In our previous post, we described what we believe a successful Steam Store would look like, and why balancing the interests of all the players and developers made it an interesting challenge. In this post, we want to talk about another group that adds further complexity: bad actors exploiting the store algorithm for financial gain.
The reason this group exists is due to various systems that add value to owning games on Steam beyond having the game itself. The best example is Steam Trading Cards, which also happens to be the primary one that these bad actors are exploiting.
We added Steam Trading Cards in 2013, and they had two main goals:
For players, they were small collectibles associated with games. They were tradeable, which meant you could collect ones for games you loved by trading away cards for the games you loved less. In effect, they were a way for you to show other players what your favorite games were. We knew some players wouldn't care about them, which was fine - they could simply throw them up on the Steam Community Market, and use the results to buy some other game.
For developers, they were an easy way to add extra value to their game, and provide rewards to their biggest fans.
After the release of Trading Cards, the number of players interested in them grew significantly, until it reached the point where the demand for cards became significant enough that there was an economic opportunity worth taking advantage of. And that's when our group of bad actors arrived, aiming to make money by releasing 'fake' games on Steam.
These fake developers take advantage of a feature we provide to all developers on Steam, which is the ability to generate Steam keys for their games. They generate many thousands of these keys and hand them out to bots running Steam accounts, which then idle away in their games to collect Trading Cards. Even if no real players ever see or buy one of these fake games, their developers make money by farming cards.
Farming Trading Cards for profit as a developer isn't rocket science. The primary difficulty is that they need to get a game up on Steam. For a while now, we've been engaged in an escalating war of disabling their latest method of gaming Greenlight's voting mechanisms, where each time we succeed, they circle around and come up with a new way. Unfortunately, this approach isn't terribly sustainable - they continue to get smarter and more large scale in their methods of generating tons of data, and we're spending more and more time fighting it.
We could restrict the ability for developers to generate Steam keys for their games, but we hate to degrade tools that legitimate developers are using to make their players happy. We're also not certain it would actually solve the problem - there are many ways a bad actor could try to get their game owned by all their bot accounts, and they just need to find a way to do it that costs less than they're making from selling their Trading Cards.
You might wonder why this is really an issue. After all, if no real players are buying their games, and their cards are being traded on the market to players who want them, where's the harm? Isn't Valve making money from the market fees on their Trading Cards? While there's truth in both of these points, the problem is that these games damage something we care about a lot, because it affects all our players - the Steam Store's algorithm.
As we mentioned in our last post, the algorithm's primary job is to chew on a lot of data about games and players, and ultimately decide which games it should show you. These Trading Card farming games produce a lot of faux data, because there's a lot of apparent player activity around them. As a result, the algorithm runs the risk of thinking that one of these games is actually a popular game that real players should see.
So we've decided to take a different approach - remove the economic incentive that's at the root of the problem.
Here's what we're doing:
Instead of starting to drop Trading Cards the moment they arrive on Steam, we're going to move to a system where games don't start to drop cards until the game has reached a confidence metric that makes it clear it's actually being bought and played by genuine users. Once a game reaches that metric, cards will drop to all users, including all the users who've played the game prior to that point. So going forward, even if you play a game before it has Trading Cards, you'll receive cards for your playtime when the developer adds cards and reaches the confidence metric.
The confidence metric is built from a variety of pieces of data, all aimed at separating legitimate games and players from fake games and bots. You might wonder why the confidence metric will succeed at identifying fake games, when we weren't being successful at using data to prevent them getting through Greenlight. The reason is that Greenlight is used by a tiny subsection of Steam's total playerbase, producing far less data overall, which makes it more easily gamed. In addition, Greenlight only allows players to vote and comment, so that data is narrow. Steam at large allows players to interact with games in many different ways, generating a broad set of data for each game, and that makes identifying fake ones an easier task.
With this change, we hope to significantly reduce the economic incentive for the bad actors to release fake games on Steam. We're hopeful that this will have little negative impact on other developers and players, with a small number of games having a delay before their Trading Cards start to drop. On the positive side, it should significantly improve the quality of the data being fed into the Store algorithms, which is a good thing for everyone.
As always, if you think we've missed something in the analysis of the tradeoffs we're working within, don't hesitate to discuss it in any major gaming forum (we read them all), or in our own Steam Community Forum.
Next post, we're going to talk about the Steam Direct publishing fee, and some other changes we'll be rolling out soon.
Whenever we announce a change to the Steam Store, we're always really interested to read the discussions that follow. Obviously we see a wide range of opinions on how good a job the Store is doing, but increasingly we're seeing that people have very different ideas of what its job even is - and what it should be.
That's understandable. One of the reasons it's so hard to make a good store - one of the reasons we've been working on it for years, and one of the reasons we think we still have years of work left to do - is that it has so many jobs. It has to serve so many players whose tastes and interests are not only different, but sometimes complete opposites.
So we thought it would be useful to define what we believe success would be for the Steam Store. That way, everyone would understand what we're trying to do, and discussions could focus on what we're trying to do separately from whether or not we're doing it well enough. This distinction also helped us realize we should be collaborating more directly with the community around improving the Steam Store.
This blog post aims to start that process by being the first in a set of three that explains our thinking around the Steam Store, and our plans for how we'll improve it with Steam Direct. We're going to talk about Store's goals, and how it executes them. In the second post, we'll cover some ways the Store is being exploited, and some changes we're making to address that. Finally, in the third we'll talk about the Steam Direct publishing fee, and some features that we'll be releasing in the coming weeks.
So what would a successful Steam Store look like? To answer that, we need to look at all the different kinds of people who use it.
Players who are highly connected to the online game community & conversations, and players who are totally unconnected
Players who browse the store looking for a game, and players who arrive already knowing the title they're looking for
Players who come to the store once a month, and players who visit multiple times a day
Players who just want to buy the latest AAA title, and players who want to search for hidden gems
Players who want to play titles earlier in their development, and get involved in their evolution
Players who want games with specific attributes, such as a type of gameplay, support for a specific technology, translation to their local language, etc
Developers with AAA titles that have large, existing fan bases, and developers who are barely known, yet have a game that would be a hit if players found it
Developers who want to build deliberately niche games, and have them find that niche audience
Developers who want to get community feedback earlier in the development process
We believe that a successful store would be one that treated all these people, both players and developers, in a manner that they would consider fair. Unfortunately, these groups often have competing interests, so it's important to understand that if we're not doing exactly what one group wants, it's probably because we're trying to weigh it against another group's interests. It might seem obvious that developers have some competing interests, but it's also true on the player side - some players specifically enjoy exploring Early Access titles, while others never want to see them.
And ultimately, that is why the Steam Store is a design challenge. We could make the problem a lot simpler by choosing to ignore some set of players or developers, but we think there are already stores that have chosen to do that, and it's much more interesting to try and figure out how to build a single store that works for everyone.
What's been done so far?
For a while now, the features we've been building have all been aimed at making the Store more successful for those groups of players and developers. Allowing the community to tag games into useful categories, and allowing players to filter the store to their tastes, let players control what they see in the Store. The Discovery updates helped players who came to browse the Store, and developers who had games that needed a certain kind of player to find them. Curators, Reviews, and Refunds all tried to help players and developers of niche or undiscovered games to find their audience.
Greenlight was a step towards opening Steam up to a wider range of games and developers, rather than us acting as gatekeepers trying to guess what people will like. We've seen huge successes from games we had no idea would be popular, and whole new communities have sprung up around genres that previously couldn't get on Steam at all. To us, that confirmed our suspicion that no single, small group of people should be sitting in judgement over what is and isn't a good game. We should do some basic checks to make sure the game works, and we now do that on every title - but not insert our own tastes as a filter between what developers want to make and what players want to play. We could serve one particular group of players that way, but Steam can and should serve a more diverse range of people and experiences than that.
AAA players and developers have probably had the least amount of new features applied to them, largely because our data showed that the store was already working well for them - but we have to be careful to not stop that being the case in our efforts to help all the other titles. As much as the online conversation is dominated by indie titles, there's a huge audience of players who just want to buy AAA titles.
These all feel like positive steps towards what we see as the goal for the Steam Store. But we know it isn't serving every type of player and developer as well as it could, so here's what we're focusing on next.
Exposing the Store's inner-workings
The algorithm behind the Store that's tasked with achieving the goals we've described above ultimately ends up producing this: the games you see when you load up the Store.
The Store is constantly trying to balance all the different interested groups of players and developers. It knows that it has a limited number of spaces it can use to show games to a player. It has some knowledge of the player, if the player is logged in and has a purchase / play history. It has some knowledge of the game, based on what the developer has told it and what previous purchasers of the game have said & done. It chews on all that data, and finally, decides which games it should show the player in all the various sections of the Store.
The problem with black box algorithms like this is that it's hard to know when they aren't working as intended. Did we not show a game to a player because the algorithm correctly guessed that the player wouldn't be interested in it? Or because there were other games it thought the player would be more interested in? Or just because of a bug?
We had similar problems in the Dota 2 matchmaking system, which was also a black box algorithm. We found that when we better exposed the data around the black box (in that case, the matchmaking ranks of the players), our players understood the black box better, and as a result, were able to better identify cases where it wasn't working correctly.
So we're going to do the same with the Steam Store. We want to show you more of what it's doing and why - and we have some features planned to help with this, starting with one we're launching today: an algorithm section on game pages that states why the Store thinks this game will (or will not) be interesting to you.
This section will let you see inside the black box, and understand what the Store is thinking. We hope it will be useful whenever you're exploring the Store, but in particular, whenever you've navigated from an external web page directly to a specific game's Store page. In those cases, this section will help you understand whether or not this game is something the Store would recommend to you. In other cases, you might be more or less interested in something the store recommends if you know exactly why it's recommending it. For instance, knowing that a particular friend or curator likes or dislikes a game might make it clearer whether you'd like it. Finally, if the store recommends something you know you're not interested in, you'll be able to see where its decision making is going wrong, and tell us about it.
Hopefully this post gives you a better understanding of what we're trying to do with the Steam Store. In our next post, we'll be covering the ways that bad actors have been gaming the Store algorithms to create revenue for themselves, which confuses our algorithms enough that it starts serving customers less effectively. We'll cover some changes that we believe should tackle the problem.
Following that, we'll talk about Steam Direct's publishing fee, and how we're approaching that decision.
Today we’re announcing changes to gifts on Steam. The gifting process has had a bunch of friction in it for a while, and we want to make it easier for you to share the games you love with friends. Steam Gifting will now be a system of direct exchange from gift buyer to gift receiver, and we will be retiring the Gift to E-mail and Gift to Inventory options. Here's a quick breakdown of benefits from the new system:
Scheduling Gifts Is Even More Straightforward
Go ahead and buy a gift months in advance and have it delivered to a friend on time, every time.
Declined Gifts Resolve The Way They Should
In the old system, a declined gift would sneak back into the giver's inventory and remain on their bill. Now, if a recipient already has the title, or just doesn't want it, they can click decline and the purchase is refunded directly to the gift giver.
Safe Cross-Country Gifting
No more worrying if a Gift to E-mail or Gift to Inventory is going to work for a friend, gifts sent through the new system will always work on the receiver's account. When there is a large difference in pricing between countries, gifting won't be available and you'll know before purchase.
These changes are now available. Please let us know if you see any issues or have any feedback.
Note: Pre-existing gifts will be unaffected by this change.
We’ve been hearing from users for several years about the need for us to keep working on improving Steam Support. As always, our goal with Steam is to be continuously improving and creating better user experiences across the board.
We hope that most of you never need to contact support because your experience with Steam is issue free to begin with. However, we know that there are times when something just goes wrong and when you need to get help from an actual person. Improving Steam Support to make that experience as smooth as possible has been a big focus for us over the last couple years. We overhauled our support site, we’ve built better integrated tools, we no longer require a separate account to contact support, and we’ve increased our support staffing. We’ve also fixed as many bugs as possible and have provided new self-service options where they make sense. Today we are launching our Steam Support Stats page and seeking to improve transparency around users’ experiences getting support from us. We believe that increasing transparency will both help users understand how we are doing and will help make sure we keep improving over time.
HELP REQUESTS AND BACKLOG
The first thing you’ll see on our stats page is a graph of the volume of submitted help requests that are waiting for a response alongside a graph of the backlog of waiting requests that our support staff has yet to respond to over time. As of today you can see that we receive somewhere around 75,000 help requests per day. We currently end up with around 8,000 requests waiting for responses at most times. We’ve worked hard to expand our staffing and to improve our support processes to get to this point. You can see on our graph that earlier this year we had more than 50,000 requests as our backlog which meant that we had nearly a full day worth of requests waiting for answers at any given point in time. Our goal going forward is to keep the backlog of requests shrinking and to be able to respond to all requests as quickly as possible.
HELP REQUEST CATEGORIES AND RESPONSE TIMES
75,000 requests each day is still a big number. Most of these requests are resolved within a few hours. We’ve broken down some of the categories of request types we receive as well as their typical wait times below the graph on the stats page. These typical wait time numbers shown tell you the timeframe that 90% or more of the requests submitted receive a response. We’re still working on further improving wait times and also quality of responses in all categories.
A large number of our help requests are actually related to our refund policy. We’re proud to be able to offer users refunds when appropriate. We think our refund policy is good for users and good for the platform and we’re happy that we are able to respond to more than 90% of refund requests in just a few hours.
The next largest category of support issues is Account Security & Recovery requests. These requests include users who have simply forgotten their password all the way through users who have been phished or hijacked by someone targeting their account. We’ve been working to improve self-service for some account recovery cases and we’ve also continued to push forward adoption of security features like Steam Guard and the Steam Mobile Authenticator. The cases we still receive requests for can be more complicated to handle and wait times can sometimes be a little longer as a result. However, we’re happy to say that we’ve reduced wait times on these requests from once being over a week in many cases to now under 24 hours for more than 98% of requests.
We hope you’ll find the new support stats page interesting and that you’ll keep letting us know what your experiences with Steam Support are. We know that reducing wait times and backlogs is not enough on its own, and we’re also committed to continuing to improve the quality of each interaction. We’ve been continuously investing in staffing, training, and process improvements to that end and while we believe we’ve made progress we know there is always more work to be done. Let us know how we are doing.
We're in the process of making a couple more small changes to Steam Customer Review system as we continue to fine-tune the relevance and accuracy of the overall review score for each product.
In September, we made some adjustments to how the review score was calculated for each product. You can read about those changes and the reasoning behind it here. We're continuing with a few more changes in this direction to improve the relevance of the score by better reflecting the sentiment expressed by invested, paying customers.
With the changes we are making now, the review score (shown at the top of store pages and in various places throughout the store such as search results) will no longer include reviews by users that received the game for free, such as via a gift, or during a free weekend. Reviews can still be written by customers that obtained the game in any of these ways, but the review will not count toward the overall review score.
We started rolling out this change earlier this week, and it will take a few more days for our system to completely update all reviews and re-calculate the scores. In the meantime, you may see the review score on a game change a couple of times depending on how many reviews come from the sources mentioned above.
This change only affects games that are listed for sale on Steam. For free or free-to-play games, reviews by all users will continue to count toward their review score.
When we consider any new features or changes for Steam, our primary goal is to make customers happy. We measure that happiness by how well we are able to connect customers with great content. We’ve come to realize that in order to serve this goal we needed to move away from a small group of people here at Valve trying to predict which games would appeal to vastly different groups of customers.
Thus, over Steam’s 13-year history, we have gradually moved from a tightly curated store to a more direct distribution model. In the coming months, we are planning to take the next step in this process by removing the largest remaining obstacle to having a direct path, Greenlight. Our goal is to provide developers and publishers with a more direct publishing path and ultimately connect gamers with even more great content.
What we learned from Greenlight
After the launch of Steam Greenlight, we realized that it was a useful stepping stone for moving to a more direct distribution system, but it still left us short of that goal. Along the way, it helped us lower the barrier to publishing for many developers while delivering many great new games to Steam. There are now over 100 Greenlight titles that have made at least $1 Million each, and many of those would likely not have been published in the old, heavily curated Steam store.
These unforeseen successes made it abundantly clear that there are many different audiences on Steam, each looking for a different experience. For example, we see some people that sink thousands of hours into one or two games, while others purchase dozens of titles each year and play portions of each. Some customers are really excited about 4X strategy games, while others just buy visual novels.
Greenlight also exposed two key problems we still needed to address: improving the entire pipeline for bringing new content to Steam and finding more ways to connect customers with the types of content they wanted.
To solve these problems a lot of work was done behind the scenes, where we overhauled the developer publishing tools in Steamworks to help developers get closer to their customers. Other work has been much more visible, such as the Discovery Updates and the introduction of features like user reviews, discovery queues, user tags, streamlined refunds, and Steam Curators.
These improvements have allowed more developers to publish their games and connect with relevant gamers on Steam. One of the clearest metrics is that the average time customers spend playing games on Steam has steadily increased since the first Discovery Update. Over the same time period, the average number of titles purchased on Steam by individual customers has doubled. Both of these data points suggest that we’re achieving our goal of helping users find more games that they enjoy playing. (You can read a more detailed analysis of our recent updates here.)
A better path for digital distribution
The next step in these improvements is to establish a new direct sign-up system for developers to put their games on Steam. This new path, which we’re calling “Steam Direct,” is targeted for Spring 2017 and will replace Steam Greenlight. We will ask new developers to complete a set of digital paperwork, personal or company verification, and tax documents similar to the process of applying for a bank account. Once set up, developers will pay a recoupable application fee for each new title they wish to distribute, which is intended to decrease the noise in the submission pipeline.
While we have invested heavily in our content pipeline and personalized store, we’re still debating the publishing fee for Steam Direct. We talked to several developers and studios about an appropriate fee, and they gave us a range of responses from as low as $100 to as high as $5,000. There are pros and cons at either end of the spectrum, so we’d like to gather more feedback before settling on a number.
Just the beginning
We want to make sure Steam is a welcoming environment for all developers who are serious about treating customers fairly and making quality gaming experiences. The updates we’ve made over the past few years have been paving the way for improvements to how new titles get on to Steam, and Steam Direct represents just one more step in our ongoing process of making Steam better.
We intend to keep iterating on Steam’s shopping experience, the content pipeline and everything in between.
As we prepare to make these changes, we welcome your feedback and input on this and any other Steam issues. As always, we'll continue to read the community's discussions throughout the Steam forums and the web at large, and we look forward to hearing your thoughts.
Last week we made some changes to the Steam user review system, which you can read about here. In the week since, we've been reading a lot of feedback from customers and game developers to see what's working and what's not. Based on this feedback, were making a couple of tweaks to the review system today and are working on some longer-term updates. Here are the changes made as well as some information on the changes we're still working on.
One frequent piece of feedback weve heard regarding the recent changes is that it has become more difficult to find and read the helpful, articulate reviews written by customers that obtained the game outside of Steam. We want to make sure that helpful reviews can be surfaced regardless of purchase source, so we're making a change to the defaults. Starting today, the review section on each product page will show reviews written by all users, regardless of purchase type. By default you'll now see reviews written by all players of the game, including Steam customers, Kickstarter backers, bundle customers, streamers, and other users that acquired the game outside of Steam.
Regardless of the default, you may prefer to see only reviews by Steam customers. So weve also made it so that Steam will remember the last 'purchase type' you selected to view in the review section. As you move between game pages, Steam will remember your preference and display only those reviews.
This change doesn't impact the review score. Each game's score will continue to be calculated based only on customers that purchased the game via Steam.
Some developers have pointed out that we've been inconsistent in use of color for the review score of "Mixed." We've adjusted the color of the "Mixed" text to match the icons weve already been using in search results. Its kind of a yellow/tan color now.
There was some confusion in how reviews were sorted when viewing all reviews written by a particular user. It was previously sorted by 'helpful' rating of reviews by that user, which was often just a factor of the size of audience for each game reviewed. This meant that reviews on bigger games almost always were listed first in those views because there were simply more users clicking 'helpful' on reviews. This display is now sorted chronologically, so you can see what a particular user has reviewed most recently.
Work in progress:
As we mentioned in our previous announcement, weve been working on some changes to the ranking of helpful reviews that appear for each product. The goal is to be able to better identify and highlight helpful reviews while hiding or lowering the prominence of unhelpful reviews. Our existing system just looks at the overall number of users that rated a review as 'helpful', but we're seeing this can produce unpredictable results. For example, sometimes unhelpful memes get rated as helpful because people think its funny. So we're working on updating the system to consider more factors when deciding how to rank 'helpful' reviews so that it can generate better results. We plan on rolling out a beta soon, which youll be able to opt into so you can compare the sorting of helpful reviews before and after the change.
Over the past few months, we've been reading your feedback and reports on the Steam Customer Review System. In addition, we've been looking at the different ways customer reviews are being used on Steam and evaluating which aspects of the feature need the most improvement. In May of this year we made changes to highlight the recent reviews on games to better show the current state of quickly evolving products (read more about those changes here). Now we are releasing the next update, which adds more filtering and sorting options for the displayed reviews, and sets some new defaults to highlight the recent, helpful, and relevant reviews.
New Filtering Options & Defaults
We know that you have your own preferences in what information is important when you consider making a purchase. So today's update adds some options at the top of each games review section where you can filter the reviews you see by language, purchase source, and whether the review is positive or negative. This will let you dig in to different aspects of a game's reviews to see what other people have to say about the game and a summary of how positive those reviews are.
With the introduction of these new tools, we're setting the default filters to provide the most useful snapshot of a product's reviews for you. By default, we'll show you a summary of helpful recent reviews written by Steam customers in languages you speak. (If you speak more than one language, you can configure your preferences here.)
We are also changing the default review score that we show at the top of each product page (and in search results) to not include reviews written by users that obtained the product through a Steam key. Here's why:
The Review Score
When we introduced the Steam Customer Review System in November 26, 2013, our primary goal was, and still is, to help customers make an informed decision when considering the purchase of a new game. To achieve that goal, we've put an emphasis on written reviews that encourage customers to share their experience in a game so that other's can decide for themselves whether the game sounds like something they would enjoy playing.
As the number of reviews on any particular product grew, it became difficult to get a sense of whether customers were generally happy or unhappy with how well the game met their expectations. To make it easier to tell whether customers overall would recommend purchasing the game, we created a review score. We've intentionally kept this score as transparent as possible, by simply calculating the percentage of positive reviews.
We know this review score has become a valuable shortcut for customers to gauge how well the game is matching customer expectations. But the review score has also become a point of fixation for many developers, to the point where some developers are willing to employ deceptive tactics to generate a more positive review score.
The majority of review score manipulation we're seeing by developers is through the process of giving out Steam keys to their game, which are then used to generate positive reviews. Some developers organize their own system using Steam keys on alternate accounts. Some organizations even offer paid services to write positive reviews.
How Steam Keys Impact Review Score
Steam keys have always been free for developers to give out or sell through other online or retail stores. That isn't changing. However, it is too easy for these keys to end up being used in ways that artificially inflate review scores.
An analysis of games across Steam shows that at least 160 titles have a substantially greater percentage of positive reviews by users that activated the product with a cd key, compared to customers that purchased the game directly on Steam. There are, of course, legitimate reasons why this could be true for a game: Some games have strong audiences off Steam, and some games have passionate early adopters or Kickstarter backers that are much more invested in the game.
But in many cases, the abuse is clear and obvious, such as duplicated and/or generated reviews in large batches, or reviews from accounts linked to the developer. In those cases, we've now taken action by banning the false reviews and will be ending business relationships with developers that continue violating our rules.
While helpful users in the community have been valuable in reporting instances of abuse, it's becoming increasingly difficult to detect when this is happening, which reviews from Steam Keys are legitimate, and which are artificially influenced.
Changes To The Review Score
As a result of this, we are making some changes to how review scores are calculated. As of today, the recent and overall review scores we show at the top of a product page will no longer include reviews written by customers that activated the game through a Steam product key.
Customers that received the game from a source outside of Steam (e.g. via a giveaway site, purchased from another digital or retail store, or received for testing purposes from the developer) will still be able to write a review of the game on Steam to share their experience. These reviews will still be visible on the store page, but they will no longer contribute to the score.
This does mean that the review score category shown for about 14% of games will change; some up and some down. Most changes in the review score category are a result of games being on the edge of review score cut-offs such as 69% positive or 70% positive. A change of 1% in these cases can mean the difference between a review score category of "Mixed" and "Positive". About 200 titles that only had one or two reviews will no longer have a score at all until a review is written by a customer that purchased that item via Steam. In all of these cases, the written reviews still exist and can easily be found in the review section on that store page.
We are aware that these changes do not address all of the feedback and suggestions presented by members of the Steam community. We are working to address these other issues, which mainly pertain to the helpfulness of reviews:
There are some titles where the most helpful reviews don't seem to accurately match the general customer sentiment. For example, there are a couple of prominent titles that have review scores of 'positive' but all the reviews marked as helpful are negative. We need to look at this to figure out how to represent cases where the community has highly divergent opinions.
There are some titles where a small group of users are able to consistently mark specific reviews as helpful, and as a result can present a skewed perception of what customers are saying about the game. This is obviously not ideal, so we're looking at ways to ensure that a few users don't have outsized influence over the system.
Some off-topic reviews get marked as 'helpful' simply because they are funny. These don't appear to actually be helpful in determining whether you should buy the game, so we're working on some ways to better detect and filter out these.
We know that Steam customer reviews can only be valuable in aiding you as long as you can trust the data we're presenting. The changes made today target the main abuse we're seeing, and give you more control over the information you see when evaluating a game.
One common theme we've been seeing in customer feedback about the Steam review system is that it isn't always easy to tell what the current experience is like in a game months after release. This new set of changes released today is designed to better describe the current customer experience in those games. We do this by better exposing the newly posted reviews and by calculating a summary of those recent reviews.
Visibility For Recently Posted Reviews
While there are plenty of new reviews posted every day, we saw that it was often difficult for newer reviews to be seen and voted on enough to become listed as most helpful. As a result, the most helpful reviews presented on a store page would often describe an outdated view of a game that might have changed dramatically over the course of Early Access or post-release development. By listing recently posted reviews more prominently and by defaulting to recent helpful reviews, Steam can now show a more current idea of what it's like to play the game now.
Recent Review Score
Another problem we identified was that review score that appears at the top of a product page didn't always reflect the dynamic nature of the game. For that review score, we'd previously only been compiling an overall score using a simple calculation of the percentage of all reviews that were positive. This let us be really transparent in how the score was being calculated, but didn't accommodate cases when a game has changed a lot (for better or worse) over time.
To address that, we've now added a Recent review score that calculates the positive percentage of reviews within the past 30 days (as long as there are enough reviews posted within those 30 days and as long as the game has been available on Steam for at least 45 days). The overall score is still present as well in case you still find that information helpful.
Other Review Updates
In addition to the above updates, we've made a few other changes:
The customer review section on a game's store page has a new "Summary" tab that focuses on recent helpful reviews and recently posted reviews. You can still find overall most help reviews by selecting "Most Helpful" tab.
There's a new checkbox when writing a review to more easily disclose if you received the copy of the game for free.
You can now view all reviews regardless of language by selecting "All Languages" from the language dropdown in the reviews tab of the Community Hub for the game.
For a number of years weve had a system in place to notify you when a game on your Steam Wishlist goes on a certain type of sale such as Midweek Madness or Daily Deal. Then about a year and a half ago, we began also sending notifications for the release of popular games to people with that game on their Steam Wishlist. This has expanded over time to include more releasing titles, but we havent been ready to turn it on for all new releases until now.
As of today, there are now more opportunities for you to receive e-mail notifications about the games on Steam you are interested in and more options for you to opt out of specific kinds of notifications you are not interested in. Here are the new options:
More Discount Types If a game is on your Steam Wishlist, well now send you an e-mail if any type of discount is applied on that game. This includes Midweek Madness, Weekend Deal, Daily Deal, and now Weeklong Deals (which start on Mondays and run for a week) as well as any custom configured discounts which developers can define to start and end on other days of the week.
More New Releases If a game is on your Steam Wishlist, well now send you an e-mail when that game has released or transitioned out of Early Access. If you browse through upcoming releases or if youve happened to find an upcoming title youre interested in and added it to your wishlist, well send you an e-mail when that game becomes playable on Steam. Also, well let you know if a game on your wishlist transitions from Early Access to fully-released.
Games Youve Followed or Favorited in Greenlight If youve participated in voting on Games in Steam Greenlight and opted to Follow or Favorite one of those games, well now let you know when that game becomes playable on Steam.
Managing E-mail Preferences We know that not everyone may want these e-mail notifications, so weve made it easy to opt out of specific types of notifications or all e-mails entirely. Just follow this link to manage your preferences: https://store.steampowered.com/account/emailoptout. You can also find this link on the bottom of any official Steam marketing e-mail you receive.
Do you want more types of e-mail notifications? Have feedback on notifications in general? Let us know in the Steam Suggestions forums.