In a blog post today, Valve announced a number of plans on how they’d like to see Steam evolve in the coming months, which will remove Steam Greenlight, a service that has helped many indie dev get recognition and produce incredible games, but has also lead to a bloated market place of games that could be labeled asset flips, with little to no oversight. Steam Greenlight will be replaced by a new service dubbed Steam Direct.
Valve’s goal is to move closer and closer to direct distribution, which they see as their measure of customer happiness: The quicker they get better games to gamers, the better job they’re doing. Makes sense, and in many ways Steam Greenlight helped further this aim, but it also had it’s own issues:
Greenlight…exposed two key problems we still needed to address: improving the entire pipeline for bringing new content to Steam and finding more ways to connect customers with the types of content they wanted.
To solve these problems a lot of work was done behind the scenes, where we overhauled the developer publishing tools in Steamworks to help developers get closer to their customers. Other work has been much more visible, such as the Discovery Updates and the introduction of features like user reviews, discovery queues, user tags, streamlined refunds, and Steam Curators.
These improvements have allowed more developers to publish their games and connect with relevant gamers on Steam…Data [suggests] that we’re achieving our goal of helping users find more games that they enjoy playing.
We can’t disagree. Steam Greenlight may be at times tedious to wade through, and for every one fantastically made passion project, there are 5 asset flips that don’t even work, but it has helped many people find games that they truly enjoy.
To address these issues, Valve is doing away with Steam Greenlight this year and is replacing it with a new system they are calling Steam Direct:
The next step in these improvements is to establish a new direct sign-up system for developers to put their games on Steam. This new path, which we’re calling “Steam Direct,” is targeted for Spring 2017 and will replace Steam Greenlight. We will ask new developers to complete a set of digital paperwork, personal or company verification, and tax documents similar to the process of applying for a bank account. Once set up, developers will pay a recoupable application fee for each new title they wish to distribute, which is intended to decrease the noise in the submission pipeline.
While we have invested heavily in our content pipeline and personalized store, we’re still debating the publishing fee for Steam Direct. We talked to several developers and studios about an appropriate fee, and they gave us a range of responses from as low as $100 to as high as $5,000. There are pros and cons at either end of the spectrum, so we’d like to gather more feedback before settling on a number.
We see good and bad here:
First, the requirement of having a developer fill out paperwork to verify who they are before being allowed on Steam Direct seems entirely reasonable. Paperwork is a huge pain in the butt, sure, but Independent Game Development is a business as much as it is an art, and requiring verification in this way is a bureaucratic, but reasonable, step to clean up the marketplace
The idea of a paying a recoupable application fee for each game a developer is looking to distribute on Steam is where things get interesting and the stakes get higher. Undoubtedly, this will 100% reduce the “noise” in the submission pipeline, but Valve has a lot of power and responsibility in choosing how much this fee is going to be, and that number is going to have a big effect on the Indie game scene on Steam.
$100 doesn’t seem entirely unreasonable to me. It provides, like the requirement of paperwork, a test of seriousness in many ways for developers to the process. However, there is no guarantee at all that a monetary barrier to entry will keep out products that don’t meet the intended standard of quality. An application fee isn’t a replacement for quality control, even if it would have, in part, a similar effect.
The idea of a one the team needing to pay $5,000 dollars simply to get the chance to distribute one title on Steam is scary when you think about how many fantastic indie games have come out of the Greenlight process that would have never been able to afford this. There’s also nothing saying that a team that have decided to asset flip there way to quick and dirty sales won’t have the cash on hand to get through this step.
Like any major shift in the way things are done, there are pro’s and cons at play here. Personally, I’d love to see Valve air on the side of easier access and more freedom for developers to get there games out there. True, there is a very real problem on Steam Greenlight of simply being crowded with products that aren’t meeting basic standards, but I would hate to see the system swing too far the other way and shut out many developers that are making great passion projects that deserve to be seen and enjoyed.
Much of this rests on the final amount of the application fee, and we’re glad to see Valve waiting and getting community feed back before deciding on it.
Indie Game Developers, we’d really love to hear your thoughts on this. Let us know what a reasonable fee would be for you or if you think a fee is a detrement to the indie development community in the comments below