Steam Greenlight, introduced back in 2012, was a direct change enacted by Valve to combat increasing fears of exclusivity of the platform. Before the introduction of the more community driven vetting process, Valve would individually curate and decide on what games made it to their Steam distribution platform. The result was a lack of varied titles, especially from the independent games movement, and the reality that smaller, experimental games would never make it onto the world’s biggest storefront.
Steam Greenlight changed that by putting the onus on players, allowing Steam users to vote on projects without requiring a monetary investment. The first few years were great – many smaller titles rose to the surface, and one could easily see Greenlight as the reason as to why certain genres returned, and previously smaller franchises made it big. In more recent times though, things have worsened. Asset flipped games and broken titles manage to pass the voting process, while actual participation in the system has decreased drastically.
It’s also not acted as the community-driven gatekeeping Valve may have wanted. In 2016 alone, over 4000 games released on Steam, many of which came from Greenlight and Early Access programs. The process was simply not working anymore, and as a result Valve is making a change. Greenlight is going away, instead replaced by Steam Direct – a more to the point, but financially confusing program to keep the wheel turning.
Instead of a flat, once-off $100 fee to get all your games on Greenlight, Valve will now charge developers anywhere between $100 to $5000 to enable their game to appear on the platform. A small quality assurance test aside, this will be the only barrier of entry for developers now, although Valve themselves are still gauging how much they really want to charge. That’s likely going to be the sticking point though. Too high a price will exclude many developing regions (it makes local development, for example, suddenly far more expensive), as well as making it prohibitive for students. Too low a price, and the idea of fixing community-based curation flies out the window entirely.
It’s something Valve needs to detail as they move closer towards their next big step, as the company attempts to remedy the growing problems Steam has as a platform. But it’s a cautious time too, and one that will certainly shape independent development in particular for the years to come.