Steam, and the Diffusion of Platform Power

2017-10-25T14:57:04+00:00September 26th, 2014|Musings|

We’ve spent some time with Steam’s new update, and overall, it feels like an improvement. What’s notable are the ways in which Valve’s solution for improving discovery once again relies on users. Granted, there are critical differences between this week’s changes and previous efforts: greenlighting and tags relied on community activity to work, but the role of the individual was minimal.

The new update upends that. From Steam curators to the revamped recommendation system, each user’s decisions now have a significant impact on the home page content they see. That definitely makes the space more fun to explore. It’s not perfect, but there’s a sense of balance between what Steam decides everyone should see and your own customized storefront. The algorithmic content is demonstrably influenced by your choices, a feature that could certainly enhance other digital marketplaces.

For the moment, I think we’re most curious to see if the Steam Curators page will simply be a place for established voices from outside Steam – journalists, successful developers, and the ever growing cast of online gaming personalities – to bolster their influence even further, or whether that platform can evolve to foster its own influencers from within. We’ve come to recognize the power a Twitch/YouTube streamer with even a couple thousand (or fewer) subscribers can wield. Can Steam’s community produce something similar? Will we be reaching out directly to individual Steam influencers within the next few years?

And what then? As TotalBiscuit noted, at some point, someone will offer a curator money for a featured spot on their list. Is Steam prepared for its users to become targets for outreach? The implications of these questions leave a lot to be considered going forward.