Does Valve Still Have Some Steam Left?
Via Kotaku- As part of an ongoing attempt to improve the state of its premier digital distribution platform, Valve released an outline of improvements made to Steam over the course of 2018 as well as a glimpse of things to come in the near future. The post made a point of of illustrating the numbers of daily and monthly users as well as the peak number of concurrent players, all of which ran into the tens of millions. Though none of this is particularly surprising considering Steam has by far the largest library of games in comparison to any other platform, so throwing around these numbers isn’t really saying much outside of “look we’re still the biggest kid on the block!” 2018 also marked the year that Discord launched its own game store as a potential competitor, while at the same time other platforms continued to build their libraries of exclusive titles. The news that The Division 2 would be available for download on the Epic Games Store but absent from Steam was especially telling of the current state of the platform. Steams place at the top of the PC gaming food chain has been more or less uncontested for the last 15 or so years, and during that time they have had little incentive to change all that much for better or worse. But now there are more digital distributors than ever before and Steams obsolescence is starting to become more obvious.
Some of the improvements highlighted in the post include the implementation of community comment moderation, being more conscious in the removal of “troll games” from the store and, most importantly, much more efficient customer service. The company has supposedly resolved over 44 million support tickets over the course of last year, a massive improvement compared to previous years which is something I can attest to personally. Several years ago my account was compromised and after nearly a month of back and forth messages with a representative who could take days at a time to respond, my issue was finally resolved. Needless to say it left a sour taste in my mouth that still nags me to this day. It’s good to see that some development is being done in this sector but they still have a long way to go before my confidence is fully restored.
In terms of Steams plans for the future, there are a number of potential changes forthcoming on the platform. Among them include improvements to the Steam Store which will provide players with more appropriate game recommendations based on their interests as well as other quality of life improvements. Also mentioned are intentions to rework the Library and build it around the newly implemented Steam Chat and an event system which keeps track of any interesting activities taking place in your favorite games. The launch of Steam China, a mobile app, Steam TV support and new anti-cheat measures were also all mentioned as part of their future efforts. However, for my money one of the best things Steam can do right now is to make some major improvements to their user interface. It’s essentially been unchanged since launch and is definitely in need of some serious streamlining. It’s hard to say what the future of Steam will be as it’s virtual monopoly begins to become less indisputable, but what is certain is that Valve can’t resort to their typically glacial pace of implementing features. If they are going to try to start making changes then they need to make that effort soon if they want keep ahead of the curve.