GOG’s Greenlight? Indie Submissions Portal Opened

By Craig Pearson on August 19th, 2013 at 8:00 pm.

You could be the next FTL.
Steam Greenlight’s still a contentious way to do business. The $100 cost of entry, the required cheer-leading, it’s a lot of effort for no guarantee. And while I get the idea of having an established community is important, I’m glad I’m not an indie developer attempting to shout above the noise on there. GOG.com’s new indie submission portal seems to have taken in a lot of the criticisms of Steam’s hand-off approach and applied those lessons to their new venture: they’re looking for indie developers to submit games to their indie portal, with the company promising to “We’re not machines. We talk.” Ouch!

But that’s just an opening gambit of a service that looks to be a deliberate attempt to avoid Greenlight’s pit-falls. You submit the game to GOG and not the community. They’ll be the gate-keeper of what ends up on their service, which means there are number of things they can do. For example: “We’ll tell you exactly what we think about your title. We know our users’ tastes, and we do our best to present them with a selection of DRM-free games they’ll enjoy. We review all submissions and pick those that offer the qualities our users value most, such as gameplay depth, originality, and a high level of polish. We will contact you directly to tell you how your title fits with those standards in our opinion. Whether we decide to accept your game or not, you will hear from us within two business weeks on average. We will never leave you without feedback!”

I hope indies don’t just submit games to get cheap consultancy. Excitingly, if you make it onto GOG, they’ll even help you out financially. The average industry cut is 70/30 in the developer’s favour, but GOG will provide a “royalty advance”, and then split the cut 60/40 until the advance is paid off, then switch to the 70/30 split when it’s covered. They’ll also provide marketing support, but advertising on social media and the like is usual on GOG.

Here are a few indies talking excitedly about the idea.

It’s not perfect, but I think the accountability is the most important aspect here, and I think GOG know that as well. Would you rather take pot-luck, or have the option to have your work critiqued by professionals for free?

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62 Comments »

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  1. squareking says:

    Dang. That sounds pretty fantastic.

  2. Cloudiest Nights says:

    Sounds promising, and at least more beneficial to indies than Steam Greenlight. Still, it does do away with the whole “what the community wants” system. This will be interesting to see how it plays out.

    • ScubaMonster says:

      Honestly, I don’t think the community knows what in the hell it wants anyway. Gamers cry and moan about everything to the point where if you listened to everyone you’d never get anything done. The indie scene with Kickstarter and Greenlight can be nothing more than a popularity contest and who has the biggest social media campaign, not necessarily based on the merits or ideas of the game in question. I’d rather good stuff get through regardless of vote count.

      • Fry says:

        Well… a good social media campaign will get people through the door, but it doesn’t necessarily sell anything. You still need a good idea and a good pitch. I see probably 10 kickstarter campaigns rolling through my twitter feed in a month, and I back very few of them.

        Ok, I admit reputation and mass suggestion did sucker me in once. And I’ll probably regret it. Hint: the dev’s name rhymes with Hubble Wine.

      • Caiman says:

        It’s a very dangerous precedent to let the most popular and potentially most commercially viable concepts get first preference over quality and innovation (go watch Discovery Channel or TLC these days for evidence of that!). The two may happily overlap of course, but that’s not how Steam Greenlight works. Indeed, it only tells us what the small percentage of Steam users that actively and regularly use Greenlight want. I’d love to see figures on what percentage of active Steam users have voted on Greenlight (and what percentage of all Greenlight submissions they’ve voted for).

        The other major flaw with Greenlight of course is that the idea of a game doesn’t necessarily result in quality, as evidenced by the number of Greenlit games that have turned out to be bug-riddled messes upon release, the kind of stuff that had it gone through a normal review would have been rejected so it doesn’t risk wasting our time and money.

      • Baines says:

        Greenlight doesn’t find out what the community wants, anyway. Other than people wanting free Steam keys for games they already own.

        If Steam wanted a better idea of what the community wanted, then Greenlight would be more like a pre-order/Kickstarter service. To prevent abuse, the system would also need to take people’s money up front (unlike Kickstarter), but would also need mechanics for returning money if a project is cancelled or a buyer decides to back out before approval. (If people don’t commit real money up front, then you are back to people being able to deliver meaningless promises. If you don’t have a way to refund money, then you have issues if a project is cancelled. If you don’t have a way for people to back out at no penalty, then you discourage people from pre-purchasing potentially years in advance.)

        Of course by that point you’ve pretty much built a new Kickstarter/pre-purchase mechanic directly into Steam, kind of like Gabe’s personal store front idea.

    • Isair says:

      It’s probably worth noting that GOG has kept a community wishlist for quite some time. It doesn’t have any official say of course, but then, neither does Greenlight.

    • Nesetalis says:

      What the community wants… never gives rise to new and innovative ideas unless you can REALLY sell it. And most devs are not good enough at advertising that they can ship it.

    • MellowKrogoth says:

      Poor GOG.com. They don’t know what they’re getting themselves into. I’m off to bug them and make five submissions about my new series of Slender games!!!!!111

  3. ElDopa says:

    Awesome! I love GOG.com!
    Btw. Kan really speaks in a soothing voice.

  4. Moraven says:

    I like the idea of the advance. Most indies it seems they are looking for that last financial push to help wrap things up in development. This gives you an option other than Kickstarter or Steam Early Access sales. Plus you can spend time selling your game to GoG.com and not to the gaming world. Focus on finishing the game and then start to market it leading up to release.

  5. Liudeius says:

    30/70? That sounds awful for just handling the download. I’m definitely going to buy directly whenever possible.

    (Though I suppose I can’t fault GOG if that’s the standard.)

    • Moraven says:

      If you really think that’s all GoG.com… ok then.

      Release a game direct only and see how many sales you get.

      Let’s complain how much taxes and payment processing steals from the indies.

      • Liudeius says:

        I was not expecting such an… “Intelligent, polite comment,” let’s say.

        Firstly, I’m sure the 30/70 split is after payment processing, and both groups have to pay taxes (taxes which benefit everyone by the way).

        All the store does is host a purchase page for the game and a download page. I know of plenty of indies who sell directly, so it’s clearly not that hard. 30% of profits is absurd.

        Now if you would put your snark on hold for a second and reread my comment, I said I would buy directly whenever possible from now on, and at 30% more profit, that’s clearly much better for the indie. I said nothing about me selling games.

        And finally, just because it gets more publicity to be on Steam (and theoretically on GOG) does not mean it’s right. The agreement is supposed to be as a dispenser of the game, not as an advertiser.

        Just because people are stupid and won’t buy a game unless it’s on Steam does not mean the dev deserves 30% less profit for their good game.

      • Lemming says:

        “Release a game direct only and see how many sales you get.”

        *looks at Minecraft*

    • Elementlmage says:

      I think you are miss-reading it. The Dev gets 70, and GoG gets 30.

      IMO, that is a decent cut, as servers, bandwidth, support staff, web pages and the like aren’t free.

      • Liudeius says:

        No, I get that it’s 70% dev 30% seller, but it’s (apparently) so damn easy for an indie to set up their own store.
        Hell, many games don’t go for stuff like greenlight until they have already distributed (and often sold) a build to their players.
        And I doubt GOG pays for support staff, it’s still up to the dev to deal with bugs. All they really pay for is a tester to check the quality of the game (no more than a day’s salary), a quick sale page design and release article (an hour’s salary), and bandwidth (pennies).
        Maybe if the dev tried to cheat the buyers GOG would have staff do something, but for any good indie dev, after the initial release I doubt GOG would be doing much, certainly not 30% much.

        But as I said, I’m just going to buy directly whenever possible now on. (and for well known indies, it usually is, while for non-well-known indies, they probably aren’t on Steam/GOG anyway.)

        • The Random One says:

          Where did you get the idea that it’s easy for an indie to open their own store? I buy a lot of indie games, and I think that since the beginning of last year the only game I bought straight from the dev from anywhere other than the Humble Store was The Sea Will Claim Everything. The Humble Store takes a smaller cut than GoG, but it’s still charging only to handle payment and download, which is one hell of a hassle.

        • Elementlmage says:

          Aw, how cute, you completely misunderstood my use of the term support staff. :)

          Servers and networks don’t maintain themselves, employees don’t hire and fire themselves, accounts don’t write there own books, facilities don’t clean themselves, and no matter what Valve likes to champion, employees don’t manage themselves.

          Oh and tell you what. Why don’t YOU go look up the price on an OC1 Link and then come back and tell us all how expense it is. Protip: it’s so damned expensive you probably aren’t going to be able to find public quotes for it! And EVERY SECOND that link sits idle, you are losing money!

          Bandwidth ain’t as cheap as the cable company likes to make you think it is.

          • Liudeius says:

            Links are blocked it seems.

            Now why did you suddenly decide to be a jerk?

            If GOG actually uses OC1 internet (which is actually pretty slow, I highly doubt you have fairly selected your example), they need it with or without indies, and your claim “not using it is lost money” would mean indies = more use of the line = less money lost.

            Indies currently selling their own game.

            Starbound (No download yet, but will host)
            Overgrowth
            Cube World
            Kerbal Space Program
            Planet Explorers
            Star Citizen (No download yet, but will host)
            Planetary Annihilation
            Minecraft (Who started before becoming a massive hit)

            Oh crap, look how hard that was to make 30% more profit (ok, maybe 25% more profit since they have to pay for non-scam bandwidth).
            (And that’s pretty much every indie I currently have in my bookmarks, Terraria is the only exception, but that’s because they have Steam DRM while the others I list are DRM free.)

            The only reason to give GOG a 30% cut is as an advertiser, and that is a shame. It costs no where near 30% for GOG to host it.

        • Premium User Badge

          phuzz says:

          Not to mention all the legal issues.
          Of course you want your customers to be able to re-download their game once they’ve bought it. But that means you’re going to have to keep at least some information to identify them by, and if they live in Europe then you’re going to have to abide by a whole bunch of data protection laws. If you’re daft enough to keep payment information, then you’re going to have to be PCI compliant, and trust me, that’s practically a full time job on it’s own.

          Nope, setting up your own store is not easy.

          • Liudeius says:

            Both my other comments say “awaiting moderation” So I will assume it’s all the links.

            Every single indie in my bookmarks but Terraria has its own store and download service.

            Starbound, Overgrowth, Cube World, Kerbal Space Program, Planet Explorers, Star Citizen, Planetary Annihilation, Minecraft (before it was a hit).

            So yeah, I’m thinking it’s probably not that hard.

  6. Drake Sigar says:

    Was wondering if this was going to make RPS news today. Exciting times!

  7. Epsz says:

    How are the going to deal with the flood of submissions they are going to get?

    • Skull says:

      £100 submission fee?

      • Premium User Badge

        welverin says:

        Wouldn’t it be Euros? They are based in Cyprus and CD Projekt is Polish.

      • Dr I am a Doctor says:

        NO NOT A HUNDRED DOLLARS QQ

      • LionsPhil says:

        Basically! I can’t see how it can not be open to abuse otherwise.

        Also it should cost one farthing for every comment post on RPS. That’d stop those damn spambots, I tell you.

        • MasterDex says:

          But their friends make so much money online from their homes! They could just tap them for the comment price.

    • Premium User Badge

      JR says:

      With people of course, not machines!

      I’d be interested to see how this system works out, especially since it doesn’t sound that much different from Valve’s old method of publishing indies before greenlight. Hopefully they’re prepared with a mighty staff of testers just to sift through the torrent they’ll likely receive.

      • oyog says:

        I was so disappointed when I re-read your comment and realized GOG.com wasn’t hiring A Mighty Staff of Jesters.

  8. Premium User Badge

    welverin says:

    So, basically a developer submits their title to the digital distributor and waits for a response to see if their title gets accepted? Huh, didn’t someone else used to do that (and still does)?

    • Premium User Badge

      darkChozo says:

      Yeah, this sounds more like a published framework for what digital distributors (and pre-Greenlight Steam) already do. The financial bit is probably the most interesting thing, given the typical unwillingness to disclose the retailer-developer split and the slightly new funding model for indies.

      • subedii says:

        Yeah I have to say, this does sound very much more like the traditional publisher model. You pitch your game to us, if we like it we can advise and then put it up for sale.

        I don’t think it’s bad, the subsidy model and focus on indies still sounds good, but I don’t think it’s particularly revolutionary or new either.

  9. sinister agent says:

    This sounds interesting indeed, I just hope they have the resources to deliver – I’m guessing there are a million people out there submitting awful barely-started games every week.

    But anything that tips the balance a bit is great, frankly. I don’t like steam’s huge dominance at all, and if anyone’s going to gain a little of their ground, I’d love it to be gog.

    • pupsikaso says:

      I don’t know how Steam handled it (probably they didn’t at all, simply said: rejected), but GoG here is promising to tell you “EXACTLY” what they think of your game.
      I think this means after a few frenetic weeks the amount of people submitting half-arsed half-started garbage will quickly come down.

      • Detocroix says:

        Yeah steam doesn’t really give feedback… and sometimes they do. It depends. Sometimes you just get “pass” or “fail” and sometimes you get “fail because x didn’t work”. They’re, almost literally, like talking to a wall.

    • Calabi says:

      See this is why I like GOG. Valve it seems couldnt give a fuck, they have no staff, their obsessed with running this perfect business that can run itself, when their business runs like shit.

      • Hyomoto says:

        Honestly, you believe this? Look at Greenlight? Where did the $100 charge come from? Oh yeah, to curb the flood of joke and stupid titles. And now you think GOG got it right? Nah, they won’t have a single problem at all with their service. Like:

        How many times can you submit? How long does it take for them to get back to you? How much of the game do they play? How many games does that person have to play through? Will you get multiple perspectives?

        I’m sure they have this great idea, but as a few other rational posters have pointed out, what will they do when they get flooded with half-baked, buggy and just downright poor submissions? Implement QA for each one, maybe they’ll let the community filter those results, or even just maybe just slap a fee on each submission. Which will, of course, be totally unlike what any other service has done.

        • The Random One says:

          Greenlight’s fee doesn’t stop half-baked, buggy and just downright poor games from being submitted. It only means you can only submit a half-baked, buggy and just downright poor game if you have $100 to burn.

  10. Prokroustis says:

    Thank God for GOG.

  11. Vinraith says:

    Hey look, a digital distributor that actually respects indies. How lovely!

  12. ZIGS says:

    Of course, the main difference between those services is that the GOG one gets your game on GOG, the Valve one gets your game on motherfucking Steam

    • Liudeius says:

      False.
      One gets your game on Steam for buyers to rent the right to play it for an indeterminable amount of time.
      The other distributes your game.

      If you buy a GOG game, you download an installer with no DRM, you never have to touch GOG again unless an update/patch is released. If you buy a Steam game, you have to permanently use Steam.

      But yeah, it’s a shame “distributors” are just an advertising platform. With 30% of profits going to them, I’m thinking distributors are the publishers of indie. Except they don’t even take any of the risks publishers take. (Well GOG is apparently taking some risk with “advanced royalties,” however much that is.)

      • The Random One says:

        Well, technically several games on Steam can be removed and played DRM-free. But it’s not an easy or pretty process (I mean, does the average game even know where Steam saves their game files? I sure as hell don’t). GoG, conversely, gives your an exe that you can save to a pen drive and play on your laptop during your African mission without any hassle.

  13. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    Awesome. Here’s to GOG.

  14. XhomeB says:

    If I was given a chance to buy all newly released games on GOG, I totally would.
    Funny that I used to be a big supporter of Steam back in the day, but now… I mainly use it, because I have to (Space Hulk, Guacamelee! are Steam exclusive for now). GOG has become THE place to buy from for me.

  15. radishan says:

    Sounds pretty solid. The only question is how big is their audience?

  16. Premium User Badge

    basilisk says:

    So to sum it up, indie devs who want to sell their game on GOG can send them an e-mail and arrange the details. Just like they have done before. How is this news?

    • Premium User Badge

      darkChozo says:

      So far as I can tell, three reasons:

      1) It’s formalized and public. Before, the process and 70/30 split were generally known but never really publicly stated by any of the DDs. Now GOG’s gone transparent with it.
      2) GOG is publicly promising to give feedback on rejected submissions, something they may or may not have done before but has been an issue that indies have complained about with regards to Steam.
      3) New compensation model, what with the royalty advance thing and such.

      • Premium User Badge

        basilisk says:

        I don’t think the advance thing is new – there have been rumours of GOG taking a 40% cut in some cases for quite some time, so this explains why. As for promising feedback, well, promises are cheap, and from what I’ve gathered, they’ve been doing that already, too.

        So yeah, the only thing they’ve done is drop the veil from the worst-kept secret in the industry and whip up a simple form. Which is fine, but no reason to get excited, really.

        The thing I would like to know is whether the rumoured 95/5 split the Humble Store offers is actually true and what’s the catch there. Until then, I will happily keep buying my indies from there.

        • The Random One says:

          I think the Humble Store’s catch is that they don’t advertise your game or anything. They just let you use the thing they had in place for the bundles, but you have to direct traffic there on your own and they’re not doing sales or stuff like that and if the shit hits the fan you have to deal with it yourself.

          Still a pretty good deal to do half of the hardest part of releasing a game (dealing with the payment) for 5% of sales, and even throwing a Steam key if you’ve gotten there. No wonder GoG is doing these things, they’ve been cannibalized by the other nice guys in the industry.

  17. S Jay says:

    What will happen when/if indies flood the service with submissions? Will they talk to everyone? This might take a long time.

  18. Skabooga says:

    Man, I love GOG, and as much as I like Steam too, I sure would like to see GOG demonstrate to them a better way to go about curating submissions.

  19. mouton says:

    Haven’t read the article, I want more FTL. Why have they never made any DLC?