The Steam sales-tracking website Steam Spy was presumed dead recently after Valve updated the gaming platform’s privacy defaults which caused creator Sergey Galyonkin to believe the site unrecoverable. That view has turned out to be a bit hasty as Galyonkin has announced the site will be back up, but will be less accurate thanks to Valve’s security updates.
Previously, Steam Spy estimated a game’s sales by trawling the lists of publicly available Steam profiles and looking into their game libraries. Valve blocked that technique back in April by making users’ profiles no longer show which games players own. The new version of the tracker will use machine learning to predict sales based on “coincidental data.”
From Kotaku‘s report:
In a blog post, Galyonkin explained that he’s in the process of switching Steam Spy over to a model rooted in machine learning. He confessed, however, that despite a wealth of data to feed his algorithm, it’s “not very accurate” at this point.
“I have the data for around 70 games from different developers, and for 90% of them, the new Steam Spy is within 10% margin of error,” he wrote, pointing out that the site’s estimate for Frostpunk (252,000 units sold) was basically on the money (250,000 units sold). “But I also saw some crazy outliers, where the difference between the estimates and the real data could be fivefold.”
If there’s a chance the data could be that inaccurate, why bring Steam Spy back at all? Galyonkin credited his decision to “over 200″ messages from developers explaining how Steam Spy impacted their operations. He mentioned an indie company from Berlin that got government funding for its game with the help of Steam Spy’s data, and though he didn’t name the developer in the post, he told Kotaku that it was inbetweengames, creator of noir tactical game All Walls Must Fall.