New Steam Policy Requires Developers To Include Real Screenshots On All Game Pages

Valve is looking to crack down on developers and publishers prioritizing concept art over actual game screenshots to show off their games. The company hasn't been all that clear on its rules for screenshots, so it sent out a message clarifying its guidelines and expectations when it launches what it is calling the "Discovery 2.0 Update," an upcoming overhaul to the Steam UI.

Steam Dota 2

The main complaint is that filling the screenshot section of a game with concept art can be confusing or even misleading to customers. Valve itself wasn't immune to the practice. Holding its own feet to the fire (and leading by example), Valve updated one of its own games, Dota 2, to show other publishers "where we were doing it wrong ourselves." Dota 2's product page on Steam now shows a bunch of in-game screenshots rather than a series of artwork.

Here's a chunk of the full text Valve sent out on using actual in-game screenshots.
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. 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.

We ask that any images you upload to the 'screenshot' section of your store page should be screenshots that show your game. This means avoiding using concept art, pre-rendered cinematic stills, or images that contain awards, marketing copy, or written product descriptions. Please show customers what your game is actually like to play.

For elements such as marketing copy, awards you'd like to show off, or descriptions of your Deluxe Edition, we ask that you use the specific spaces already available on your store page to put that content rather than including it in your screenshots.

Dota 2 is an example of where we were doing it wrong ourselves. We're now in the process of updaging Dota 2 to use screenshots of the game rather than artwork.
There hasn't been a ton of controversy over the screenshot section being abused in Steam, though there was a brouhaha associated with No Man's Sky, which seems to have prompted the change in policy. Many accused Hello Games of false advertising over broken promises in No Man's Sky, along with using marketing materials that were two years old to sell the game. While Hello Games did include actual screenshots, they showed features that didn't make it into the final game.

The new rules are basically a ban on "bullshots," a term coined by Penny Arcade in 2005 to describe a marketing image that doesn't represent what the actual in-game content looks like. Valve's updated policy doesn't mean you won't see bullshots ever again. As indicated in the text, publishers can still use them, Valve just wants them to appear in the designated section of their product page and not in the screenshot section.

It's also interesting that Valve didn't say it would actively police images uploaded to Steam, so it remains to be seen how effective this will be and how vigorously Valve plans to enforce the rule.
Tags:  games, STEAM, Valve