Valve tightens restrictions on Steam store 'screenshots'

Upcoming changes to Valve's Steam store policies mean that game developers and publishers will no longer be able to use "concept art, pre-rendered cinematic stills, or images that contain awards, marketing copy, or written product descriptions" in the screenshot section of their games. The idea, according to an image of a message posted in the Facepunch forums and confirmed with Valve to be legit, is to ensure that "customers understand what the product is that they are looking at." This rule change seems to be a prelude to Steam's upcoming UI overhaul.

"We haven't been super crisp on guidelines for screenshots in the past, so we'd like to take this opportunity to clarify some rules in this space. When the 'screenshot' section of a store page is used for images other than screenshots that depict the game, it can make it harder for customers to understand what the product is that they are looking at," the message says. "Additionally, we're going to start showing game screenshots in more places as described above, and these images need to be able to represent the game." 

"As described above" refers to what Valve is calling the "Discovery Update 2.0," scheduled to go live in a couple of weeks, which will enable users "to see more of what they like and less of what they are not interested in or find offensive." To help accomplish that, Valve is asking publishers to indicate which of their screenshots contain potentially offensive content, like excessive gore, nudity, or sexual themes.   

"This content can be surprising and potentially offensive when shown to users without warning," the message states. "So, we'd like a better idea of which screenshots you have of your content that can be shown to a broader audience, and which screenshots should just be visible on your store page for users that are interested in investigating further." 

To be clear, this does not signal the end of bullshots, or the creative geniuses who make them happen. Images such as awards, Deluxe Edition packaging, or other marketing materials still have their place: Valve just wants them in "the specific spaces already available on your store page to put that content," rather than mixed in willy-nilly with screenshots. The most interesting aspect of the new policies may be that they appear to be driven as much by coming changes to the Steam storefront as by concern for consumers, as Valve urged publishers to make the requested changes "to take full advantage of the new store once it's live." 

To demonstrate that it's serious, Valve used one of its own games, Dota 2, as an example "of where we were doing it wrong ourselves." The store page entry has now been changed, and the screenshot section now contains nothing but screens. 

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.