Back in October Valve announced a multi-part overhaul of Steam's curator system, aiming to solve some of the issues faced by both players and developers. One of the more major changes is Curator Connect, which takes aim at the widespread problem of key-scamming – whereby nasty types pretend to be YouTubers, streamers or journalists (i.e. popular curators) and get hold of game keys, which are then re-sold. Essentially it's about creating a more direct channel between developers and curators and thereby, hopefully, squishing the scammers.
The feature has been in a closed beta for many weeks, but this morning appears to have been pushed out to all Steam developers – after an initial tip, we confirmed with two other developers who now have access. While the backend of it is only available to Steam developers and curators, us punters will start to see a difference too, as the Steam store more widely displays recommendations from curators that you might like. Yes, that does sound a bit questionable – but it also addresses the issue faced by smaller curators, who under the current system are buried somewhere in the store's nether regions, and rarely seen by many players.
The change will also let curators embed videos, collect together their reviews in groups (e.g. 'my favourite FPS games' but more interesting), personalise their home page a little more, and access more data about people who are following their recommendations (in the sense of, 'how many people take my recommendations seriously enough to splash out?').
For developers this should make it easier to find specific curators, the ones who might like your style of game, by applying various criteria through the 'tags' applied to any given game – then the developer will also be able to see that curator's actual reach and any linked social accounts. The biggest change, though, is that after this the developer will be able to send game keys direct through Steam to that account, alongside a short sales pitch. If it works as planned, this will certainly make life tougher for the fakers, and good riddance.
I asked our tipster what they thought of the changes, after they'd had a chance to fiddle around: "I believe it will help a lot because it makes it easier to possibly reach more users directly on Steam. The only thing I'm missing so far or can not see in the system, is a way for the curators to contact us developers (for feedback for example). It's pretty much a one way street where you send out your keys with a message and then hope. I can see if a request gets accepted and if a review has been written, but that's it."
Over the years Steam has grown into a monopoly position over the PC games market, and so any change to it is big news for everyone. Valve gets a lot of criticism for features that aren't as good as they should be, and rightly so, but you can't say it doesn't try to solve problems. The effectiveness of these changes will have to be judged over the coming weeks and months, but we'll be keeping an eye on how it affects the Steam experience for normal users as well as the industry types.