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News video games 09 October 2023, 12:44

Unexpected Steam Hits are a Mystery Even to Valve

How does Steam recommend games? It turns out that this process has more depth than one might think. Valve itself can be surprised by games that come out of „nowhere” and conquer Steam.

Source: Valve Software

If you've ever wondered how Valve manages the visibility of games on Steam, the answer may surprise you. It turns out that unexpected hits that suddenly get huge interest from players are as much of a surprise to Valve as they are to us - persons from outside the system.

How does this mechanism work? That's what we can find out from a video explaining the mechanics of Steam, which recently appeared on the YouTube channel Steamworks Development.

Steam's algorithms under a magnifying glass

In the 25-minute video, titled Visibility on Steam: How Games Get Surfaced to Players? Valve, through the mouth of developer Erik Peterson, explains how games are presented to players on the platform.

It turns out that the system for presenting games to consumers is a mix of algorithms that toss the players offers based on their preferences, as well as lists selected by Steam.

The factors are numerous, but we can be sure of a few things, such as the fact that no developer can buy additional paid promotion of its product on Steam.

Among the algorithms affecting the visibility of games are:

  • trending games selected by location,
  • bestsellers with the highest revenue in the last 24 hours (also dependent on location),
  • popular upcoming games (most frequently added to the wish list).

Peterson admitted that Steam is guided by two key principles in showing games to customers:

  1. "Steam is personalized for you," he said.
  2. "Players' interest is sparked by visibility."

As an example of a game that recently took Steam by storm, he cited Dave the Diver - an indie game in which we play as a deep-sea diver who runs a sushi restaurant. 10 days from release the game sold a million copies and was almost immediately hailed as one of the most pleasant surprises of the year. The devs recently announced new content that will be released in October (including more missions, crab traps and new nocturnal species).

Another example is last year's Vampire Survivors, a dynamic 2.5D action game in which we blast hordes of enemies. This unassuming game garnered tons of positive opinions and attracted numerous players.

According to Valve, the functioning of Steam cannot be based on the operation of "only one algorithm." As Peterson says, they are very different, but Valve uses multiple methods to show players the most suitable products for them.

Michal Ciezadlik

Michal Ciezadlik

Joined in December 2020 and has remained loyal to the Newsroom ever since, although he also collaborated with Friendly Fire, where he covered TikTok. A semi-professional musician, whose interest began already in childhood. He is studying journalism and took his first steps in radio, but didn't stay there for long. Prefers multiplayer; he has spent over 1100 hours in CS:GO and probably twice as much in League of Legends. Nevertheless, won't decline a good, single-player game either.