Something is going on with Steam developers.
Update: This article has been followed up on.
There are strange movements afoot on Steam among some indie developers and it’s manifesting in the form of games adding strings of keyword spam to their titles. I noticed this a couple of days ago where a couple of titles had altered their store names altered to include long strings of keyword spam and I’ve been keeping track of it ever since.
@valvesoftware is it possible to have mental wellness checks requested for some of your partners? pic.twitter.com/RWrS4fBlJh
— Connor (@mmofallout) July 18, 2021
In the meantime, a few other developers have jumped on board adding oodles of words to their game names that aren’t the actual names of the game. Effectively they are lumping on the keyword tags in order to make the game appear in more searches, thus boosting visibility. The boost in visibility steamrolls making the game rank even high in searches thus boosting its visibility even more.
While most developers so far are conservatively adding a few words to their titles, others have been testing far more egregious name changes such as the listing for The Impossible which appears to have just thrown in as much of the dictionary as it could fit.
It appears patient zero for this is publisher Excalibur Games, who altered their titles with the aforementioned keyword spam. Ranch Simulator for example lists as “Ranch Simulator – The Realistic Multiplayer Agriculture Management Sandbox; Farm, Harvest, Hunt & Build.” It should be noted that this name change happened in May 2020.
This was pointed out by developer Vilehead who posted a message openly about the “hack” by changing the name of their game Antumbra.
Only a few developers have latched on to this strategy and some have apparently already gotten cold feet and retracted the name changes. The number of developers participating however has ballooned in the last 24 hours, and has the potential to snowball as more people find out about it leading to a virtual shoving match as developers who might not particularly approve of this join in just to not get drowned out by those using this keyword trick.
I have already confirmed with several developers involved that this is actively being discussed on the private Steam developer boards. It should be noted that there’s nothing necessarily insidious about this strategy, given it’s mostly independent developers who have enough trouble as it is gaining visibility on the Steam front. That being said it could become a problem if the Steam store gets slammed with games all having the kind of ridiculous titles you’d mostly expect out of an anime game.
MMO Fallout will post an update if or when Valve addresses this.