Steam's Discovery Update Tunes Recommendation Algo To Buck Sharp Decline In Game Sales
Steam has a big problem, and the problem is that game sales on its store are down significantly. To combat the downtrend in game sales Steam has launched what it calls the Store Discovery Update. The update has algorithmic changes and bug fixes for the store to "be more precise and more diverse" in how games are represented to shoppers in the Recommendation feed. The tweaks that Steam is making also impact the "More Like This" and "Recommended for You" sections.
Steam notes that before the tweaks were made, when shoppers looked at games in their recommended feed, they didn't see as many different games as Steam wanted. Steam also admits that it received lots of feedback that the "Recommended for You" section was too biased towards the most popular games and didn't feel personalized. To address the issue a bug hunt started.
A bug in the "Similar by Tags" section of the Recommendation feed was showing top-rated games, but section that didn't change often. The bug was driving too much of what players saw, so it was changed. Steam also found that the timescale used to calculate popularity was too narrow, so that was widened to improve the visibility of games. To ensure that the tweaks worked the update was shipped to 5% of Steam customers as a test in the past few weeks.
Steam says that in its tests, the group who saw the new update were 15% more likely to click on the games shown in the recommendations section. In measurements of how much the test group visited the "Recommended for You" section compared to a control group, the test group saw a 75% increase in unique games visited and a 48% increase in the average visits per game. Steam says these changes are now rolled out to everyone.
A recent study of the Steam Store by No More Robots found that sales of games on Steam are down 70% year-over-year. The study also found that developers are making about 47% less in revenue compared to a year ago. The study determined that the most sales of games on Steam are for titles at $21 or over and concluded that devs need to charge more for their games. It remains to be seen if Steam's store tweaks impact how well games are selling and what devs are making on the store.