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In the name of the algorithm, Valve nerfs Steam Trading Cards

In the name of the algorithm, Valve nerfs Steam Trading Cards

May 16, 2017 | By Alex Wawro

"The problem is that these games damage something we care about a lot, because it affects all our players - the Steam Store's algorithm."

- Steam blog post outlining Valve's new limits on the Steam Trading Card system.

As part of its ongoing efforts to revamp Steam, Valve today published a blog post outlining how the platform's Trading Cards system will be withheld from games until they reach a certain "confidence metric."

What this means for devs varies on how important the Trading Cards system (which first debuted in 2013) is to your business. Even if you don't care a whit about Cards, it's interesting to see Valve's breakdown of what's at stake if the system isn't corrected: Steam's core game recommendation algorithms.

The cutback is explcitly aimed at making it harder for "fake developers" to make money by gaming Steam's Greenlight system to get illegitimate games up on Steam, then generating thousands of keys and setting up bots to idle in said game generating Trading Cards that are then sold on the Steam Marketplace.

"These Trading Card farming games produce a lot of faux data, because there's a lot of apparent player activity around them," reads an excerpt of the blog post. "As a result, the algorithm runs the risk of thinking that one of these games is actually a popular game that real players should see."

Going forward, devs can expect Steam to change Trading Cards so that they only begin dropping for your players once your game hits that aforementioned "confidence metric." At that point, Cards will be enabled and players who have already logged time playing your game will receive the corresponding drops. 

What that "confidence metric" is has yet to be publicly disclosed -- Valve says only that rather than relying on Steam Greenlight as a measure of what games belong on Steam, the "confidence metric" will be "built from a variety of pieces of data, all aimed at separating legitimate games and players from fake games and bots."

Of course, the company has already announced plans to end the Steam Greenlight program later this year in favor of a fee-based game submission system.

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