Valve is changing the rules for developers on Steam, meaning they will no longer be able to add review scores or prizes to the images in their game’s main store.
The new rules come into effect on September 1, 2022, after which games like The Quarry, Hades and It Takes Two will have to update their images to match the uncluttered photos of games like Elden Ring.
Explaining the reasoning in an official blog post (opens in new tab), Valve said the aim is to make finding and buying the best Steam games as “clear and simple as possible.” The review scores and award logos clutter up images making it hard for players to get a good feel for the game, or even see what it’s called. Valve also claimed that some games used outdated or inaccurate review scores, which caused even more confusion for customers.
So they go away, at least in certain images.
Steam store pages still have a dedicated space for developers to share their prices and reviews, they just require a bit of scrolling. In addition, the rules don’t seem to affect all images on a store’s page – just the game’s banner images or “Capsules”, the first pictures you see of the game when you browse the store.
If a developer wants to share an update on how well their game has been received by critics with an image filled with scores and quotes, it should still be possible.
Additionally, Steam’s new text ban won’t affect game logos, nor will it deter developers from text marking new updates or if the game is for sale, but there are a few new restrictions.
Analysis: judging games by their capsules
As the old saying goes, you can’t judge a book by its cover. But if it has a ton of reviews pasted on it, you’d imagine you’ll get a good idea if it’s worth your time. But it’s clear that developers sharing misleading information is a problem, and (as Valve points out) this typical English-language text can isolate players who don’t understand the language. Steam’s changes to capsule images make a lot of sense.
Looking at some of the awards and accolades featured, it’s clear that not all of them are of equal value – an image shared by Valve showed games celebrating their award in the “Probably Winning the Most Awards” category. . But with small text on the banner you can only distinguish the text “Winner” without getting close to your monitor.
Still, this latest “purge all text” plan doesn’t seem like the best solution.
While big AAA titles from the world’s biggest studios probably need nothing more than their company’s clout to stand out, smaller indie studios can struggle. If a player has never heard of a game, or the people who made it, how can the titles hope to be singled out in the sea of games released daily on Steam?
It’s clearly a good strategy to share review scores in the first image players see. Browsers in Steam stores would see at a glance that the title is well rated and would therefore likely be encouraged to click through to the game’s page for more information. However, this is no longer an option.
Instead, Valve could have set rules about what awards and reviews can be used — perhaps by limiting it to only certain approved outlets. And to get around language barriers, the developers may also have to create localized images for each region it sells its game in — rules it already introduces for images that want to include sales details.
Steam is already struggling with game discoverability, and this latest move feels more like a step back than a step forward. We’ll have to wait and see if Valve decides to cancel the change or find a new strategy, but on September 1, be prepared for it to get a little harder to find Steam’s hidden gems.
If you’re looking for a new game to play, check out our picks for the best PC games we’ve played.