With the long-awaited destruction of the broken dam of garbage that was Steam Greenlight, Valve is hoping to vastly improve the state of the internet’s biggest gaming download service. On the surface, lots of problems stemmed from Greenlight and it’s poor curation policies. But that isn’t the only issue, the sheer volume of “asset flip” games that existed purely to make a quick buck regardless of quality made what community curation methods that did exist next to useless. As even when these games were quickly swamped with negative reviews, they began banning, or even suing, critics and loading their reviews with fake positive feedback.
Valve is also announcing a process that will allow them to streamline the Steamworks API and other integrations for developers to help smooth this transition into a new era.
Valve are making a serious effort to fix these issues. The first major change from Greenlight to Direct is that games now require a $100 refundable fee per game submitted. Various quality assurance processes to avoid problems like malware-injected games and missing EXE files are also being addressed by Valve’s revamped review policies concerning new games.
If you’re interested in submitting games, check out the process here. The process itself is fairly simple, and exists in three phases, as Valve detailed in a blog post announcing the launch of Direct.
Digital paperwork. We need to know about the person and/or company that we will be doing business with. So the digital paperwork includes all the expected information such as company name, address, and contact information. There is also a brief tax and identity verification process that a developer will need to go through once to get set up.
This inclusion of contact and tax info is standard, along with most of the other aspects of the Direct process.
The app fee. There is now a $100 recoupable app fee for each application to release on Steam. Steamworks developers will pay this fee once as part of the initial paperwork, which will unlock the first appID. Once all the paperwork has been completed, and the developer is set up in Steamworks, additional appIDs may be purchased for $100 each. This fee for each appID is returned in the payment period after that game has at least $1,000 in Steam store or in-app purchases.
The threshold for a refund on the submission fee highlights the fact that Steam submission may be easier, but that promotion of your games is now more vital than ever.
Review processes. Building a release pipeline to support thousands of developers and millions of customers is a delicate balance. We specifically don’t want an onerous and detailed certification process that makes it difficult for developers to release games, but we also want some level of confidence that games are configured correctly and aren’t going to do unexpected things to customers’ computers. So we have a couple of brief review periods where our team plays each game to check that it is configured correctly, matches the description provided on the store page, and doesn’t contain malicious content. These processes shouldn’t take more than a day or two unless we find something configured incorrectly or problematic.
This is likely one of the more vital parts of the submission process. The number of times broken games or incomplete shovel ware has been seen on Steam is the last two years is staggering. Valve really need to make serious changes if they’re going retain both developer and customer confidence in their service. A lot of the reaction to the creation of Steam Direct has been understandably cynical. Plenty of users think that Direct will do little to stem the tide of low-quality games on Steam, even when coupled with the incoming community curator changes.
One interesting tidbit Valve included in their announcement was an acknowledgement that a sizable portion of the junk on Steam was motivated by abuse of Steam Trading Cards to turn a profit. They hope that the per game fill will stem the ride of this abuse, and depending on the scale of the problem, this may be a silver bullet to some degree.
All in all, some quite-big changes to the way things work. However, it might be a few weeks until we see exactly what effect this has on the legions of consumers loyal to Steam.