Valve has announced a new section for its Steam digital distribution platform, dubbed Steam Labs, in which it is making several proposed interface and functionality changes available for public testing.
Valve's Steam platform is by far and away the most popular digital distribution service for games, thanks in no small part to an aggressive marketing campaign which included making it mandatory to play the company's much-anticipated first-person shooter Half-Life 2 - to the point where the physical release came with a disk empty of any data except an installer for the Steam Client. With increasing pressure from rival platforms, in particular the Epic Games Store, Valve is looking to build new functionality to retain consumer interest - and it's letting the public play around with via a new feature dubbed Steam Labs.
'Behind the scenes at Steam, we create many experimental features with codenames like The Peabody Recommender and Organise Your Steam Library Using Morse Code,' the company explains. 'For the first time, we're giving these works-in-progress a home called Steam Labs, where you can interact with them, tell us whether you think they're worth pursuing further, and if so, share your thoughts on how they should evolve.'
Morse Code enthusiasts will be disappointed to hear it didn't make the cut for public release, but Valve has confirmed three initial experiments for the Steam Labs tab: Micro Trailers, which place six-second trailers for multiple games on a single page to make rapid browsing easier; The Interactive Recommender, which uses a machine learning algorithm - rather than review scores or human curation - to recommend titles based on a user's top-played games, then offers interactive sliders to adjust how the algorithm works; and The Automated Show, a half-hour video running through the latest Steam title launches.
The three experiments are available now on Steam Labs.
February 27 2020 | 11:00