Valve launches Steam Labs, focusing on experimentation

Yolanda Curtis
July 12, 2019

Automated Show - A half-hour video featuring the latest Steam launches. To keep it simple, this tool can be used by all Steam users to find out which game to play next. The best way for a developer to optimize for this model is to make a game that people enjoy playing.

Steam introduced a new "interactive recommender" today, dubbed, um, Interactive Recommender. But you can play with the settings as well to fine-tune things.

The micro trailers web page asks the query "What for those who may take in each sport on Steam in simply moments?" and reveals off a spread of trailers in numerous classes, like roguelikes, visible novels, and "dragons".

Valve is also launching a new machine-learning, neural network-based game recommendation engine called The Interactive Recommender that will suggest games from the back catalog over the last 10 years, or lesser-known games from the past six months, based on your play history.

Steam Labs is live right now on the Steam website. First, just like the YouTube thumbnails, the "classic" micro trailers play one at a time when you hover over them with your mouse. Micro Trailers can apparently be grouped, as well, so if you want to search for a new game in a certain category or genre, you can queue up a line of trailers and try to pick out something that appeals to you. This led to a situation where recommendations, in Valve's own words, "had the unintended side-effect of de-boosting tags in the "More Like This" section on a game's store page". However, if I weigh the popularity slider more towards niche, my results now include RAGE 2, the Dishonored: Death of the Outsider DLC, and Metro Exodus. This will be an interesting one to watch; if Valve can nail down your tastes and get you spending more money on games, look out. Today's show is 25 minutes-long, and shows off a bunch of big quad video-style clips of trending games, separated by categories and set to background music or game-specific voice-overs.

If Automatic Show proves successful, Valve says it might add multiple types of channels to cover different types of games: indie titles, hidden gems, and more. Micro Trailers are (as you might expect) ultra-short six-second game trailers.

As Steam points out, none of these features are final. Valve even points out that Steam Labs itself is an experiment, so the hub could change as new experiments are launched. Steam, which is now the largest PC gaming client, gives users recommendations on what to play next. Valve is seeking user feedback on the Steam Labs discussion board.

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