Valve is making a big change to the way developers can sell their games on Steam. Beginning September 1, developers of graphics assets used in their store listings will be able to include only game artwork, the game’s name, and any official subtitles. Images cannot contain review scores, award names or logos, discounted text, or text promoting another product.
The new rules could prove to be a drastic shift for some developers, as they may rely on ratings or awards on their images in an effort to differentiate themselves from the mammoth 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 with awards.
Here’s Valve’s reasoning for the changes, from a blog post:
Our goal is to make it as clear and easy as possible for customers to find games to buy and play on Steam. Recently, we’ve noticed that game developers are incorporating more text, award logos, and even review scores into their graphic asset images. This made us realize that our guidelines were not as clear as they should be. Because we don’t have clearly defined rules, we’ve seen additions to graphical assets that create a confusing and sometimes inaccurate experience for customers.
For example, some game logos themselves have become so small that it is difficult for players to see the name of the game. In other cases, asset graphics are so full of award logos and ratings that it’s distracting and hard to read. Some capsules contain rating scores that are no longer accurate. We also see that this additional text on assets is presented in English only in most cases, isolating much of the Steam audience that doesn’t speak English.
And Valve states that review citations, scores, and awards have special places on Steam store pages where developers can still include that information. But you might not see those if you’re just browsing Steam looking for something new to play.
Valve doesn’t completely ban text on assets; you can still include a game’s title or subtitle, and in an example in the blog post, the company encourages the use of text in artwork to promote a new update or content for your game. But any text you include must be localized in the languages your game supports. you can read Valve’s full documentation here.
This isn’t the first time Valve has put down a mandate with major ramifications for developers. In 2018, after some controversy over which games should and shouldn’t be allowed on Steam, Valve said it would allow “everything” in the store except “things we decide are illegal or just trolling.” Valve has also since banned blockchain games and NFTs. But the company has been working on improving its recommendations to help you spot smaller titles you might like, giving you something new to see as you search for your next game.