Steam algorithm changes are “killing indie gaming” according to one developer affected by a recent change in the way that Steam recommendations work. Valve has been hard at work figuring out a new way to decide which games get shown to potential customers, and it seems that a number of indie developers have been caught in the crossfire.
“Apparently Steam is now way less likely to promote unreleased titles,” read a tweet by Thomas Altenburger of Flying Oak Games, an indie developer that is currently working on a roguelite platformer called ScourgeBringer. “Most unreleased games got their visibility down, while games already performing or close to release got a good bump.”
According to Mr. Altenburger, they saw a 50% increase on wishlist adds for the day on August 29, 2019. At this point in time, the Steam algorithm changes were only being tested with 5% of the service’s userbase. Thomas says that it’s entirely possible that this bump may have been from the Gamescom crowd.
As soon as the new Steam algorithm changes launched, a distressing trend had emerged: Wishlist adds declined by 66%. Flying Oak Games are far from the only people affected.
Thank you @steam_games for killing indie gaming.
— Unbound Worlds Apart (@UnboundTheGame) September 13, 2019
Alien Pixel Studios (developer of Unbound: Worlds Apart) tweeted out an image of their wishlist stats, showing a sharp decline in wishlist adds after the algorithm change went live. Several other developers in these two Twitter threads are reporting drops ranging from 30%–60% after the change was made.
As one Twitter commenter suggested, the fact that these are unreleased games may be affecting things. While I personally add plenty of unreleased stuff to my wishlist, some customers may be simply disinterested in games that are not out yet. This information would have been factored into the changes, ultimately affecting the wishlist stats of developers who have games in development.
Steam wishlist stats may seem unimportant to the layperson, but this particular metric is a good measure of a game’s potential future success. With wishlist adds reportedly ranging from 30%–60%, indie devs may be up for a rough time on Steam in the near future.