Steam is possibly the most popular platform for discovering games on PC, but it's not immune to the occasional shovelware — an infallible, inevitable detriment of a platform espousing a certain level of freedom like Steam does.
A decade ago, Steam was a marketplace with careful and persnickety curation, in fact so clean a venue for games that there was an understated assurance that each title that went up for sale will not disappoint. That has changed over the years, as more developers spanning the spectrum of inexperienced to professional have found their entrance to the platform without much challenge.
Though still flecked predominantly with gaming gems, Steam has become all too potent with crapshoots and underwhelming titles. Collectively, they dampen the caliber of the platform to a level of mediocrity no one will ever be pleased about. But to offset this, Valve did tinker with a number of resolves: namely the "discovery" section and the decision to ditch Steam's frail Steam Greenlight program in favor of Steam Direct, which comes with a steep fee, so as to presumably weed out the boorish and amateur developers from the more serious ones.
Of course, such measures still weren't enough. So Steam is collaborating with some of its harshest critics, Jim Sterling and John "TotalBiscuit" Bain for instance, to patch up what's widely called as the service's "discoverability" problem, as Ars Technica notes. This, of course, refers to the challenge of finding good gems on the Steam platform amid the shovelware that shows up from time to time.
To attempt to fix that issue, Valve has come up with a new system, called "Steam Explorers," or people who'll play their way through queues after queues of poorly selling undiscovered games and then flag which games they love to give them a boost in the overall rankings. The changes were described to Sterling and Bain during a meeting at Valve's headquarters, the key points of which Kotaku has already summarized. To keep it short, Steam Explorers is essentially a two-tiered revamp of the Curators Program, poised to occur around the launch of Steam Direct.
Any Steam user may sign up for the Explorers program, and it will come with its own set of forums for sharing titles and setting up multiplayer matches. Explorers, when coupled when Steam's algorithm for discovering games, is meant to bring out little known titles that deserve consideration, but as many have already remarked, it runs the risk of falling into the same vote-hacking woes Greenlight had.
A Revamped Steam Curator Program
Launched in 2014, the Steam Curator program is getting a major overhaul. Curators will soon have the ability to make top 10 lists and embed their own gameplay videos. In addition, game developers will be able to reach Curators directly via Steam, which comes as a solution for several instances of fraud that have happened in the past.
Finally, Curators will receive insights and analytics regarding how their links affect sales of the games they touch, and by extension, these curators may be given kickbacks if they prove active and influential enough. However, this kind of rewards system has not been officially disclosed, so it's not very clear how it'll work, if indeed on the cards.
Of course, these features aren't set in place yet, and there's ample chance that Valve might tweak them as it goes along the route of fixing up Steam's discoverability problems. But Valve has to hope that whatever it's cooking up will be a crucial first step in cleaning up the platform while giving lesser-known titles increased visibility.