Steam Greenlight, the service that lets players vote on which products they’d like to see available on Valve’s popular storefront, is being removed this spring in lieu of a new system that will put products directly on shop.
It will be called Steam Direct.
Greenlight has long been a source of ridicule and trouble for the service. With the vast majority of new titles, and nearly half of all Steam games, having been titles pushed through the Greenlight service in 2016; it has caused a lot of users and critics to question the usefulness of Greenlight as well as the overall quality of games on Steam. After all, it is no secret that many of the games on the platform are low-quality shovelware. Most readers will be aware of the drama these titles cause, for example the Digital Homicide saga revolving around crappy games pushed through Greenlight is a prime example of these problems.
The hurdles developers face as a result of the failures of Greenlight are also driving the push for a better alternative. The unpredictability and long wait times endemic to the service have soured many developer’s attitudes. And when the problems with access are combined with Steams market dominance, the situation quickly forces developers into a situation where not having their game on Steam will all but destroy chances for financial success. As mentioned previously, the deluge of low-quality new releases is also a hindrance here. The way Steam displays new releases means that the window of visibility a new developer has is shrinking exponentially. And as any developer will tell you, the best opportunity for sales is the short window after release of a new title.
Another major reason to replace Greenlight also has to do with the size of Steam as a service. It’s just become too difficult to curate all the new content being added to the service. Another change to Steam policy is it’s application fee. Previously, a $100 fee would allow developers to submit theoretically infinite numbers of titles. Under the new system, Valve with charge higher fees, and assess fees on a per title basis. The primary goal here is to stem the tide of meme-laden idiocy and other dreck flooding Greenlight.
Valve plans to remove the hurdles caused by Greenlight and replace them with a more simplistic and direct path to getting a title on Steam. A QA phase will remain for all apps, but it will largely function to ensure apps actually work and are virus-free. Don’t expect a comprehensive QA process from Valve anytime soon.
“Just in the last year we’ve brought 16m new users to Steam,” said Valve’s Tom Giardino, who noted that these new users come from all over the world and seek different types of experiences.
“One of the things we’ve seen is that as the number of developers from a country grows on Steam, the number of customers from that country also grows. It’s hard to say if that’s causation or correlation, but we’re seeing a lot of really encouraging growth in new areas,” he added. “We have more and more customers who have broader tastes, so looking back at 2012 or 2013, we probably missed good games and didn’t make perfect decisions then and there’s no way we could make good curation decisions for all those different customers now.”
The fear of removing Valve as a gatekeeper is that the market will get flooded with dreck. To this, Giardino said that quality is subjective.
“It’s actually really hard to define accurately, across the board, like ‘bad games’, [i.e.] games that are bad to everyone all the time. Or good to everyone all the time,” he said.
“The customer who has 25 visual novels in their Steam library is really hoping we release more visual novels, whereas the person with a bunch of other types of games will never buy a visual novel no matter what happens. So those customers are just looking for different things.”