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Steam’s Recommendations Will Now Show Popular Games Less Often

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SteamedSteamed is dedicated to all things in and around Valve’s PC gaming service.  

Last October, Steam’s algorithm briefly went haywire, filling users’ “More Like This” recommendation sections with popular games while negatively affecting under-the-radar indies who needed the exposure. At the time, Valve chalked this up to “a bug” which it said it corrected, but smaller developers complain that Steam’s recommendations have continued to let them down ever since. Now Valve says it’s changed recommendation sections to de-prioritize bigger games and focus more on personalized selections for individual users.

Valve began its announcement post by admitting that recommendations had some issues. “Previously, when customers would look for games by browsing the recommendation feed at the bottom of the homepage or the ‘More Like This’ sections, they weren’t seeing as many different games as we would’ve liked,” the company wrote. “Furthermore, we were receiving lots of feedback that ‘Recommended for You’ felt too biased towards only the most popular games and didn’t feel very personalized.”

So Valve went on a bug hunt.

“We found some bugs, such as the ‘Similar by Tags’ section of the Recommendation Feed, which had a bug that top-rated games (a category that doesn’t change very often) were driving too much of what players saw,” Valve wrote. “We changed that. We also found that in some places our timescale used to calculate popularity was too narrow, resulting in unpredictable visibility for some games. So we expanded the time period we use in those calculations.”

These changes should now be available to all Steam users. Valve tested them on a small segment of users prior to launch and found that the fixes resulted in users clicking on recommended games more often and visiting the pages of a greater number of individual games.

“In these changes, ‘Recommended for You’ became less biased towards popular games, and showed games that are more relevant to individual customers,” Valve wrote of the algorithm test. “As it turned out, customers in the experiment group were more likely to click on the games shown in the recommendations section, at a rate almost 15% higher than the control group. The increased personalization means there is an even greater variety of games being shown in this section, and customer impressions are more evenly distributed among them.”

There was also a 75% increase in the number of unique games visited, and a 48% increase in average visits per game compared to a control group with the prior popular-game-loving, Mountain-Dew-chugging version of the algorithm.

For years now, Steam has had trouble surfacing smaller games to users who might be interested in them. This has frustrated indie developers, many of whom now see potential success on the platform as a crapshoot even if they generate a fair amount of buzz around their game pre-release. Recommendations have been an especially big thorn in developers’ sides. Between this algorithmic change and experimental new tools like an AI that scans your playtime and helps you figure out what to buy next, it seems like Valve is finally making a concerted effort to minimize the problem.

Valve believes these early results signal a change for the better on Steam.

“We’re encouraged by these results and have now rolled them out to everyone,” the company wrote. “We continue to make changes and run experiments like this in order to improve Steam’s existing features, while we also explore entirely different ways for customers to find games they love.” 

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5 ways phone gaming will get better, thanks to new Qualcomm chip

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Mobile gaming is picking up some new desktop gaming tricks for better gameplay overall.


Angela Lang/CNET

Two digital pinballs roll slowly across the screen, one a dull grey blob, the other a dynamic orb with light and shadow dancing off its surface as it rolled. This is one demo Qualcomm used this week to show off how its new 5G chips for 2020 — the Snapdragon 865 and 765G — will upgrade gaming on your future phone. 

Built for high-end devices, the Snapdragon 865 chipset contains the lion’s share of the new features, which you should expect to see on phones like a future Samsung Galaxy S11 or LG G9. Meanwhile, the Snapdragon 765G is a midprice 5G chip made just for gaming phones, a distinction from the regular Snapdragon 765 that should help nudge more phones for gamers into the market.

Mobile gaming is an enormous business, and growing every day. Fortnite had nearly 250 million players around the world in March 2019, according to Statista. Esports viewers will surpass every pro sports league by 2021, and 80% of gamers in China will pay more for a gaming phone according to Qualcomm. 

We’ve already seen gaming phones such as the Razer Phone 2 and Asus ROG Phone II help push the demand to bring desktop gaming benefits, which include higher screen refresh rates that make graphics smoother and software modes that keep the focus on the game, to mobile. 

Here’s how gaming on phones can look more like desktop gaming.

5G rendering speeds for premium and midrange phones

Any phone in 2020 that uses either the Snapdragon 865 or 765G chips will work with 5G networks, and that’s good for gaming. 

Faster speeds mean you’ll be able to download large game files faster, and it’ll also make real-time gaming possible. You might even gain an advantage against cloud gamers on 4G, who will be hampered by slower reaction times. (The 765G’s Adreno 620 GPU renders graphics 10% faster than the standard 765.)

Snapdragon 865 supports 5G speeds up to 7.3Gbps, while 765G supports up to 3.7Gbps downloads over 5G.

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A demo phone with Snapdragon 865 inside powers this digital pinball machine.


Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

Up to 144Hz screen refresh rate

Higher-than usual screen refresh rates are starting to hit the mainstream, thanks to support for 90Hz displays in the Pixel 4 and OnePlus 7T, and 120Hz screens in the Asus ROG Phone II and the Razer Phone 2. 

That means smoother graphics rendering and faster response time for gameplay, which promises to make the experience smoother overall. Snapdragon 865 will support up to 144Hz display refresh rates, which is a first for mobile and the gold standard for desktop, Qualcomm said, especially among competitive gamers and eSports players.

Qualcomm added that PUBG Mobile now has a 90fps gaming mode that’ll roll out soon, after working with Qualcomm to optimize the refresh rate.

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The Pixel 4 and OnePlus 7T both use 90Hz refresh rates on their displays.


Angela Lang/CNET

Unoptimized games get a graphics makeover

There are a lot of engines baked into Snapdragon’s Elite Gaming platform to make games look their best, like adding support for over 1 billion colors and 10-bit HDR gaming. 

But for games that aren’t designed for such high-resolution graphics from the ground up, Qualcomm’s chips aim to automatically enhance the graphics’ colors and details on all games running on Snapdragon, without having to make changes to game code. 

One example is Lineage II: Revolution, which has made over $1 billion in revenue and commands an average of four hours’ gameplay in a single session. In the demo we saw, playing on Snapdragon 865 changed the fast-paced action and scenery from blurry and glassy to saturated and sharper just by enhancing the color, which in turn helps differentiate details.

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Lights and shadows

Let’s return to pinballs bouncing around the screen. Snapdragon’s gaming suite is designed to apply desktop-level depth of field, dynamic lighting, shadows and motion blur to make the little details more immersive and realistic.

In addition, a new hardware feature, called Adreno HDR Fast Blend, can accelerate the rendering of particle effects such as fire, snow and smoke, which use up a lot of resources to process well. This tool helps squeeze out those details quickly and accurately, without churning through battery and overheating your phone.  

Get driver updates straight from Google Play

PC gamers can update their drivers frequently, to fix bugs, and also boost performance. Being able to update individual GPU drivers wasn’t possible on Android, but a partnership with Google has made it so. 

You’ll soon be able to download drivers from the Google Play store, starting with Qualcomm’s app, called Adreno GPU Driver. You’ll be able to access those drivers after you’ve had your phone for awhile, not only just after it’s launched.

Qualcomm announced a heap of other news this week, including how Android R will let you store a digital version of your driver’s license, and support for phones with 200-megapixel cameras.

Originally published earlier today.

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