Valve Bans Game Awards and Review Scores From Steam Listing Visuals

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An upcoming Steam update will prohibit developers from adding award and major review scores to their games’ primary visual assets. 

According to Valve, developers have gradually prioritized their titles’ various accolades in Steam banner images (officially referred to as capsule images). This has resulted in cluttered visual assets that confuse potential customers when shopping for their next favorite game. Rather than allowing the eye to take in a game’s name and general design, these jam-packed capsule images often contain multiple review scores, impressive review quotes, and award information.

While some seasoned Steam users might have learned over time to tune these out, others tend to find the award and review information cluttered. That goes doubly for listings in which award and review information obfuscate the game’s story, theme, or purpose. (It reminds me of flipping over a paperback to read the blurb on the cover, only to find a bunch of reviews from The New York Times instead. Like, what is this book even about?)

In a blog post covering the update, Valve argued some developers were even adding inaccurate or heavily outdated scores to their games’ visuals. When that’s the first thing a prospective customer sees, it makes sense that the company would want to take another stab at its capsule image guidelines. 

Valve employee Claire Hummel made fake game art to find as Easter eggs during the Steam Summer Sale, and those are apparently the images Valve has chosen to illustrate its new rules with.

Valve’s new rules will roll out Sept. 1, 2022, and will cover a number of capsule image limits. “Content on base graphical asset capsules on Steam is limited to game artwork, the game name, and any official subtitle,” Valve says. Developers will no longer be able to add review scores (including those garnered on Steam), award information, or discount marketing copy to their titles’ capsule images. They won’t be able to advertise wholly separate products in a game’s capsule images, either. Valve has even included a “No other miscellaneous text” rule, likely to prevent developers from finding a roundabout way to include the aforementioned information. 

Valve is willing to make an exception to the last rule for specific, time-limited cases. Developers will be required to submit a temporary “Capsule Artwork Override” if they want to quickly inform customers of a recent game update or a seasonal event, and even then, restrictions will apply. Most notably, developers will need to localize the image’s language (or set of languages) to match the language(s) used in-game. (This is reportedly to avoid the longstanding issue of marketing material being in English, even when the game is played in another language.) 

Games found out of compliance with the new rules after Sept. 1 “may have limits to visibility within the Steam store,” Valve says. Uncooperative developers may also have their games removed from official Steam sales and events.

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