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Valve Is Shutting Down Steam's Greenlight Community Voting System (theverge.com) 99

Valve's crowdsourced Greenlight submission program, which let the gaming community select which games get chosen for distribution via Steam, is shutting down after nearly five years. It will be replaced with a new system called Steam Direct that will charge developers a fee for each title they plan to distribute. The Verge reports: Steam Greenlight was launched in 2012 as a way for indie developers to get their games on Steam, even if they weren't working with a big publisher that had a relationship with Valve. Steam users would vote on Greenlight games, and Valve would accept titles with enough support to suggest that they'd sell well. Kroll says that "over 100" Greenlight titles have made $1 million or more. But Greenlight has also had significant problems. Developers could game the system by offering rewards for votes, and worthy projects could get lost amidst a slew of bad proposals. Since Valve ultimately made the call on including games, the process could also seem arbitrary and opaque. The big question is whether what's replacing it is better. To get a game on Steam Direct, developers will need to "complete a set of digital paperwork, personal or company verification, and tax documents similar to the process of applying for a bank account." Then, they'll pay an application fee for each game, "which is intended to decrease the noise in the submission pipeline" -- a polite way of saying that it will make people think twice before spending money submitting a low-quality game. Steam Direct is supposed to launch in spring of 2017, but the application fee hasn't been decided yet. Developer feedback has apparently suggested anything from $100 -- the current Greenlight submission fee -- and $5,000.
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Valve Is Shutting Down Steam's Greenlight Community Voting System

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  • Possibly good news (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 11, 2017 @05:28AM (#53845229)

    If you are a serious indie game developer, this may be good news. Hopefully this will reduce the amount of scams/shovelware/asset flips by 80%. However, there was a good side to Greenlight: cross-promoting a Kickstarter campaign with it was useful.

    If Steam does not put in place anything similar (for games that already paid the fee but are still developing), it can take a big hit for marketing of indie games.

    We are just in the middle of deciding whether to do our campaign before or after Steam Direct closes the gates... :-)

    • by Quakeulf ( 2650167 ) on Saturday February 11, 2017 @05:53AM (#53845263)
      As a poor indie-dev if I have to pay up to four digits to get my game out there it will not happen. I have already passed Greenlight once and sold over 20000 copies on Steam, but as I also have to charge very little for my games a $5000 entry fee would eat up a lot of its income. This could kill a lot of serious submitters as well. What I hope is that they do it like Android and to some degree Apple (they're dinosaurs now), with a lower submission fee but with more weight on accountability. Then again, if they make it easier for people to get exposed to your crowdfunding campaign, that would help too, because right now all I see is crowdfunding campaigns just to afford the entry fee.
      • by spire3661 ( 1038968 ) on Saturday February 11, 2017 @06:30AM (#53845333) Journal
        As I understand it, the application fee is recoverable through sales. Think of it more as a deposit.
        • 5000$ is a huge barrier to most people. You can't make up that money in sales if you can't put the money down in the first place.

          It's a sensible move for Valve to make, 100%, but it only pushes the games on nu-Greenlight to be more predictable and safe, and developed by the already-established or already-affluent. That's not a good recipe for strengthening games in the long run.

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            If you've got a title that is remotely marketable, any bank would approve a loan in that amount for such a purpose.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 11, 2017 @07:05AM (#53845389)

        Valve isn't real big on accountability, at least not when it applies to Valve. They want a system they can set-and-forget and that doesn't require human resources to supervise. On the other hand, they need to address the toxic garbage fire that the Greenlight has become. We aren't even talking about merely shitty games anymore, we are talking about lowlife scumbags a step below email SPAMers turning the storefront into a tragedy of the commons. Given those business priorities they don't have much choice but to increase the barrier to entry. They should have done it years ago.

        • Anything that involves letting the general public interact with your business model is fucking scary. How exactly is Valve -- or Apple, or Microsoft, or anyone else -- supposed to do that without going overboard in one direction or the other?

          If they exercise too much "accountability," as you put it, people will accuse them of being Nazi plantation owners who want to lock developers and customers alike into their walled garden. Not enough "accountability?" Then people will complain that their store is a g

        • but haven't they already enforced a payment fee some time ago?
          If that didn't stop the scammers before, then it's unlikely to make any difference this time.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        You're saying that as if indie devs have never published anything on their own before Steam became a thing....

        I get it, you can reach a wide audience through Steam. Yeah, I get it, you will no longer make a low effort game that 10 years ago you'd be able to play through for free on miniclip and sell it on steam to make money, but there's still things like itch.io or newgrounds if you wanna publish your games. There's a ton of different games that Steam won't allow on their service that get a lot of attentio

      • by EvilSS ( 557649 )
        They should do like other platforms do and require devs to have a publisher. That way indie devs don't have to pay a fee, and Valve doesn't need to take on the responsibility of reviewing every single game that is submitted to them.
      • Steam: publicise the risk, privatize the profit.

        Thousands of indie devs take the risk for multibillion corporation Valve

        Will this stop the scam games? Probably not. And Valve doesn't care since they make money on the scams.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 11, 2017 @07:07AM (#53845395)

      We're a mid-sized indie shop who has put two titles through Greenlight.

      This is fantastic news. Anyone who believes otherwise either has never had to go through the bullshit of Greenlight before, or is one of the shit-ware peddlers this is meant to filter out.

      If you believe in what you are doing, a $5k deposit is nothing. Do a kickstarter for it when you can demo a good playable product.

      Greenlight was terrible for indies. You were left in limbo for months not knowing if you would be able to pay employees soon, with a totally opaque approval process. The game you worked years on was lost in a sea of "Shower With Dad Simulators" made by children over the weekend.

  • I know you mean well Steam, but you're basically going down the "app store" route here by throwing unnecessary road cones in the way.

    Here's two simple things that can be done to solve the gaming of the system and the quality control.

    1. Specifically require QA milestones. If a project never makes it out of an alpha or beta state, it never gets to be priced as anything but free. Those testing the game must simply put a "I feel this milestones objectives have all been met" or "I feel this milestone has not bee

    • Making graffix for games is what takes the most time now, and most indie devs either make terribly scoped pixel platformers (99% total dev time on sprites), or whatever they can get their hands on/get around to pass as graffix to present their game in order to save time and money. There must be some leniency to this, as long as it is not stealing.
      • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

        From personal experience and what friends in the industry tell me, the biggest areas that need help are LOD artists and texture artists. There's plenty of mesh(static and moving object) makers even animators, if anything there's an over abundance of both. And that's because schools(inc. fly-by-night, and low-end schools) pushed the big "animation is where it's at!" stuff for years. But 2D artists and things like that? If you can colour, draw in a texture, and so on? You can basically take your pick of

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The problem is that Valve, while being a multimillion dollar international powerhouse, doesn't actually want to do any work on things like customer service or maintaining their store.

      So anything that actually requires a valve employee to check, vet, or in any way pay attention to their buisness just wont fly. The only thing they're interested in is seeing how much more money they can wring out of something. That's why they tried the abortive paid mods fiasco. That's why they're trying this.

      Look forward to n

      • by Kiuas ( 1084567 ) on Saturday February 11, 2017 @07:45AM (#53845467)

        The problem is that Valve, while being a multimillion dollar international powerhouse, doesn't actually want to do any work on things like customer service or maintaining their store.

        They don't want to do it because they don't need to do it because they're so huge. It's the same problem as with facebook: the inertia both FB and Steam got from being the first to deliver a service has launched them so far ahead in the market that they're pretty much indestructible at this point. I mean sure, there are competitors out there but steam is so far ahead above the others that they don't have to worry about losing their spot.

        Think about the fact that steam is the only thing that pushes ads onto my desktop from time to time. Then think about the fact that sometimes I've bought games from these ads if the discount is good enough. Valve knows the types of games I've purchased, what I've played, for how long, what kind of hardware I'm running, etc. They have pretty in depth stats about my gaming habits from the past 10 years. This information by itself is something that none of their competitors can ever have access to, and it's worth a lot to them. Targeted advertising is not just done on websites.

        They have taken advantage of this by building the sales/discount system so that even though pretty much everyone agrees that Steam's customer service and quality control are bullshit, most of us still end up using the service because of the value it offers. It's a sort of abusive relationship: we all know that the only way to teach Valve a lesson would be to stop using steam altogether and head to their competition. But people have to start steam to play their library of games, at which time it usually reminds you that this or that game happens to be 70 % off now, and sooner or later relapsing occurs.

        People don't really switch from Facebook to other similar competing social platforms because FB has their images, posts, and connections. Competition is difficult with both Steam and facebook because to efficiently compete with either of these you need access to at least some of the information currently only possessed by these companies, and they sure as hell are not going to hand it to you.

        • I mean sure, there are competitors out there but steam is so far ahead above the others that they don't have to worry about losing their spot.

          The competitors are not even close to being as competent as Steam, let alone to having the same size of library. I'm not the world's biggest Steam fan (have they finally implemented a robust download process for the initial Steam install? on a marginal connection, even getting Steam installed can be a nightmare) but holy shit, have you see Uplay? More likely U scream at Origin for being a bunch of incompetent dildos.

          • by sd4f ( 1891894 )

            Part of the problem is though, that steam has been quite anti-consumer. All the criticism levelled at MS over their concerns for windows 8, valve is guilty of with steam. DRM is available, it's not mandatory, but there's a lot of publishers whose only form of DRM is valve's own one, locking the game to steam, no matter where it's purchased. There was a period where it was quite restrictive as well, locking users out of the games. The only thing valve did to build good will was have very aggressive sales, bu

    • by Desler ( 1608317 )

      1. Specifically require QA milestones. If a project never makes it out of an alpha or beta state, it never gets to be priced as anything but free. Those testing the game must simply put a "I feel this milestones objectives have all been met" or "I feel this milestone has not been met" checkbox in order to move up the QA phase. If people complain the game lacks polish or is too difficult (or way too easy) then the developer must find a 95% percentile pass on difficulty.

      Are you naive enough to think this couldn't be easily gamef?

  • I really enjoy Jim Sterling's videos about Steam Greenlight. I guess now they will be consigned to history,
    • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

      Considering he's only an advocate when it doesn't have anything to do with his friends? Meh. If it does have something to do with his friends though? He'll be happy to look the other way and sometimes even shill for them.

      • Fuck friends, right? Prostituting for them, simply disgusting.
        • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

          Fuck friends, right? Prostituting for them, simply disgusting.

          Yes, because when someone claims to be a "consumer advocate" and standing up against that exact same corruption in the industry? Well we should just toss our ethics out the fucking window when it's "our" friends.

  • by rsmith-mac ( 639075 ) on Saturday February 11, 2017 @07:29AM (#53845431)

    Given that outside of the major publishers, Steam is treated as the de-facto marketplace for PC games, at first I wasn't happy with this move. But after giving it some thought, I think this is going to be for the better.

    Right now Steam is suffering from two major problems that, as a casual buyer, make the store unpleasant to use.

    • Straight up garbage games. These are games thrown together using stock or stolen assets, with no real development effort, all in the name of making a quick buck. It's the noise in the overall signal-to-noise ratio of the store.
    • An extreme case of overchoice [wikipedia.org]/analysis paralysis [wikipedia.org]. There's too many small cap games, exacerbated by the garbage game problem listed above. 38% of all Steam games were released in 2016 [twitter.com] despite the fact that Steam has operated as an open storefront now for several years. The number of games being introduced each year is growing, and consumers are having a hard time keeping up.

    To paraphrase from Ye' Olde Wikipedia: "Having too many approximately equally good options is mentally draining because each option must be weighed against alternatives to select the best one". Which really, is kind of a horrific concept because it implies that choice (and competition) is bad. But outside of AAA titles with large marketing budgets and immense brand recognition, most of the games in the Steam store are unknowns, so customers are coming in and facing too many choices without nearly enough information to choose between them. Which isn't a problem if you already know exactly what you want (Call of Duty) and are just coming to the store to buy it. But it is a problem if you only know what kind of thing you want (a first-person shooter) and want to see what's available.

    Essentially requiring a deposit on sales is going to lock out a lot of low budget developers, which taken at face-value is anti-egalitarian. But from a consumer perspective it's going to improve the store by cutting down on the noise. Games from developers who were likely never going to become successful in the first place now won't be cluttering up the storefront. It may keep the next ARK from being discovered, but it will also prevent the next The District from clogging up the store's search results. Developers lose, but arguably it's a win for consumers.

    Which really goes back to a central argument about Steam and app stores in general: what should they be, a free-for-all or a curated store? The former allows everyone to participate, while the latter allows for a more structured experience. And judging from the consumer discontent, it seems that people would rather have the latter. Which at least for the PC is fine; the PC is an open platform, so it doesn't limit choice. It just makes it harder for a no-name developer to get noticed.

    On a side note, I hope this also helps to curtail Early Access shenanigans. There are too many games that are being sold badly incomplete, and of those Early Access games, too many of them will never get finished. There's a dirty secret that I think everyone in the industry has had to re-learn the hard way: publishers suck, but having a middle-man funding game development means that at least games are more-or-less done before they are sold to consumers.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      "Having too many approximately equally good options is mentally draining because each option must be weighed against alternatives to select the best one". Which really, is kind of a horrific concept because it implies that choice (and competition) is bad.

      Well, that's more an issue of the point that games are fungible. If you're talking bread, light bulbs, or lumber for a house, having more choice and competition with approximately equally good options just means you can buy based heavily on price with some

    • I buy mostly indie games (>200 on steam). What I've noticed the last few years is a gradual increase in the number of games for sale and a decrease in the number of games I'm interested in. Some game gets insanely popular, like DayZ or Terraria, and developers scramble to make copies of it with minor variation.

      To me, there's a signaling problem at the heart of the game marketplace. I want a fun game that's well designed with good game play and that's insanely hard to do. Typically the way a developer sho

  • and tax documents similar to the process of applying for a bank account

    I've never been asked for tax documents when opening either a personal or business account. For personal accounts, government ID is good enough, and for a business account either the business registration or incorporation papers, and ID.

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