Latest Steam Labs experiment improves Steam Search further

Martin Brinkmann
Apr 23, 2020

Valve improved search on the Steam gaming platform this year when it rolled out new search filters and functionality that it launched as one of Steam Labs experiments initially.

The company added much needed filtering options to search which customers could use to narrow down search results. Filters included options to narrow down by tag, price or preference, e.g. to only display VR games that costs $20 or less on the platform, or to only display matching games that were tagged with a certain tag.

Valve's latest experiment on Steam Labs aims to improve search further; this time, the company aims to improve searches that use the tag filter. Steam supports thousands of tags which are added to games by developers to better categorize them on the platform. One of the issues with that approach is that multiple tags may exist that mean more or less the same, but may not have been added to a game by a developer. Take the tags RTS, Real-Time, and Strategy for instance. Steam's current search won't find a game that is only tagged RTS if a user searches for Real-Time + Strategy.

Another example: if you search for 3D + Platformer, you get less results on Steam as if you would search for 3D Platformer.

steam-tags search query expansion

The latest experiment takes tags of games and also matching tags into account when users search on the platform. With the search update, related tags are automatically included regardless of the tags that a user specified when running searches on the Steam platform.

The developers have decided to take a cautious approach to the search extension to avoid that unrelated games are returned when users run searches with tag filters. While Action-Adventure implies Action + Adventure, and Strategy RPG, Strategy + RPG, Fantasy does not imply Magic, and Strategy does not imply Turn-Based the company notes.

Steam users who want to try Search with Expanded Tags on Steam may point their browsers to this Search URL to test the new functionality. As is the case with all experiments, there is a chance that it is included natively on Steam in the future but also a chance that it is removed again without native implementation.

A conservative approach makes sense in regards to expanding search tag queries as Steam users would probably be up in arms if results would be filled with lots of unrelated games.

Now You: do you use Steam? What is your take on the platform's search function?

Latest Steam Labs experiment improves Steam Search further
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Latest Steam Labs experiment improves Steam Search further
Valve's latest experiment on Steam Labs aims to improve search further; this time, the company aims to improve searches that use the tag filter.
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  1. chesscanoe said on April 25, 2020 at 2:09 pm

    I am not a gamer but a knowledgeable friend tells me the Steam concept started back in the 90’s he thinks. as a way for the gaming company “Valve” to distribute its games online and it was so successful that pretty soon just about any software package that someone wanted to distribute reliably online and reliably get paid for it started listing their stuff on Steam and it’s by far the #1 online software distribution platform… it’s still mostly about games no doubt. I look forward to finding Space Engine there. It used to be free, but now is fee and frequently updated.

  2. Dave said on April 23, 2020 at 7:24 pm

    They should just give in and use the bing or google api like everyone else. It’s what I use to find games anyways.

  3. Anonymous said on April 23, 2020 at 2:19 pm

    so much buzz about simple stuff that should have been naturally included from start.
    reason i guess: backend performance limits.

    1. Zoltan from SteamPeek said on April 24, 2020 at 10:08 am

      It seems quite simple, but doing it right is quite a challenge. I was experimenting with this – called it “stepping out of the taste bubble” – but it is really risky: when you try moving a bit different style games into the search results you can’t avoid pushing down really relevant results, and if those bit different games are not that good, the end user experience will be “bad search”. With so many games out there it is a good thing in theory, but very hard to do it right, just compare the results:

  4. Yuliya said on April 23, 2020 at 2:15 pm

    Steam search is so terrible, sometimes I can find a game on their web site, but can’t find it inside their client. For instance a while ago the search would not find “tomb raider rise”, so I had to search just for “tomb raider” and find Rise in the sea of results provided. smh

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