Steam's Popular Upcoming list is a pretty handy indicator of what people are eagerly awaiting. It checks release dates with wishlists and then generates the most popular impending games of the moment. It turns out it's also pretty open to manipulation.
No More Robots founder Mike Rose posted a thread on Twitter detailing how easy it is to manipulate the list. All you need to do, he says, is change the game's date in the backend, regardless of when it's actually coming out, and you'll get an extra shot of your game appearing in the list and no repercussions.
Little thread about a topic I've seen affecting numerous devs, and I'm now feeling the effects of myself:The Popular Upcoming list on Steam is a great spot on the Steam front page for upcoming games to be noticed.Unfortunately, it's a (sometimes accidentally) manipulated mess pic.twitter.com/hRcagA7KlxMarch 5, 2019
Release dates change often and last minute delays aren't unheard of, so it's not necessarily malicious, but the impact on the list is the same. Games that are openly not releasing in March or haven't even set a release date end up on the list.
As a publisher, Rose is concerned that it will stop people from looking at the list, because it's not accurate, and it will hurt other upcoming games. The extra attention they get costs another game that is actually coming out soon a shot in the limelight.
Eugen Systems' Steel Division 2 is on the front page of the list, despite not being due for another month, pushing other games down. Eugen responded on Twitter (cheers, Variety) claiming that it "didn't manipulate the system". The older date being in the backend was a mistake, Eugen said, and it had been in touch with Steam.
I've reached out to Valve about the issue, but Valve employees have already chimed in on Twitter, confirming the problem and saying that it's a topic of discussion.
"You have great timing," wrote Valve's Tom Giardino. "This was a big topic of discussion yesterday, and it frustrates us for the same reasons it frustrates you. But it's also super important that devs get to control their own release timing so we don't want to mess with that."
Apparently "various solutions" are being considered, but Valve doesn't want developers to lose the flexibility of the current system.