Steam's "Popular Upcoming" List is Getting Exploited by Developers

Valve's discoverability features are once again not working as intended.


Steam's "Popular Upcoming" List is Getting Exploited by Developers

Valve is once again under fire over Steam's discoverability features, with Mike Rose, the founder of the publisher No More Robots, revealing that that Steam backend is being exploited to give more coverage to specific titles. 

In short, developers are exploiting a quirk in the Steam back-end that allows them to appear more often in the "Popular Upcoming Releases" section of Steam, taking the place of games that should legitimately be on that list. This prevents many upcoming games from being noticed by Steam's user base, which is very bad for small developers. 

The exploit uses the release date section of the Steam backend, which can be changed to any value without appearing anywhere else on Steam. Please note that this is not the same release date that is listed on the Steam Storefront, which means that the Steam can think that a game is releasing this week when in reality it could be releasing much later. 

Steam's "Popular Upcoming Releases" list uses two metrics to define what's placed on the list. Wishlist numbers and release dates, adding any game to the list that meets a specific threshold in order of release date. At this time there is nothing to stop developers from constantly having their game set with tomorrow as their backend release date, exploiting the system in the process. 

In effect, the Steam backend can be exploited to think that a developer's game is releasing very soon, giving it priority ranking on the "Popular Upcoming Releases" section of Steam. This takes spots away from games that are legitimately releasing soon, which is bad news for the developers who aren't trying to game the system. 


Having your game listed on the front page of Steam remains a big deal for developers, who often rely on the extra publicity to make a success of their game. This is especially true for smaller Independent developers. 

Mike Rose has specifically called out the developers of Cooking Simulator, claiming that "by simply changing their release date each week, they get tons of new traffic/wishlists to the page", calling the practice "a completely dishonest way to use the system". 

At this time a Valve employee called Tom Giardino has acknowledged the problem, but it does not seem like there are any immediate plans to address the issue. In Giardino's words, Valve is "are trying to fix it in a way that makes Upcoming Releases more valuable without hurting games that wish to shift their release date."
You can join the discussion on game developers exploiting the Steam backend with fake release dates on the OC3D Forums

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