Steam Labs, the storefront’s test bed for new features, has revealed Experiment 4.1: Query Expansion.
The experiment focuses on tags. Those are the signifiers attached to every game on the platform that lets potential buyers know about the genre and content of the game.
“In this experiment, Query Expansion, we improve Steam Search by treating tags more like a human would: using logic! Take the three tags RTS, Real-Time, and Strategy, for instance. If a game is tagged RTS but not Real-Time and Strategy, a search for Real-Time + Strategy won’t find that game using Steam’s existing Search tech. Query Expansion fixes that,” reads the announcement for this feature.
From the examples provided in the announcement post, it seems that the experiment wants more searches to pop up when you’re using multi-word tags. The illustration focuses on 3D platformers where the search “3D” plus “platformer” will return different results to simply “3D platformer”. With query expansion, the sum of these two searches will instead be provided.
Expanded Queries are also a step towards a larger problem of some games having less tags than others, which hurts their ability to appear in searches.
This information is also pertinent for developers hosting their games on Steam, as understanding how exactly tags and searches work together can only improve visibility on the store.
If you fall into that camp or simply want to dive into the information about how this feature works, make sure to read this post, especially the “how it works” section.
Expanded Queries are not live on Steam as of yet, but anyone can poke around with the new feature here. If you do make sure to leave feedback about the experience, and you can return to the old search function by clicking on the “BOO-O! Leave the experiment” button in the top right corner.