Thoughts

[44/365] Red Light For Greenlight

If you’re into PC gaming, chances are you know what Steam is. If you don’t, Steam is a platform for publishers to put out their games on PC – most AAA studios publish on Steam (unless they have their own platform, like BioWare with Electronic Arts’ Origin and Ubisoft with Uplay), and some small-time game devs do so too. It’s arguably the widest-reaching platform to showcase your game, given how many people on this planet use it, so understandably game devs (and ‘devs’) would take advantage of it; the result being be an influx of games both good and bad on the market. How do you deal with game devs putting up their game en masse with no regard to its quality on Steam?

The answer to that was Steam Greenlight, a system that uses popular vote to see if a game is worth putting up on Steam or not. If there’s enough support for your game, chances are it’ll be approved to be on Steam. If the crowd says nay, nay it is. There have been supporters and detractors of Steam Greenlight; there’s always an issue with popular voting – what makes it popular, and is that factor enough to ensure that it’s a good game? What happens if a game with questionable content becomes extremely popular during its Greenlight trial run? Would Steam pull it off the digital shelves like it did with Hatred (only to reinstate it on Greenlight the next year), or would it pander to the crowd’s whim? There’s a lot of questions about it, but for the most part I personally thought Greenlight worked adequately in policing new game material.

Valve didn’t think so, evidently, as they’ve announced that they’re shutting down Steam Greenlight and replacing it with Steam Direct – instead of deciding if your game is good enough for Steam via public support, Steam Direct now has game devs paying a fee to Steam and signing some electronic paperwork to have their game published on the platform. It’s said to run the game through ‘a cursory check‘ to see what operating systems it runs on and also establish game content, but ultimately the system focuses more on getting the game out there as opposed to Greenlight’s monitoring of the game before its release.

In other words, before you had to show the target crowd that you’ve got something decent on your hands before you could have a chance of publishing it. With Steam Direct, you pay a fee, it goes through a little background check, and wham it’s on the platform. What’s left is just getting people to play it, but that’s your deal.

Honestly, it doesn’t make much sense to me for Steam to be claiming Steam Direct an improvement of Steam Greenlight in terms of making sure only quality games make it on the platform. You’re isolating small time indie game devs who may or may not have the capital to make it past your fee (slated to go anywhere from $100 to $5,000), and there’s no guarantee the games will be of quality. There’s the issue of shady financing targeting struggling devs who aren’t capable of getting their games on Steam due to the fee, and ultimately with features like user reviews after the game is launched, there’s basically little to no monitoring of the game’s quality pre-release, and that negates everything Steam Direct claims to be doing as a replacement for Steam Greenlight.

Reactions among game devs have been varied, but personally I think it’s weird. But I’m not a game dev, just someone who pays attention to these things, but what do I know?

Are you a game dev or interested in game development? What are your thoughts on Valve killing Steam Greenlight and replacing it with Steam Direct? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

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