Remember those “experiments” that Steam Labs is conducting? It’s been awhile since we last talked about them, but it was basically a beta testing system for new features on Steam that users could opt into or not, depending on their interest in whatever’s being offered. Most of the new features are for making the great mass of games on Steam more manageable, through better recommendations or more flexible ways to browse.
The new Store Hubs experiment that went live today does a little bit of both by giving category hubs a visual overhaul that makes them easier to browse. It also incorporates a “rich recommendations carousel” that features “new, top-selling, and discounted” games that Steam’s recommendation system algorithmically curates.
Rather than just a list of games, the rich recommendations carousel “features more metadata about each game, including tags, release date, and review score, plus a large presentation of the game’s micro-trailer,” a feature that emerged from one of the first Steam Labs experiments.
The overhauled store hubs will also provide information on news, updates, and upcoming events from the developers of games in your library, on your wishlist, or in your recommendations. “Tag-driven recommendations” are also incorporated into the news hub, as are filtering tools that enable sorting by new releases, trending, top selling, top rated, discount amount, game features, tags, or, you know, whatever.
To see the new store hubs in action, head over to the Steam Labs page, scroll down, and mash the “Join the Experiment” button. That’ll drop you into one of the new store hubs, which are definitely flashier than the old design. A series of featured games splash across the top of the screen with game info, tags, recommendation reasons, and trailers blasting away in the background, followed by easy-to-parse lists of games based on various categories: wishlist, new releases, “coming soon,” and so forth.
A list of games similar to what’s offered on Steam’s current store hubs follows all of that, with all kinds of filters so you can really drill down on what you want. Say, for instance, you’re looking for a physics-based comedy 2D precision-platformer with multiple endings, a level editor, PvP, and co-op multiplayer: Let me introduce you to Hoplegs, a November 2021 indie release that I discovered by selecting filters at random until I ended up with just one single game.
I’m not a big Steam browser, and my backlog is so big that the last thing I need is recommendations for even more good stuff to play. That said, this looks like a meaningful upgrade to the storefront, and I expect that people who do like to browse will find it quite useful. The good news is that if you try it and don’t care for it, it’s easy to switch back: Just click the “Steam Labs Experiment 13” button just below the Steam store search field, and it’ll switch you back to the old style.