because Valve decided it no longer wanted to make the call on what games appeared on Steam. At some point Valve is gonna have to make the call on how to organize the curators as well as how their recommendations appear.
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