By Nathan Grayson on May 16th, 2014 at 10:00 am.
You have probably noticed lately that the Steam store’s “new releases” tab is crowded and confusing and like being in an overstuffed subway station where you’re looking for your friend but you have no idea where to begin and maybe they’re dead and an incredibly ragged-looking man just asked you for cigarettes or maybe a needle and your shoe has been glued to germ-infested tile by gum or maybe oh gosh that’s not gum is it but it does rhyme with gum. There are suddenly a whole, whole lot of games on Steam, is what I’m saying, and they won’t stop crawling out of the woodwork. You’re not alone in this realization. Not by a longshot. We’re not even halfway through 2014, and Steam has already added more new games than it did in the entirety of 2013.
Gamasutra published a statistical comparison of Steam’s past few years, and the trend they discovered is less of a gradual climb and more of a box turtle suddenly sprouting jet boosters and mutating into a (very well-shielded) reptilian rocket.
While they didn’t provide exact numbers, the overall impact is clear. Thanks to a much quicker (and, many would argue, far less selective) Greenlight process, Steam has suddenly become far, far more crowded. What does that mean? Well, developers have an uphill battle ahead of them, for one thing:
“There have now been more games released on Steam in the first 20 weeks of 2014 alone, than during the entirety of 2013, spelling out the real need for indie developers to properly market their games.”
“While in 2013 your new release might have shown up on the front page of Steam for a few days, you’re likely to see your game drop off the front page within 24 hours of you releasing it. (And notably, the front page of Steam now automatically defaults to ‘Top Sellers’ instead of ‘New Releases.’)”
And of course, it also makes it much, much harder for folks like you and me to discover new top-quality games directly through Steam. Valve is no longer a careful, meticulous curator, a fact that will become even more glaringly apparent once Greenlight goes away altogether. That responsibility now falls on the shoulders of users, YouTubers, and trusted media outlets like VIDEOGAMING NEO WEBSECTOR ROCK PAPER SHOTGUN DOT COM.
The long-term effects of all this change will be interesting to watch, though they might also cause Steam as we know it to crash and burn. One would hope Valve will revamp the store to give more developers visibility for longer periods of time, but even then an open, fast-moving marketplace means everyone will be fighting tooth and nail to be top dog. To stand out. I don’t really see how this goes down without an Apple App Store-style race to the bottom for game prices, which is a shame because a) games aren’t cheap to make and b) that brought about an era of (sometimes very questionable) free-to-play tactics in the App Store’s case.
However, if nothing else these are uncertain times. None of that will necessarily transpire. It just seems likely given the current state of events. But PC is also not mobile, and Steam is not the App Store. Different audience, different legacy, different types of games. And Valve might make big missteps sometimes, but they’re also a damn clever company. I’d be lying if I said my Trepidation Station wasn’t getting more use than my Hope Box One right now, but I’m not ready to forecast doom and gloom yet. Just an earnest desire to see everyone (especially Valve) adapt and improve.
Now then, let us join hands and bring a prayer to the almighty GabeN. Repeat after me: Please don’t fuck everything up. Please don’t fuck everything up. Please don’t fuck everything u– Is it true that you used to own a chandelier made of knives?