Prominent YouTubers are proving to be the most popular faces as Steam’s new Curator system rolls out today.
As reported earlier, the new Curator system allows users to list their favourite titles on the service. Following others allows Steam to construct a recommended games list according to which games feature highest among those who users track.
Less than a day after the new system rolled out it is UK YouTuber TotalBuscuit who has the most followers – 89,529 at the moment of writing. He’s followed by PC Gamer (29,419), Jim Sterling (18,084), Kotaku (10,753), Just Good PC Games (10,310) and another YouTuber Northernlion (7,688).
However, questions are being asked about the transparency of the system.
As spotted by indie developer Olivier Penot, TotalBiscuit’s top game recommendation is currently shooter Planetside 2. Clicking the review link on his Steam Curator list takes you to a YouTube video, the description of which states that the video is part of a paid promotion for Planetside 2”.
This is not mentioned within Steam itself. And indeed, it could very well be that TotalBiscuit has chosen the game for non-commercial reasons. But maybe he did not. And therein lies the problem.
You are effectively subscribing to have third parties influence what shows up to you when browsing,” Thomas Was Alone developer Mike Bithell said in a blog post discussing the new systems earlier today.
This is interesting because it conflates the external voices of YouTubers and press with the sheer volume of traffic hitting the front page. It means that the big curators (who will likely, for the time being at least, be ‘name’ commentators from elsewhere) get to influence your shopping experience, directly.
It’s not a case of ‘I wonder what Northernlion thought of that game on my front page’… it’s a case of ‘why am I not seeing that game on the front page? Did Northernlion not like it?’
That’s an exaggeration. I’m sure one dude not digging a game will not nuke it from visibility, but cumulatively, folks are going to be opting in to have other people’s tastes change their view of what is available.”
UPDATE: TotalBiscuit has assured fans that while he has previously produced sponsored content for two of the games on his list – Guns of Icarus and Planetside 2 – this was unconnected to his decision to include them on his creators list on Steam.
I’ve removed Planetside 2 from the recommendations list, because it could potential pose a conflict of interest. Guns of Icarus will remain, the timeline on that is clear, I assessed the game far before doing any sponsored content for it. Honestly last night we were just trying to go through our back catalogue as quickly as possible, so things like that might have slipped through.
As far as I’m aware there are no other games on that list that we ever engaged in promo content for and my policy as of now is, if we engage in sponsored content for a game, it will not be placed on that list, ever, due to the appearance of impropriety. This whole curation thing is very new and there are no guidelines as to what should be listed, no code of ethics. If you think there is anything unethical going on you are more than free to bring it up with me and we can discuss it.
I have no doubt that somewhere down the line some people will be offered money to place games on their list. All I can say is, we won’t do that and just like everything else, you’re going to have to make the decision as to whether or not to trust me on that, based on my actions in the past. After all, we can’t prove that we’re NOT doing it, that’s just not possible and neither can anyone else.”