Steam inventory levels boom in 2014

Valve's platform has added more new games since January than in the whole of 2013

The number of games available through Valve's Steam distribution platform is climbing so rapidly that more games have been added in 2014 so far than in the whole of last year.

That's according to data gathered by Gamasutra, which highlights just how quickly Steam is losing one of the qualities that makes it so appealing to smaller developers. The saturation of product on app stores has been a significant issue for mobile developers for several years already, but Valve's platform offered a rarefied alternative environment in which more obscure titles could flourish.

However, with Steam Greenlight still in operation - the launch of Greenlight sits at the very start of this escalating trend - and Valve also adding games in large numbers, the cost to developers of doing business on Steam will climb in tandem with the size of its catalogue, just as it has on mobile platforms.

Steam is still a long way off the size of the inventory on, say, the iOS App Store (which has more than 200,000 active games), but there is genuine value in certain platforms using careful curation to give developers with limited marketing budgets an chance to prosper.

In a recent interview with Pocket Gamer, Mike Bithell, the developer of Thomas Was Alone, cited visibility as the main reason for obscure developers to steer clear of mobile.

"Stay off of mobile until you've built a name for yourself - indie games are given a far better time visibility-wise on PC and console," he said. "Hits certainly happen, but your odds are definitely higher on other platforms. Once a reputation is built up, it's easier to come back to mobile and actually get exposure."

And Valve is obviously concerned about Steam losing that aspect of its identity. At Steam Dev Days in January, Gabe Newell said that the company intended to phase out Greenlight in favour of an alternative solution, though no clear indication was given as to what that solution might be.

Greenlight was introduced, in part, to relieve Valve of the duty of assessing and approving the large number of games submitted to Steam every month. The company has discussed the possibility of custom storefronts - curated by individual users or companies - as a future for Steam, though that would seem to carry many of the same problems for smaller developers seeking to build an audience for their games.

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Latest comments (3)

Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 8 years ago
And here I was thinking this article was going to be about the enormous gifting/trading market using the Steam Inventory system.... Nope! :p
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Thomas Dolby Project Manager / Lead Programmer, Ai Solve8 years ago
Heh, I was thinking exactly the same, perhaps a little bit of a misleading headline given the context.

I don't have any kind of statistics to fall back on here, but I do kind of wonder how much discoverability is really being affected by Greenlight. The main way you get discovered on Steam is the front page, I don't have any experience with what goes on behind the scenes but I assume Valve doesn't just put you on the front page because they think your game is cool, I'm guessing there's some kind of way you can pay to be featured there considering how valuable it is to be put there.

For everything else, you basically get thrown into the the standard Steam catalogue. Now to me, this is mysterious foggy territory, for a very long time browsing through the game lists has been an awful way to find games. It's really the equivalent of page 2 of Google search results. No matter how many pages there are, whether you're on page 2 or page 32 it isn't going to make any difference to how likely you are have your game bought by me. I don't think I've ever just searched through there and found a game and bought it, it's always been through seeing it on the front page or having already known about the game from elsewhere.

If anything discoverability should be getting better, Valve have introduced tags now which should make searching for games you're interested in easier, and there are now more spaces for promoted content on the front page than ever before. I certainly don't see random 5 minute Unity games being promoted on the store.

For me, my experience for finding games as a Steam customer hasn't changed a single bit since the launch of Greenlight, I now just have a much larger range of games to choose from. I know this is anecdotal but I wonder how many other people have the same experience. I just find it hard to believe that all those pages at the back where no-one looks anyway really used to be the gold mine of discoverability that people seem to be claiming. It's always been about the front page, Steam promotions and your own marketing campaigns, and that hasn't changed.

Was being put on Steam before Greenlight with no promotion at all really any more successful than it is now? I'd be quite interested in seeing the figures.
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 8 years ago
I don't think I've ever just searched through there and found a game and bought it, it's always been through seeing it on the front page or having already known about the game from elsewhere.
I would agree with you here, except when it comes to the named sales. Having almost everything on some sort of discount during the Summer and Winter Sales means I'm more likely to take a chance on something random. Unfortunately, finding something random is damn hard. I think Valve need to drastically improve the client UI - which will in turn help discoverability - since it's far easier to look through the store on a browser (with the ability to open new tabs), than it is on the client. And asking your customer-base to use something which is in many ways worse than Internet Explorer is... a bit much really. :p

(Side-note: It's also interesting to note the features which Enhanced Steam brings to the store when perusing using Chrome/FF... It makes client browsing seem even worse.)

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 16th May 2014 3:19pm

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