Valve is making a big change to the way developers can market their games on Steam. Starting September 1st, graphic assets that developers use in their store listings will only be able to include game graphics, the game’s name, and official subtitles. Images will not be able to contain assessment results, award names or logos, text promoting discounts or text promoting another product.
The new rules could prove to be a drastic shift for some developers, as they may rely on reviews or ratings for their images in an attempt to stand out from the vast number of games available on Steam. Even some developers of famous games will have to make changes – while writing this article, I saw promotional images of Hades and It takes two on Steam which contained prizes.
Here’s Valve’s reasoning for the changes, from a blog post:
It is our goal to make it as clear and easy as possible for customers to find games to buy and play on Steam. Lately, we’ve noticed more text, reward logos, and even rating scores being included by game developers in their graphics. This made us realize that our policies have not been as clear as they should be. As a result of not having clearly defined rules, we have seen additions to graphical resources that create a confusing and sometimes even inaccurate experience for customers.
For example, some game logos themselves have become so small that it is difficult for players to tell what the game is called. In other cases, images of graphic assets are so cluttered with award logos and ratings that it’s distracting and difficult to read. Some capsules include rating points that are no longer accurate. We also see that in most cases this additional asset text is only presented in English, which isolates much of the non-English speaking Steam audience.
And Valve claims that review quotes, scores and awards have dedicated spaces on Steam store pages where developers can still include that information. But you might not see these if you’re just browsing through Steam looking for something new to play.
Valve doesn’t ban text on assets entirely; you can still include a game’s title or subtitle, and in one example in the blog post, the company encourages using text in artwork to promote a new update or content for your game. However, any text you include must be localized to the languages your game supports. You can read Valve’s complete documentation here.
This is not the first time that Valve has dropped a mandate with major consequences for developers. In 2018, after some controversy over what games should and shouldn’t be allowed on Steam, Valve said it would allow “everything” on the store except “things that we decide are illegal or outright trolling.” Valve has also since banned blockchain games and NFTs. But the company has been working to improve its recommendations to help you see smaller titles you might like, which can help you see something new while you’re looking for your next game.