Steam's massive update details reward points, custom animated profiles

Over the past year, Valve has laid the groundwork for the addition of multiple new and improved features for its Steam client, the company’s widely adopted digital distribution platform.

Several new features have appeared in the Steam client's code over the past 12 months that will overhaul how users interact with the Steam Store, developers, curators, and each other in what might be the largest series of updates to the platform since its initial release. In what is typical of Valve's slow-burn style, users have gotten a peek at some of the basic features through Steam Labs, Valve's way of testing beta features like the Interactive Recommender, Steam Events, the News Hub, and others over the past several months. Steam's upcoming features are likely just the start of Valve's desire to bring Steam into the future.

Animated profile avatars coming to Steam

In the days of RGB keyboards, cosmetic loot boxes, and weapon skins, Valve is woefully behind the times in terms of a user's ability to customize their time inside the Steam client. The developer who brought skins into the mainstream with Counter-Strike: Global Offensive has strangely few options for its users to customize their profiles. That's about to change.

Valve’s ProfileV2, the name given internally to Steam's updated profile code, includes brand new items that will be likely be stored in the Steam section of a user’s inventory. The items include, among other things, animated player avatars and Steam profile backgrounds. Special profiles, similar special profiles, like the “Golden Profile” from Steam’s Lunar New Year event last January, should also make their return with the update when it releases.

But there’s more on the way to Steam than just customization options.

Valve to introduce Steam Loyalty points

Valve currently has prototype code in place for an unnamed Steam Loyalty program that will likely take the form of a points system. These points, potentially earned by spending money on the Steam Store, are referenced in several of Steam's layout files and in the Steam's own request system. Its presence there points to the potential ability for users to redeem the points for game discounts. Other files tie the reward points to upgradeable profile badges in addition to the customization options detailed above.

As with any code that Valve adds to Steam’s already massive client, there is the possibility that these features never come to a live release. But that doesn't seem likely in this case.

Most features that users never see are contained in just a few files as Valve toys with them internally. These features, however, are widespread. References to them exist all across the Steam Client, with mention of them in places ranging from the code that governs the Steam Friends system, its chat functionality, the Steam Store, profile layouts, and the Steam website. 

Whenever the update arrives, it should just be the start of Valve's overhaul of not just the Steam client, but the way it does business. Today saw the release of the third major Halo game on Steam, a big step for Valve given Microsoft's early commitment to its own Microsoft Store. Microsoft has seemingly given up on its own store and turned to Steam for its gaming distribution needs. It's interesting, especially considering that Microsoft now requires many programs, like the drivers for Nivida's graphics cards, to be distributed as applications through the Microsoft store. If the software giant has turned to Valve to distribute its games, then Valve clearly has their support. That's a big deal.

Valve most likely has more up its sleeve, from a possible move to an Xbox Game Pass-like subscription model to the probably port of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive to the Source 2 engine.

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