If you’ve ever bought a game on Steam, you’ll know that the games it recommends tend to offer very few surprises, honing in on the most popular games on the service. This is a circular problem: more people buy the most popular games, ensuring more recommendations, and newer games that might be right up your alley struggle for oxygen.
Well now Valve believes it has tackled this problem once and for all, via “several algorithmic changes and bug fixes” that should make the recommendation engine both “more precise and more diverse.”
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“We found some bugs, such as the ‘Similar by Tags’ section of the Recommendation Feed, which had a bug that top-rated games (a category that doesn’t change very often) were driving too much of what players saw. We changed that,” the company wrote in an announcement introducing the change. “We also found that in some places our timescale used to calculate popularity was too narrow, resulting in unpredictable visibility for some games. So we expanded the time period we use in those calculations.”
As a result, Valve completely revamped the games players would be shown. This isn’t the kind of big change that the company would drop on its millions of users without testing, so 5% of players have already been guinea pigs to the new algorithm, and the results are pretty impressive.
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“As it turned out, customers in the experiment group were more likely to click on the games shown in the recommendations section, at a rate almost 15% higher than the control group,” the post continued. “The increased personalisation means there is an even greater variety of games being shown in this section, and customer impressions are more evenly distributed among them.
“To get a feel for the breadth of titles that were being visited, we measured how many games members of the experiment group visited via the ‘Recommended For You’ section compared to a sample of customers who were not in the experiment for a few days. The results were very promising: we saw a 75% increase in the number of unique games visited, and a 48% increase in the average visits per game.”
“It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, but by increasing qualitative specificity and showing a wider range of titles, more customers found things they didn’t know they wanted,” the post concludes.
Suffice it to say, the results are positive enough that the company has felt confident enough to roll the changes out to players worldwide. Load up Steam, and you might be surprised by the games you didn’t know you wanted.
What do you think of the new recommendations for you? Let us know what you think on Twitter: @TrustedReviews.