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Changes to Steam’s algorithms will see ‘less bias’ towards popular games and more individualised recommendations for players

A recent update to the Steam Store has introduced a number of “algorithmic changes and bug fixes to be more precise and more diverse in how Steam presents games”. In its latest blog post, Valve confirms it has improved how the store recommends games to players after users reportedly felt the existing system was “too biased towards only the most popular games” and lacked personalisation.

The company then launched an “experiment” which reportedly located a bug that meant “top-rated games (a category that doesn’t change very often) was driving too much of what players saw”. After resolving that, it was then discovered that the timescale used to calculate popular titles was “too narrow”, “resulting in unpredictable visibility for some games”. Consequently, Steam addressed that, too.

“In changing these areas, we wanted to ensure that we were showing customers a diverse set of games while keeping the games relevant to them. Would they engage with those recommendations? In other words, would they click through? Would they wishlist these games? Would they buy them?” the blog said.

“To answer these questions, we made some changes to how we show customers games in the places on the store that are driven by recommendation code, bundled that up with our bug fixes, and shipped it to 5% of customers to test for the past few weeks.”

Following the changes, “Recommended for You” reportedly became less biased towards popular games and more individualised for players, resulting in them clicking on recommendations at a rate 15 per cent higher than players without the changes, and store areas driven by Tags – such as “More Like This” – also saw increases in purchase and wishlisting across a broader set of games. 

“To get a feel for the breadth of titles that were being visited, we measured how many games members of the experiment group visited via the “Recommended For You” section compared to a sample of customers who were not in the experiment for a few days,” the blog added. “The results were very promising: we saw a 75 per cent increase in the number of unique games visited, and a 48 per cent increase in the average visits per game.”

Consequently, the changes have now been rolled out wholesale to all Steam users, and the company says it will continue to experiment and make changes to improve Steam’s existing features. 

Valve also recently announced a suite of new innovations heading for Steam Labs. Established earlier this year, Steam Labs is a place where experimental new features can be introduced early in development, tested, and developed in conjunction with the community. While “some of them may turn out great, “others [Valve] may toss out”, so the digital storefront actively invites users to trial – and feed back on – new features before they’re ready to be made a part of the platform.

Experiment 004 is brand new and brings improvements to Steam’s search functionality. “Discover just what you’re looking for with more filters and infinite scroll in search,” Valve said. “This experiment will set your browser into Labs Mode, allowing you to access its features whenever you search on Steam. Labs Mode is remembered per browser and easy to exit via the banner at the top. Happy searching!”

About Vikki Blake

It took 15 years of civil service monotony for Vikki to crack and switch to writing about games. She has since become an experienced reporter and critic working with a number of specialist and mainstream outlets in both the UK and beyond.

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