Steam’s useless ‘Upcoming Releases’ list embraces algorithms to become less useless

There was a time, not that far in the past, where I used to assemble PCWorld’s video game review calendar from Steam’s “Upcoming Releases” list. We’re talking 2013, maybe 2014. Even then, there was a lot of trash—this was post-Greenlight. But it was a manageable amount of trash, and the unfiltered Upcoming Releases list was a great overview of each month’s releases.

As Valve ramped up the number of releases though, the Upcoming list became increasingly useless. How useless? According to Valve, “The old Upcoming list was only clicked on by less than half of one percent of customers.” Turns out an unfiltered look at the games coming to Steam each week is a great way to realize how much trash Valve’s hands-off approach is letting through—not to mention the fact that some games continually moved their release dates in order to sit on the list each month.

Steam - Popular Upcoming IDG / Hayden Dingman

And so, as with seemingly everything else in Steam, Valve’s now moved the unfiltered Upcoming Releases list to a nether realm and replaced it with an algorithm-driven “Popular Upcoming” list. It works similarly to the “Popular New Releases” list, except instead of sales data it works off wishlists, pre-orders, and “a developer’s or publisher’s past titles.”

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Valve’s also folding in some of its user-tailored data. If you click on the “See more upcoming releases” button you’re taken to a more personalized page that, from the announcement, “will make suggestions based on your unique interests and show you what’s coming to Steam in a much more digestible format.”

In other words: It should be marginally more useful. Browsing the “Popular Upcoming” list this morning I see games like Outpost Zero, Tempest 4000, and Fear the Wolves, while clicking on the old “All Upcoming Releases” button unleashes a demon from whatever layer of hell involves asset flips.

It’s small change, but one that could have a large impact—mostly on indie developers trying to drive pre-release hype. Now there’s one more target to aim for.

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