Valve has rolled out a new update to Steam aimed at, through the magic of "algorithmic changes and bug fixes," increasing both the precision and diversity of games it recommends to users. The changes will be reflected in the tags seen in the Recommendation Feed, as well as in the offerings displayed in the "More Like This" and "Recommended For You" areas of Steam.
"Previously, when customers would look for games by browsing the recommendation feed at the bottom of the homepage or the 'More Like This' sections, they weren't seeing as many different games as we would've liked," Valve said. "Furthermore, we were receiving lots of feedback that 'Recommended for You' felt too biased towards only the most popular games and didn't feel very personalized."
Bugs were part of the problem: An issue with the "Similar by Tags" section of the Recommendation Feed was putting too much priority on popular games, for instance, and the timescale used to calculate popularity was too narrow, which resulted in "unpredictable visibility" for some games. Valve fixed the problems it encountered, "made some changes to how we show customers games in the places on the store that are driven by recommendation code," and then rolled it out to five percent of the Steam user base for testing.
Apparently, it worked. Valve said the "Recommended For You" listings became more relevant to individual users, with less bias toward popular games, and users in the test group proved to be nearly 15 percent more likely to click on recommended games than users working under the old rules. The number of unique games visited increased by 75 percent in the testing group, and the average visits per game went up 48 percent.
"Store areas driven by Tags, such as 'More Like This,' saw increases in purchase and wishlisting across a broader set of games," Valve said. "It shouldn't come as much of a surprise, but by increasing qualitative specificity and showing a wider range of titles, more customers found things they didn't know they wanted."
The update has now rolled out to all Steam users, and Valve said it will continue to experiment with ways to improve Steam's existing recommendation features, and also work on new ones like the Interactive Recommender that launched in July.