Steam bans bullshots: Valve calls for developers to post actual gameplay screens

By Brenna Hillier
2 November 2016 05:12 GMT

Steam store pages must show real screenshots moving forward – not optimistic promotional materials.


Steam developers have been notified of a new requirement for product pages: real screenshots.

Valve made the gently-worded request in a developer-facing Steamworks post, which was shared on Facepunch and shown to Polygon, among others.

“We ask that any images you upload to the ‘screenshot’ section of your store page should be screenshots that show your game,” the developer wrote.

“This means avoiding using concept art, pre-rendered cinematic stills, or images that contain awards, marketing copy, or written product descriptions. Please show customers what your game is actually like to play.”

Valve pointed out that developers have other slots on Steam product pages for non-screenshot materials, and made good on its own rules by tidying up the Dota 2 Steam product page to show screenshots rather than character art.

As for why this is happening now, Valve said it hasn’t been “super crisp” on guidelines in the past, and decided to “clarify some rules”.

“When the ‘screenshot’ section of a store page is used for images other than screenshots that depict the game, it can make it harder for customers to understand what the product is that they are looking at,” Valve said.

“Additionally, we’re going to start showing game screenshots in more places, and these images need to be able to represent the game.”

There are plenty of games on Steam with concept art, wallpapers and other promotional materials in screenshot slots, but of course given the timing everyone has narrowed in on No Man’s Sky.

The promotional No Man’s Sky screenshots distributed far and wide, including on the Steam product page, show a few things nobody has ever found in game. The false advertising case against No Man’s Sky pretty much calls them bullshots, showing off a better quality of graphics than even super rigs can obtain.

At time of writing the No Man’s Sky steam product page had not been updated with new screenshots, but then again it’s unlikely many developers have actioned Valve’s newly clarified rules yet. (Boy, I wish I hadn’t wandered over there, actually. Recent Steam user reviews are “overwhelmingly negative”. Ouch.)

There’s a long tradition of bullshots in video games marketing. Trailer stills and concept art posted as screens are the most egregious examples, but they’re also usually pretty easy to spot. More insidious is the practice of touching screens up in post, which goes over most onlookers’ heads. It’d be cool to see an influential platform holder like Steam come down on the latter practice, but don’t hold your breath; it’d be almost impossible to enforce.

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