Valve made some big changes to Steam last summer with the "Discovery Update," which introduced curators—you can find our page here—recommendations, and other functionality designed to create a "smarter" digital storefront. The idea was to make it easier to find games, especially lesser-known titles, through more varied and individualized recommendations. And according to a message posted by Valve to the SteamworksDev group (via Reddit), those changes are working as intended.
"Prior to the Discovery Update, products only showed up to customers under specific circumstances; being manually featured by Valve admins, being present on top sellers/new release queues, or via direct search results," Valve explained in the post. "As a result of that limitation, we were able to highlight only a small selection of broadly popular titles that we knew would appeal to the majority of customers. That is no longer the case."
Previously, the "Main Capsule"—the large carousel on the front page of Steam—offered a mix of "manually curated titles, personalized recommendations, popular new releases, and top sellers," but could only show ten to 20 games per day to each user. Now, more than 4000 unique titles are shown every day, and clicks on the Main Capsule are up as well, from 21 percent of all clicks on the Steam home page to 25 percent.
The new Discovery Queue has also had a big impact: Product page views across all of Steam have increased by 30 percent since the Discovery Update was implemented, 75 percent of which comes by way of the Discovery Queue. In fact, 16 percent of all product page views now originate from the Discovery Queue. Steam Tags have seen a threefold increase in clicks since the update was made as well.
This is all good for Valve, but it's also proven to be a boon for game developers as well, particularly the small indies who are at the greatest risk of being lost in the crowd. "In addition to the raw increases in traffic, we’ve also carefully monitored sales data to make sure we’re growing the size of the pie, rather than just adjusting the size of the slices. Steam’s overall growth doesn't just come from the biggest hits (which continue to see great success), but also from the smaller titles that are now better able to reach the audience that is right for them," Valve wrote. "To look at smaller titles, we dug into revenue for all apps outside of the 500 top sellers. Within that subset, total revenue has increased 18 percent and daily earnings per app have increased by five percent, even with 400+ new apps joining the store since the Discovery Update."
Valve said it plans to continue working to improve the system, but it certainly appears that the Discovery Update is doing what it was meant to: Greater success for small developers on Steam means a greater variety of games on Steam, and that's good news for everyone.