After years of controversy and criticism, Valve’s finally pulled the plug on Steam Greenlight. In a community post from 10th February 2017, UI Designer for Valve Alden Kroll announced that the system originally designed to help developers get their games on Steam would be replaced in spring 2017 by Steam Direct.
Whereas developers previously had to pay a $100 fee before submitting their game to a vote from steam users, Steam Direct will require developers to fill out a series of forms Kroll likened to setting up a bank account in addition to paying a recoupable fee ranging on as low as the $100 of Steam Greenlight to as high as $5000, though no definitive amount has been revealed.
I’ll preface my thoughts here by saying that I don’t really have anything all that fresh to offer. For a more insightful take on the closure of Greenlight, I’d highly recommend checking out the work of Jim Sterling (God knows he’s been neck deep in the very worst the service had to offer). Suffice to say I’m glad its going. Whilst Greenlight did allow some genuinely good games onto Valve’s previously exclusive storefront, it also contributed to Steam’s chronic oversaturation (40% of Steam’s entire library was released in 2016 alone). Furthermore, by allowing the community to effectively act as gatekeepers to Steam’s storefront, Valve effectively delegated the task of curation of its own storefront to the consumer.
Another major problem with Greenlight was its low bar for entry. You’d think a $100 fee would be sufficient but unfortunately it seems the world harbours a lot of rich idiots. This, combined with Valve’s shocking lack of oversight resulted in a deluge of broken and unfinished products, asset flips, meme-laden non-games and in some cases literal fucking hate speech being allowed to peddle their shit on Greenlight. Given the sheer volume of games that flooded Greenlight, it beggars belief how Valve expected consumers to wade through the swamp and pick out the games with any semblance of promise.
So the question now is will Steam Direct be any better? Only time will tell but I have my concerns. First, Valve’s recoupable fee. Granted the numbers they quoted were based on feedback from developers but they’re troubling nonetheless.
As Greenlight demonstrated, $100 has proven no barrier to those who think that think that including the latest meme du jour in their shit game allows them equal footing with developers who actually care for their craft. Yet $5000 is utterly unreasonable, especially when one considers Greenlight’s original intention was to allow smaller developers access to Steam. I’m also apprehensive about some of the language in Kroll’s post. Curation is only referenced twice, both in relation to Steam’s exclusive pre-Greenlight era, whilst one of the main impetuses behind Steam Direct is to streamline the process of getting games onto Steam. This raises questions as to what kind of quality control Steam Direct will incur, though its promising that Kroll states Steam wants to create a “welcoming environment for all developers who are serious about treating customers fairly and making quality gaming experiences”.
But like I said in the beginning, Valve’s closure of Greenlight a positive step forward. It was a fundamentally broken, barely regulated system which rewarded charlatans as opposed to the small developers it was intended to help. Now if Valve would start releasing games again, that’d be grand.