While I was out at PAX and Seattle, Valve released the new Steam Greenlight initiative.
The problem Greenlight is trying to solve is approving titles for sale on Steam. Previously (and currently), titles would have to be manually vetted and approved by Valve in order to be distributed on Steam. This is OK for more established outfits, but there’s an increasing volume of titles that aren’t represented by established publishers/developers, flooding the system. Some titles were rejected even when released on console platforms.
Greenlight gives a different avenue for vetting title submissions. A developer/publisher posts information about a title they want to release on Steam. If enough unique registered users of Steam vote up the title, Valve will release the game on Steam. This allows Valve to process more submissions with smaller effort on their part. Ultimately reducing the risk of a title slipping though the cracks.
At release, the barrier of submission was simply to fill out the submission with a valid Steam account. This created a flood of fake, copied, or obscene submissions. As an attempt to create enough of a hurdle for submissions, Valve now requires a $100 submission fee for enabling an account to submit. To be clear, it’s a fee for any number of submissions from one account and not reoccurring. This fee will go directly to Child’s Play (which I also have a connection with via Ümloud!). For the sake of this discussion, how the money is used is irrelevant.
Ben Kuchera of The PA Report wrote an editorial about the $100 fee as exclusionary and wrong. It’s the value amount that he expressed his concerns:
If the fee were lowered to $10, the effect of weeding out the trolls would continue, and the amount of people that could participate in the process would be exponentially widened. It’s still a long shot, and you still have to muster community support and have a good game. In fact someone emailed me to suggest a mandatory playable demo would do much to help remove the trolls, share more information about games, and remove the financial barrier. Even if they could raise the $100 fee, it would be better spent on rent or equipment.
The $100 price point is pretty common across other gaming platforms, but Steam is actually cheaper in the long run. Apple requires a $99/year fee for iOS, another $99/year for Mac Store. Xbox ‘Creators Club’ charges $99/year. Steam is $100 period. As far as platforms to sell games on, Steam pretty accessible and inexpensive. The real trick is the cut you get per sale, which I don’t have all the numbers available on Steam. Though it’s hard to argue with a one-time fee vs. an annual fee. Can this fee be lower? Sure. I would also think that Valve used the metics from banning players of multiplayer games and recreating accounts.
The question posed to users is “Would you buy this game if it were available in Steam?” The “Yes” button figuratively would be a buy button. Greenlight is not Kickstarter and no money is transfered. A developer would do better to present later in their schedule to have screenshots and the important video for the submission. Greenlight is geared towards the later end of a production schedule. After you figured out a budget, even if that budget consists of an game engine licensee.
A developer using Greenlight developer is asking to sell a product, regardless of your background. With all due respect, this isn’t Newgrounds.com. Submitting to Greenlight is during your work into a commercial product. Of all the venues out there, Steam Greenlight is the least expensive storefront to place commercial games. The $100 may have been a quick fix for the over-flooding problem — and I hope it’s continued to be re-evaluated as time goes on. What I can say is that Steam Greenlight is lowest bar of entry for commercial game stores. And that makes me happy for the state of independent development.