The launch of the Epic Game Store has provoked a great deal of frustration and unhappiness from gamers who have felt forced to use a store with far fewer features than what Steam offers. At the same time, however, the EGS is forcing Steam to compete in ways the company has previously ignored. Valve has announced that it will be overhauling the way games are displayed in Steam, improving discoverability options, and making it easier for users to discover in-game events they’d like to participate in.
Steam has used more-or-less the same library layout since its inception:
You get a list of titles in alphabetical order (you can display icons next to each title if you want, but it’s never been very useful). The list is difficult to parse if you have tons of titles and a high-resolution monitor. Contrast that with the Epic Games Store:
The Epic Game Store offers a different layout with larger images for each game, as shown above. (It also offers the option to list titles in the same way Steam does, albeit centered and with a larger font.) Either way, fewer titles are displayed on-screen at any given point, but the list is easier to parse overall.
Steam’s new layout is shown below:
Going forward, Steam will have a new library experience for players to use, as shown above. The open beta launches September 17. “The goal here is overall just to help players find the next game that they might want to play,” Valve designer Alden Kroll told Polygon. “This is a number of different ways of surfacing things that are in that player’s library that might give them a reason they may want to play that game right now.”
There are new ways to organize games into collections. You can drag and drop titles into collections and create filters to classify and categorize them. You can organize by play order, by store tags, genre, and various features. You can create dynamic collections to filter games according to your own decided-upon criteria, and PC games you buy will be added to your library in accordance with whatever categorization scheme you’ve defined.
Developers will also have new event tools to notify gamers of in-game events. While Valve has offered these tools before, they’ll be centralized and standardized now, to hopefully improve their visibility. The events tab will also include certain changes that prevent developers from abusing it, however — no repeatedly changing your launch date to keep a game in ‘Coming Soon,’ for example. Which updates you see will be linked to which games you play already, to avoid players simply being buried in game spam. With some players owning hundreds to thousands of games, even occasional events could wind up burying players in spam if they were simply transmitted without some type of filtering.
Polygon has additional details on changes coming to Steam, including new experiments intended for Steam Labs. While not all players have been happy with the Epic Games Store, it’s no accident that we’re finally seeing Steam make changes to its sclerotic UI after the EGS debuted. Competition in a market almost always leads to better outcomes and experiences for customers in a host of ways, though it can take time for those advantages to appear. Hopefully, the long-term impact of the EGS will be better gaming experiences for players and storefronts competing to carry developer products.