As part of the company’s big yearly review of Steam as a platform, Valve has revealed eight big new changes coming to its digital storefront sometime this year. These eight Steam updates include improvements to the platform’s much-derided algorithm system, where new or less-popular games could sometimes find themselves lost in the sea of around 30,000 games available. Other big changes include the launch of the storefront in one of the world’s biggest PC marketplaces, and various technology updates.
Valve goes into detail about the changes in a Steam community blog post about the 2018 year in review. Aside from the algorithm changes, which will apparently incorporate a form of machine-learning to improve discoverability, these Steam updates include launching in a new market, a “reworking” of the Steam library, a new Steam Chat app, and more. Here are the details on each of these eight big Steam updates coming in 2019:
- Store Discoverability: The first and most important one of these 2019 Steam updates, at least for developers and any new games, is that Valve are working on new algorithms to aid store discoverability. Specifically, the publisher says it is working on “a new recommendation engine,” which will be powered by some sort of machine-learning AI. The goal is to “match players to games based on their individual tastes,” according to Valve, but we’ll believe this when we see it. The team add that these additional improved algorithms are “only a part of our discoverability solution,” and they are working on more features based on broadcasting and curation, and are apparently “constantly assessing the overall design of the store.” Valve has also recently revealed new changes coming to the DLC menus to make them easier to read and browse, so presumably this is connected to what the new blog post is talking about.
- Steam China: The second-biggest news, but could certainly easily be the biggest from Valve’s perspective, is that Valve has revealed that it’s bringing Steam to China. China is one of the biggest PC marketplaces in the world, but the Chinese government is often extremely picky about what games are sold in their country, so many games may face censorship if developers want to sell their games there. Valve are partnering with Perfect World to bring Steam into China, which was actually revealed back in November. The company adds that it’ll be revealing more details about this partnership and the launch of Steam in China “in the coming months.”
- Steam Library Update: The Steam client itself will receive some big changes in the next year, and in particular Valve calls attention to a “reworked” Steam Library. This will apparently be built on top of the technology Valve recently incorporated into Steam Chat based on Skype, although the company doesn’t provide an example.
- New Events System: Valve are planning a series of upgrades the events system in the Steam Community, something dearly needed. Players will now be able to highlight certain activities in any games they follow, such as “tournaments, streams, or weekly challenges,” so they can just worry about specific types of events instead of constantly getting bombarded with event pop-ups.
- Steam TV: The team plan on “expanding” the Steam TV service, which is currently just broadcasting a few different tournaments and a few special events. The new update will allow Steam TV to be able to support all games more fairly, and presumably with a greater range of things to watch.
- Steam Chat: Steam Chat will be further expanded into a new mobile app, “so you can share your favorite GIFs with your friends while on the go.” However, there’s no word on whether the chat functionality will be removed from the current Steam mobile app, or whether picture-sharing will be added to that instead.
- Steam Trust: The “Trusted Matchmaking” feature on Counter-Strike GO will be getting an upgrade, according to Valve, and will be expanded to other games too. The team plans to turn it into “a full Steam feature that will be available to all games” in order to counter-act cheating in those other games. Clearly it’s been effective in CS:GO, then.
- Steam PC Cafe Program: Finally, Valve are planning on shipping a new “PC Cafe Program” to help people using Steam in PC cafes “have a good experience using Steam” in those establishments. We’re not sure what that specifically means, but we’ll find out this year.