Valve is making a big change to the way developers can market their games on Steam. Beginning September 1st, graphical assets developers use in their store listings will only be able to include game artwork, the game’s name, and any official subtitle. Images won’t be able to include review scores, award names or logos, text that markets discounts, or text promoting a different product.
The new rules could prove to be a drastic shift for some developers, as they may rely on reviews or awards on their images in an effort to stand out from the humongous number of games available on Steam. Even some developers of well-known games will have to make changes — while writing this article, I saw promotional images of Hades and It Takes Two on Steam that featured awards.
Here’s Valve’s reasoning for the changes, from a blog post:
It’s our goal to make it as clear and straightforward as possible for customers to find games to buy and play on Steam. Recently, we’ve noticed more text, award logos, and even review scores being included by game developers in their graphical asset images. This made us realize our guidelines haven’t been as clear as they should be. As a result of not having clearly-defined rules, we’ve seen additions to graphical assets that are creating a confusing and sometimes even inaccurate experience for customers.
For example, some game logos themselves have become so small that it’s hard for players to tell what the name of the game is. In other cases, graphical asset images are so cluttered with award logos and ratings that it is distracting and hard to read. Some capsules include review scores that are no longer accurate. We also see that in most cases this additional text on assets is presented in English language only, isolating much of the Steam audience that doesn’t speak English.
And Valve argues that review quotes, scores, and awards have dedicated spots on Steam store pages where developers can still include that information. But you might not see those if you’re just browsing through Steam in search of something new to play.
Valve isn’t entirely banning text on assets; 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. But any text you include will have to be localized into the languages that your game supports. You can read Valve’s full documentation here.
This isn’t the first time Valve has laid down a mandate with big ramifications for developers. In 2018, after some controversy about what games should and shouldn’t be allowed on Steam, Valve said that it would allow “everything” on the store except for “things that we decide are illegal or straight up trolling.” Valve has also since banned blockchain games and NFTs. But the company has worked to improve its recommendations to help you see smaller titles you might like, which could help you see something new while you’re looking for your next game.