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Steam Greenlight “going away” is probably a good thing, but why? – opinion

Thursday, 16th January 2014 10:45 GMT By Dave Cook

Valve’s ‘Steam Dev Days’ event in Seattle has given us some insight into the company’s modus operandi, but after one developer tweeted that Steam Greenlight is “going away,” it got VG247′s Dave Cook feeling relieved.

”Be honest; how many of these 100 Greenlight games have you actually heard of and/or intend to buy? Have you bought any of them for that matter? Such saturation could endanger the visibility of truly innovative indie titles”

I’m all for bringing democratization to game development and sales. The process of letting the people have a say in which games get sold on Steam is a positive step, but it needs to change. There are still problems within the process that need to be ironed out. When Hot Blooded Games CFO Dave Oshry – who was attending Steam Dev Days – tweeted that Valve’s Gabe Newell wants to make “Greenlight go away,” it became clear that Steam has its head screwed on tighter than some might suggest.

I’ve spoken with a lot of indie game developers over the last 12 months who would really benefit from having their games on Steam. Most of them did already, and yes, some of them entered the industry using Greenlight. It is a useful launch-pad for projects and studios that would typically have doors slammed in their faces by the big publishers. If anything, it makes the route to market less rocky as long as the concept is worth voting for. By that logic, only the cream of Greenlight should pass the voting phase and become actual Steam products you can buy.

But the problem is not the fact that up-votes can be encouraged for games that perhaps aren’t all that deserving, but it’s a matter of saturation. As each round of successful Greenlight titles makes it to the store, we always report it. Here we have 50 new games joining Steam, another 100 titles, and here’s a further 40. It is refreshing to see these projects placed in front of gamers, away from the relatively closed nature of the console play-pen. This is undeniably a good thing.

However, I recently spoke with Vlambeer co-founder Rami Ismail, and we discussed many facets of indie development, including routes to market. It was a familiar conversation; one that saw us lambasting the sheer, suffocating influx of content on the iOS App Store, which undoubtedly makes it difficult to stand out among the Rovios, Half-Bricks and Gamelofts of this world. iTunes is a lottery few win, and it’s because there’s simply too much content.

He showed me his metrics graph for Ridiculous Fishing, and while it was making more than other games I’ve seen figures for, the pattern of that table may as well have come from any other developer I’ve spoken to on the matter. Bossa showed off its metrics at GameHorizon last year, and the graph started with a decent spike – because it was a featured app in the App Store’s ‘new’ section – and from there it was a sliding slope, cratering down to a slow crawl, only occasionally rising whenever there’s a sale on, or a run of press coverage. This is common.

”I’m not a psychic, nor do I have any insider information on what Valve plans to do with Greenlight. All I know is that the consensus among my interviewees suggests that things need to change. Could developer-specific Steam stores be the answer?”

Now, I concede that I haven’t seen Steam Greenlight metrics, but all of the developers I’ve spoken to about the service so far have agreed that there’s a saturation risk. Be honest; how many of these 100 Greenlight games have you actually heard of and/or intend to buy? Have you bought any of them for that matter? Such saturation could endanger the visibility of truly innovative indie titles. You could say, ‘well, if the game’s good then the press will surely cover it, won’t they?’ You’d be correct, but how many indie teams – of fewer than ten people – have the contacts or know-how to get their game coverage in media outlets?

I recently attended a seminar here in Scotland filled with developers who agreed that Greenlight needs some work, and when I asked them who they go to in the press to get coverage from they said ‘no-one,’ because they either don’t have the skills and capital to market their game solo, write a press release, gain the contacts needed to secure reviews, or that the press simply don’t give a shit about their title – what with all the Call of Duty rumours, next-gen chatter and such going on. Such games play second fiddle in the mainstream press, and so it falls on gamer-driven programs like Greenlight to champion new, exciting projects.

That is why I feel Greenlight is a good thing, but not if it is saturating the market. Saturation isn’t good for any market – not just games – but this is what is in danger of happening here. What’s the answer? Well, Newell’s full quote was, “Our goal is to make Greenlight go away. Not because it’s not useful, but because we’re evolving.” Reportedly, he wants to bridge the gap between development and publishing. That suggests – to me – that studios are to be given greater publishing control.

During my discussion with Rami at Vlambeer, he theorised that Valve could give each studio it’s own store so they could set pricing, gain followers for their studio to help them grow as a brand, and ultimately, make them stand out better amongst any potential saturation. Just think about what that could mean: Steam stores for each developer. It might sound far-fetched, but it could bring further autonomy and power to indies and the mid-tier through the long term.

Unless it’s not already clear; I’m not a psychic, nor do I have any insider information on what Valve plans to do with Greenlight. All I know is that the consensus among my interviewees suggests that things need to change. Could developer-specific Steam stores be the answer? I’ll have to actually ask a psychic to find out at this time.

What do you think?

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11 Comments

  1. NeoGalaxy

    Talking about Greenlight, I have to agree to one thing: I have never seen one decent game in those lists except one: Captain Morgane and the Golden Turtle. From all the games that were approved this is they only one that I know or heard of it. So for me Greenlight means exactly nothing. Also most of the games that are accepted there are pure shit which again can’t help me buy or even be interested in any games from there.

    #1 10 months ago
  2. absolutezero

    “I don’t know anything so it must be bad”

    The worst thing about Greenlight is that it lets through the bad alongside those games that should have simply been allowed onto the service straight off.

    Shelter should not have needed a Greenlight campaign. Shitty Minecraft clone #456456456456 should be straight up removed for sullying the service.

    In some respects it did its job well and in others its just declined into being task for games that are running Kickstarters. “We would love to be on Steam but Greenlight is a rickety piece of shit so help us out please.”

    I will be glad when it goes but I hope Gabe has some sort of quality control in place to keep the truly awful dregs of XBLIG and the like locked away.

    #2 10 months ago
  3. Harrow

    Quiet a simple answer really every single one I’ve voted for I will buy and play otherwise I wouldn’t of voted for them and Greenlight will just get integrated into the store front weather that is Dev run store page or not Newall has mentioned this numerous times. As stated above it will also improve the amount of titles you don’t wish to see like the shite called slenderman and its gazillion clones.

    The only thing that really needs work is the voting system becuase as you say there’s a lot of good to be found if you can be bothered wading through the shit.

    You should of seen the number of titles there were when greenlight first opened thousands upon thousands. Now its been cut down dramatically its much much easier to find thoughts little gems

    #3 10 months ago
  4. Christopher Jack

    I think if it becomes too easy, quality niche games will garner less hype & we will get more garbage games, maybe even some malware infested shit, happens on both iOS & Android’s app stores, I see no reason it couldn’t happen to Steam if they lower the floodgates.

    #4 10 months ago
  5. SplatteredHouse

    “Be honest; how many of these 100 Greenlight games have you actually heard of”
    A very pertinent question, that. The lists get posted and I look through, and I find I may have some degree of familiarity with 2 or 3 – the rest are just random titles, unless they get first impressions/video coverage which comes to my attention.

    If they want to sell, then they have to make a pitch.
    They mustn’t just try “please vote for my game”, because the next thing is …because? and, unless there’s exciting potential and it seems likely to reach it (ask me again later) it may well be the no pile for that. Not least because there are so many to select from. I only ever vote yes on what I intend to buy, once released. But, I only occasionally bother looking at my Greenlight queue, anyway.

    #5 10 months ago
  6. Arnvidr

    Those “here are 100 new titles” situations are actually quite annoying. Stupid as I am I have not found a way to then go and add any of those titles that look interesting to any kind of list, so that I could be notified if it ever actually releases.

    Several of the titles I’ve voted for have been greenlit, and those are in my “voted for” section, but there’s no way to add a title that’s already greenlit to it. And even if there were, I still don’t get any notification when they’re released, as some of the titles I’ve voted on also have been.

    So the usefulness of Greenlight seems way overstated to me. What use is the awareness a game gets to be able to be greenlit, if I’ve forgotten about it whenever the game is out. I might easily miss that announcement after all.

    Not that I have any solutions for these problems that wouldn’t include fixing Greenlight itself, but maybe getting rid of it is best in the long run.

    #6 10 months ago
  7. Harrow

    I must be one of the few steam user who actually look at most of them that appear granted there is a lot of pants stuff out there. Two I spotted and liked well before there recent publicity would be rain world and the forest not to mention routine which is my top pick of greenlight.

    #7 10 months ago
  8. dizzygear

    Greenlight gave me Postal 2 on Steam complete with achievements so all is well.

    Joking aside there are some gems on greenlight (Bleed, Long Live the Queen and Anodyne to name a few) but like its like looking for them in a sea of shit.

    #8 10 months ago
  9. sebastien rivas

    Yes Greenlight IS overcrowded by titleS each of us do not want to even check out from a single image or game title.

    Though it is an independent sector that in spit of being really fruitful, it still got THE greenlightfrom gamers in general.

    Talking about wquality, yes indeed quality runs all over the place.
    As a solo freelance generalist, I cannot even venture msking a game due to timr comsumption and resulting quality, i don’t do 2D nor 2.5D and I know it is nearly impossible. Yet seeing others actually doing something always made me get Steam on a pefestal.

    Now… not so sure….

    #9 10 months ago
  10. sh4dow

    I find it a shame. They should have restricted the number of greenlit games quite a bit more, yes. But generally, I thought it was a great concept.

    #10 10 months ago
  11. antraxsuicide

    I think it’s on the developers to actually market their product. Don’t just throw it out there and say, “Please give me votes.” That’s total crap, and it’s not how any other industry functions.

    A great product is only part of a business. You have to tell people about it to succeed.

    #11 10 months ago

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