Valve On Steam Greenlight’s Failings, Fixing Them

Over the weekend, I attended Fantastic Arcade, an indie-focused gaming show in Austin, Texas. It was – as is often the case with these things – full of passion, creativity, and the guy who played that one kid in Dazed and Confused. You’ll be hearing tons more about it soon. First, though, we’ll look at what was perhaps the most incongruous moment of the event: a Valve panel. Steam Greenlight, of course, has had some pretty serious ups and downs since launching, and this panel gave the very people who are fighting to set up shop on the ubiquitous storefront a chance to voice their complaints directly. Here’s how it all went down.  

Generally, I like to save the moral of a story for the post-car-chase conclusion, but Fantastic Arcade’s Steam panel had roughly one theme: confusion. Between rapid change and some less-than-clear communication on Valve’s part, it’s been tough for many developers (not to mention potential players) to stay in the loop. And so, somewhat fittingly, the session’s Q&A kicked off with developers attempting to pinpoint what exactly Valve’s hoping to achieve with Greenlight in the first place. After all, Steam’s old selection process is still ticking along in the background, and many devs both large and small are bypassing Greenlight entirely for its greener pastures. So who should go where?

“Greenlight’s for games we don’t really know how to evaluate – from developers we don’t know or haven’t heard of necessarily,” replied designer Alden Kroll. “They can even be from other publishers whose games haven’t done well in the past, so we don’t know how to prioritize those. So it’s to answer those questions about what the community wants to see.”

“In addition to that, the section for concepts and future projects – we really envision that being an area that you guys can use to talk to your fans early on,” added business developer Augusta Butlin. “So even though we may have an established relationship and, yes, we would more than likely take the game when it’s ready, we still think that being able to talk to your fans super early is going to be of value to you.”

“It might be one of those games we would’ve taken anyway, but it doesn’t have to be binary. It doesn’t have to be Greenlight or talk to us. It can be both.”

Meanwhile, Greenlight’s been undergoing rapid evolution, growing new arms and leg fast enough to make heads spin (and, in turn, sprout extra noses). Much of it, though, has been a rather silent process. Even after official announcements via blogs and whatnot, developers and players have been left shrugging their shoulders. On the dev side, it’s that pesky $100 fee. Potential players, meanwhile, can no longer see any ranking data about their favorite prospects. What followed, of course, were multiple questions to the effect of “Wait, why?”

And while Valve was hesitant to discuss the fee beyond what it previously stated, it did open up about rankings. In short, the previous system was skewed too heavily in favor of those already at the top. It simply wasn’t fair.

“We consciously designed Greenlight to not be a self-reinforcing cycle of the top games getting votes because they’re in the top,” explained Kroll. “There was initially this big confusion over why there’s no top-rated list. Well, for exactly that reason. We don’t want a few people to overly influence the system by being early voters and getting things to the top. We don’t want something getting voted up because everyone’s piling on it.”

“Previously, probably 80 or 90 percent of games were at one percent. That’s why we ended up changing that metric. So [formerly low-ranking games] are probably a lot closer to shipping than that reflected. We’re seeing now that we’ve changed the system, a lot of developers are really talking to their communities and telling them how they’re doing. They’re talking about those things and trying to keep community support going.”

More than anything else, Valve continued to drive that point home: Greenlight isn’t meant to be a free ride straight to the top. For developers, the focus should be on initiative and self-sufficiency. Without rankings, the system’s less organized and more chaotic than ever, but right now, that’s the point. It’s on developers’ shoulders to form communities both on and off Steam, and it’s also their duty to point the way to their game’s Greenlight page.

“I think this applies not just to people on Greenlight, but selling games on Steam in general. [Success comes from] using channels outside of Steam. We have a big audience, sure, but Steam is not going to be a golden ticket necessarily. You also have to work on marketing and getting buzz out there. Getting people excited about your product. There’s a lot of people on Steam, but they’re not there every day looking at the front page.”

As is, then, Greenlight’s less of a magical, crowd-powered game factory and more of an anything-goes gladiatorial arena. Unfortunately, that leaves non-developers like me and probably you in a bit of a tight spot. For normal folks, digging through more than a thousand candidates (and counting) without any rhyme or reason simply isn’t, well, reasonable. As a result, promising games are still bound to slip through the cracks – which is what Valve designed Greenlight to avoid in the first place. So what’s the next step? How does Valve give attention to deserving games while also continuing to encourage its – at least, in theory – open, developer-driven system?

“That’s definitely another concern that we’re trying to figure out how to test for and handle,” Kroll answered. “We’re kind of walking this delicate balance between having a crowd-sourced system where the fans feel like they’re being heard and their input is valuable, and us having the ability to pick things across the crowd’s selection of genres that may suit an audience that’s not participating in Greenlight at all. How do you peek in and ship some things that maybe aren’t getting traction? But we want to make sure Greenlight is serving its full purpose – and not just the things that are popular.”

“Evidence we’ve seen so far is that a surprising variety of games are getting voted up to the top. But it’s also hard to figure out if something’s getting missed, so we’re trying to figure out how to test for that. For instance, we might find something that’s really interesting and could succeed as a playable game, but may not be doing so well as just a video. So how do we make sure we’re not missing that?”

Right now, Valve fully admits that it doesn’t have an answer. But Greenlight’s also still new to this whole existing thing, and it’s far from assuming any sort of final form. For better or worse, it’s the kind of thing that’s not really possible to test in the lab, so it’s got a bumpy road ahead of it. From the looks of things, communication will continue to be a serious issue (For instance, Kroll also noted that the actual schedule for greenlighting games isn’t concrete and can vary according to all tons of internal factors – which is all kinds of problematic for devs. Also, this is Valve we’re talking about), but the underlying intentions are obviously good.

If nothing else, though, remember what Steam was like when it first launched? Slow and steady wins the race. It was probably Gabe Newell who first said that. He just took too much time to take credit.


  1. arccos says:

    “… figure out how to test for … something that’s really interesting and could succeed as a playable game, but may not be doing so well as just a video”

    It sounds like they’re trying to keep Greenlight, but not make it the only way in through the gates. Which is good.

    It is kind of a bummer small devs now must engage their customers on the development site and then push them to Steam’s Greenlight to have a chance to be approved. If it catches on, how many distributors will a dev have to play this game with?

    • AngoraFish says:

      Steam is not a publisher, it’s a store. What a great deal of criticism of Greenlight seems to have in common is that it assumes that getting on Steam/Greenlight should by right massively increase a game’s visibility and solve a developer’s marketing woes. Ultimately, if you are a developer and you’re not interested in marketing yourself and working on building up a fan base directly then shop around for a publisher, don’t expect Steam to be the magical solution to your problems.

      • dontnormally says:

        Steam is not a publisher in somewhat-the-same way Kickstarter is not a publisher.
        Meaning: it totally is, de facto.

        • AngoraFish says:

          Neither have any interest in marketing your product except on whim, and even then, the ‘marketing’ is limited to their own front pages only.

    • LintMan says:

      @AngoraFish: exactly.

      From the article:
      “Greenlight isn’t meant to be a free ride straight to the top. For developers, the focus should be on initiative and self-sufficiency.”

      IOW: Devs are supposed to build and expand their own community and then use that to rally support on Greenlight. And not the other way around.

      There’s so much cynicism and bitterness floating around about Greenlight as if all the devs should have to do is make their game and then Valve is somehow obligated to do all the work to popularize and market it, without any further effort or expenditure by the devs.

      But that’s not Valve’s goal here. This just isn’t “American Idol”, no matter how much people are desperately trying to make it so. And it’s not Kickstarter, where they’re trying to enable people to make their dreams and ideas happen.

      What Valve IS trying to do is make it a bit easier for worthy nontraditional games and hidden gems to get past Valve’s normal gatekeeper process to enter a business partnership with Valve. What defines “worthy”? Well, the community picks the games, but Valve puts up a few hurdles as its own test of the dev’s worthiness: Is the dev willing and able to work to build a community interested in their game? If not, then why should Valve if the dev can’t/won’t? Is the dev confident enough and business-oriented enough in their project to invest in a $100 charity donation as an entry fee? $100 is what – maybe 10-20 sales of your game. If the dev’s confidence is so low that feels like a risky investment, or if they have no game sales, then perhaps they’re just not ready or serious enough yet.

  2. SkittleDiddler says:

    So I’m gathering Steam didn’t do any statistical or developmental research before plowing straight into this mess? Not a big surprise, seeing as that’s how they treat every one of their community projects.

    • trjp says:

      That’s what surprised me the most – a company who focus-test their games to death did almost NOTHING before launching Greenlight.

      That they couldn’t have foreseen the large amount of crap which was uploaded just boggles my mind – that they responded to that by using money as a bar (and charity as a foil to criticism) is even more laughable.

      They talk of Community but they make poorer use of theirs than even MS do with XB Live Indie – how can you do worse than XB Live Indie FFS!?

      • SkittleDiddler says:

        Agreed. The whole Community Update has been a complete mess. The lack of proper moderating tools (and mods for that matter) in the Discussions pages, the insane amount of notification spam, the shitty social network-wannabe page layouts, and the fact that the update seems to have attracted a whole new level of Facebook-like stupidity were all the final nail in the coffin for me. I no longer participate in the Steam community because taking part feels like nothing more than an unnecessary headache now.

  3. trjp says:

    I like Wobbly Towers when it comes to voting for Greenlight games ;)

    link to

    It’s silly – yes – but there’s a point to the silliness. I designed that to be fun for people to play with and when there are 800 games to slog through, that’s quite important.

    I also wanted to show that there’s more to this stuff than “Yes, I like it ” or “NO, it’s shit” – shades of grey exist and there are relationships to be investigated too.

    As it is right now, there is NO motivation for people to visit Greenlight whatsoever – it’s a button you press and NOTHING HAPPENS – that has to change and soon.

  4. kwyjibo says:

    Greenlight is a bit woolly right now, there are some finished games by established commercial publishers, and some far off back-of-napkin sketches. You’re not entirely sure how serious some of the entries are.

    It’s only a matter of time before it adopts the kickstarter approach and actually allows for funding. All those +1 votes matter a lot less than $1 votes.

  5. Timthos says:

    I would like to see Valve host demos on Steam for games submitted to Greenlight. A demo should perhaps even be mandatory.

    • trjp says:

      It’s not mandatory for a game to be completed – it’s not even mandatory for everything to be a game – so that won’t work. ;)

    • trjp says:

      Also – that would feed into the problem of games which already exist (and which are for-sale in other stores) using Steam for ‘free marketting’.

      Valve hardly want to drive sales to their competitors do they?

    • zeroskill says:

      Well I think Timthos has a point there though. Wouldn’t it be easier for everybody involved if the games in question at least had a playable build? I think yes.

      • trjp says:

        The problem you’ve tripped-over is that you think Greenlight is for you, the customer – when it’s actually for Valve and the developers.

        As customers, we’re just being asked to be lab-rats (by both Valve and by developers) – but the vested interests here are in finding the best games for Steam/getting your games onto Steam.

        It would make sense for people to post demos – and many games do – but plenty of ‘actually available on Steam’ games don’t have demos so asking for them to be mandatory here is silly.

        XB Live has a mandatory demo policy for XBLA and XBLIG and I think that’s actually the best thing about those services – but developers reckon it’s a ballache so…

        Obviously XBLive is a bit harder to crack/hack/steal stuff from and so throwing-out demos isn’t quite the risk if would be in PC either.

        • zeroskill says:

          I can’t see anything you said there that would qualify as an counterargument as to why a playable build should be manditory for greenlight. Greenlight isn’t kickstarter. It’s application to get on to distribution platform. Why are people even applying to Steam if they don’t have at least some working code.

          Also I don’t see how having a demo of your game is silly in any form.

          • trjp says:

            Valve say VERY clearly that games don’t have to be finished to be submitted to Greenlight – it’s their service, they decided that and I don’t really see any reason to argue with it!?

            For all we know they DO intend to make a bit of a Kickstarter out of this – hell they need to make SOMETHING out of it because it’s bloody pointless as-is :)

          • The Random One says:

            I see a reason to argue with it. If they are trying to screen for games which are good enough, and plan to position themselves still as some kind of curators to the extent that a regular joe knows that a game being on Steam is proof of its quality, then they shouldn’t open up their store to games that aren’t bloody complete yet. Alledgedly they’re trying to gauge games that have strong communities, but if the game isn’t out the community is based entirely on hype.

            Forcing devs to add a demo is brilliant. Of course, for quite a few it’d be a lot of work and not every game lends itself to a demo and it will just slow down the sieving process because people will play through the demo and vote for less games because their time is limited, but it’s better than the $100 fee. A demo makes sure you can at least start making a demo; a $100 fee only makes sure you have $100 to piss away.

          • Xerian says:

            I love how you guys are forgetting the fact that you CAN post demos on Greenlight, and how Valve encourages it, seeing how its a good way for people to actually get a taste of a game, and then decide whether or not they like said game..

            And Trjp, please do tell me, how the fuck is it pointless? Discovering new games that you might wanna play, developers you might easily get to love, and then aiding said games and developers? How the fuck is that pointless? I mean ofcourse, if you’re selfish and self-centered as fuck, and to lazy to play around with something like Greenlight, I can see how it’d be pointless. But so would most of fucking life be. :]

      • shaydeeadi says:

        As a nice example: The Developer of Kenshi saw a massive increase in sales from his own site following posting it up onto Greenlight, there is also a demo available from there and that surely helped a bit. Following that he has since announced that all Alpha funders will get a Steam Key when it releases there since it was in the first 10 to get approved.

        So you can definitely add a link to a playable build of your title and it will help you gain approval from potential customers.

        • trjp says:

          Unless he’s updated it a LOT, the demo of Kenshi only shows that it’s about 10% done ;)

          • shaydeeadi says:

            The state of completion is irrelevant though as he has said it won’t be finished for at least 2 years, the point was that posting it on Greenlight with a link to a demo aided the voting process and helped it gain approval. :P

          • Xerian says:

            Trjp, from reading your comments I’d say its obvious to say this: You dont even get the point of Greenlight, or perhaps you’re just blatantly hating on Valve / Steam / Greenlight. You could ofcourse simply be a moron, but I’m doubtful about that.

  6. mr.ioes says:

    I’m just too lazy to look at greenlight and browse through tons of games. I mean, I check out all features of steam and like using it, but to me it’s just not presented well enough. The pictures usually don’t leave me with any impression on the game, so I don’t click them. Which is why I stopped using Greenlight for good real quick.

    • Urthman says:

      I think this misses the point of Greenlight. Nathan as well, when he says, “For normal folks, digging through more than a thousand candidates (and counting) without any rhyme or reason simply isn’t, well, reasonable.”

      I don’t think they really see this as primarily a thing where Steam users regularly browse and vote for promising games. I think they primarily see this as a way for a game developer to demonstrate to Valve, “Look, there’s a bunch of people who want my game on Steam!” I think they want most of the votes for a game to be driven by the developer sending fans and potential fans to their Greenlight page, not from Steam users randomly stumbling across and voting for games that have a nice Greenlight pitch.

      • LintMan says:

        Exactly. You discover the games the same ways you always had, such as from an article about them here on RPS. Then you check out the dev site and see there a link to their Greenlight page. If you are interested, you follow the link and upvote them, and maybe spread the word to your friends.

        That mechanism seems more likely to generate informed votes from real potential customers, than a vote from someone surfing the Grenlight pages who just came across it there.

  7. Theory says:

    One thing I really dislike about the current queue system is that you’ve got to vote one way or another to stop a game from repeatedly popping up. I feel bad about downvoting a game just because I’m not interested in it!

    • Aninhumer says:

      I don’t think it is downvoting, it’s just not upvoting.

    • zeroskill says:

      This is just another confusion that has been spread in the past by certain people. Downvoting doesn’t really hurt the game, it just removes it from your list.

      The game won’t lose rank because of that.

      That people believe they are now hurting a game when they “downvote” it is thanks to those people that just spread information without being properly informed.

      • trjp says:

        When the system first went live, downvoting DID have an effect on the ‘rating’ of a game – several developers tracked this and voiced concerns about it.

        Valve’s response was to remove the stats they were concerned about :)

        That they didn’t make it clear then – and still don’t make it clear now – what your ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ vote actually means is a fundamental flaw in the system (and the same problem exists in many other systems of course)

        If it’s just a way of hiding the game from your queue, it should SAY that – they really needed to think the whole thing through MUCH more before launching IMO – as it is, they’ve missed a chance to do something much, much better.

        I’m sure it will get better – but I’m really disappointed with that they’ve done thusfar – it’s all been backtracking and obfuscation.

        • zeroskill says:

          Some people were spreading misinformation way after Valve removed the thump-down button actually affecting the rating.

          That’s why I said that these certain people should inform themself’s better before they make a fuss about nothing.

          • The Random One says:

            If Steam had been clear about what the downvote meant from the beginning such misinformation would have never taken root.

        • skinlo says:

          They don’t really know what they are doing, thats the thing.

        • Tuco says:

          “When the system first went live, downvoting DID have an effect on the ‘rating’ ”

          No, it didn’t, they stated it clearly on their forums.
          It was just random people over the internet and press (included RPS and Total Biscuit) freaking over the downvote button for no reason.

          • trjp says:

            No it wasn’t – they simply did not make it clear what the buttons did (arguable they still don’t).

            The whole issue of asking for people views/ratings/scores/likes etc. is wrought with problems because

            a – people don’t think the question through
            b – people don’t explain the answers
            c – users don’t read any of it anyway.

            As someone already said, they simply don’t know what they’re doing – we don’t know what we’re doing and it’s a mess.

            If you’re going to ask people a question, make sure it’s clear and obvious and the answers make sense!?

          • Tuco says:

            Yes, it was. The fact that the service’s functionality wasn’t exactly clear doesn’t change the fact that people freaked out and jumped to conclusions about a problem that simply didn’t exist.

            “Downvoting is going to cause so much trolling! i’t’s a real problem!!!”
            Except it wasn’t, as downvotes weren’t piled put with upvotes from the start.
            They said it since the first day.

          • jrodman says:

            I’m not sure how you falsify that the down button causes trolling.

            The downvote button is still there, and there’s still lots of trolling.

            See also: Nuh uh!

          • Tuco says:

            Are you serious? Have oyu read a single word of what we said so far?
            Because if there isn’t a single consequence for downvoting something, iif that negative vote does NOT subtract from the rationg of the game, then you really need to explain what kind of “trolling” that can cause to developers.

          • jrodman says:

            I think you’re the one who missed the point.

            People suggesting that downvoting leads to trolling don’t think that clicking on the button is trolling. (Organized en-masse such clicking might be fraud or abuse.. ) It’s that the psychology of having that “this sucks” button leads to behavior in the comments section which is described as trolling.

            And that is still happening.

      • hannofcart says:

        Well, the interface designers should have clearly taken the scope for confusion into account. Anyone would, unless they RTFM, assume that you are indeed negatively affecting a game by down voting it. And hell, I don’t wanna have to read a manual to use something like Greenlight. The designers ought to have taken care to make it more intuitive.

      • Urthman says:

        Which makes more sense. From Valve’s point of view, not buying a game because you actively hate it is indistinguishable from not buying a game because you don’t care about it.

    • immerc says:

      The other problem is that you’re not “upvoting” or “downvoting” you’re saying “I would buy this game if it were available to buy” or “I would not buy this game”. That isn’t enough choice and doesn’t really capture the actual choices people make.

      It should include:

      “I’m not at all interested”

      “I’m interested enough to want to try a demo”

      “I wouldn’t get it for myself, but I know a friend who would love it”

      “I would buy this game, but only if it cost less than X”

      “I’d buy this game at almost any price.”

      • trjp says:


        If they’d given this more than 2 mins thought they’d have realised the question is simple – it’s

        “Are you interested in this game/would you like to play it – yes/no”

        That’s it’s – you can’t ask if people will buy it (depends what it costs and whether I can afford it at the time) or whether I think it “should be on Steam (who am I to decide that and on what criteria?)

        When you ask people for their views/opinions – remember that’s what you’ll get and remember that it’s generally worth very, very little so you keep it very very simple.

        • Caiman says:

          Actually there have been several games where I haven’t been able to make a decision because the concept looks interesting, but the development is clearly too early for me to say whether they pulled it off successfully. So I’d like a “Maybe, ask me again in a couple of months” button or something so you can check on progress.

        • HisMastersVoice says:

          And what purpose would asking that question serve? Steam is a commercial endeavour, as is Greenlight. If a game doesn’t sell itself (as in – make people want to pay to play it) to a large amount of customers it has no place on the store front and will not leave Greenlight.

        • Xennlander says:

          “you can’t ask if people will buy it”

          Except, that’s pretty much what Valve does ask. Have you even looked at Greenlight? Here’s the question, and the two possible responses, listed on each Greenlight page.

          “Would you play this game if it were available in Steam?”
          “Yes” or “No thanks/Not Interested”

          Playing the game on steam kind of sort of implies buying the game.

          That isn’t to say that I don’t think something more like ‘does this interest you?’ and a more granular set of choices, like maybe the classic ‘enormously’ ‘a lot’ ‘some’ ‘a little’ ‘not at all’ disguised 5-point rating, would be a far better and more comprehensible setup.

    • Theory says:

      It looks like three options are needed:

      1. Vote up!
      2. Hide
      3. Remind me later

  8. MortalWombat says:

    I’m happy to hear that there are still other channels to get your game on steam as it somehow became a fact that steam will not communicate with indie devs through former means in the last comment threads about greenlight.
    I also don’t mind the 100$ fee at all. (I would really, really like to pick the charity myself, though!)
    And I also don’t think that greenlight should necessarily be like a store for new games which you can browse to find gems you haven’t yet known about.
    If a developer gathers a decent following and gets a certain publicity he can than hopefully manage to redirect his fans and (potential) customers to his greenlight page. I don’t think greenlight should be a marketing tool by itself. Steam is already enough of a monopoly now so I would always prefer my own (or a different) platform.
    I’m certainly concerned about some issues regarding steam but greenlight is none of them. Why pick on it? The “failed” start didn’t hurt anyone.

    • zeroskill says:

      “Steam is already enough of a monopoly now so I would always prefer my own (or a different) platform.”

      50-70% market share doesn’t make a monopoly. I agree with you though.

      • MortalWombat says:

        I was trying to say that I don’t mind at all if all of steams community integration-social media-communication platform ambitions fail. I don’t want PC gaming to be equivalent with steam and I really hope they stay somewhat humble in that regard.
        I’ll take sustainability over constant growth every day!

        • zeroskill says:

          I agree with you pretty much with everything, other than the term monoploy. Monopoloy means that in a certain market, such as digital distribution, there would be only one provider for that certain good (digitally distributed games), which is not the case here. There are countless other distributers on the market, such as Gamers Gate, Green Man Gaming, ect.

          There is no dought that Steam is very dominant in digital distribution, but there are far from being a monopoly (as of yet).

          The term monopoly is being used often in conjunction with Steam as a buzzword, but again, Steam would have to have total control over the market to qualify as a monopoly.

          I agree with ou that Steam is too big for it’s own good already.

      • The Random One says:

        What about 90%, does that make it a monopoly? (That’s the amount of sales some indie devs report receiving from Steam.)

        • Orazio Zorzotto says:

          Um, does that indie dev have their game on every distribution network in the whole internets? Then no.
          It’s not surprising that a dev would report that 90% of their sales were from Steam if the only other place to get it was their own website.

        • zeroskill says:

          Just a though, but maybe look up there definition of the term.

          • Consumatopia says:

            This again, zeroskill? Under the definition of monopoly you were using before–the single seller of a commodity–Steam is definitely a monopoly. They are the only ones who can sell Steam exclusive games. They are the only distributor who can sell to users who only buy from Steam.

            Note that neither game downloads nor game distribution are commodities–the download of one game is not fungible with the download of another (“hey, you wanted a copy of game X, here’s a copy of game Y, that’s just as good, right?”) , nor is having your product in one store just as good as having it another (the same people don’t shop at both stores).

            So, just a thought, why don’t you look at the definition, hey? You might notice that there are multiple definitions (e.g. “In law, a monopoly is a business entity that has significant market power, that is, the power, to charge high prices.”) As I said before, I’m not sure it’s appropriate to call Steam a monopoly–but I am certain that your logic makes no sense.

          • zeroskill says:

            “They are the only ones who can sell Steam exclusive games.”

            There are no “Steam Exclusive” games. This isn’t Microsoft. Valve doesn’t do exclusivity contracts with 3rd party developers/ publishers.

            The only games that are exclusive are Valve’s own games on Steam, and even if they could charge high prices for those games, they chose not to, in fact, quite the opposite is true. Every other game is available through other services, weither that be from the developers directly or through Gamer’s Gate, Green Man Gaming, Get Games, Origin, or GoG. And non-Valve games make up 99,9% of the Steam Store.

            Stop abusing the word as a buzz-word with your grey area definitions.

            “In law, a monopoly is a business entity that has significant market power, that is, the power, to charge high prices.”

            Steam was no power over pricemaking of games they can’t call their own. The respective publishers/developers make the prices for their games on Steam. The only thing they can do is advise on pricing of games on the Steam service.

            “(the same people don’t shop at both stores).”

            Actually, people do. Me included. I buy games on Gamer’s Gate, GoG and Steam. I buy games through the Humble Store too, and directly from developers in cases, aswell as from retail.

            “nor is having your product in one store just as good as having it another”

            Yes it is, since Valve is handing out registration keys to all other services. If that is what you value. They even allow developers that sell directly though their own webpages to offer Steam keys with purchases aswell as having a clean download from their page.

  9. Stardog says:


    1. Facebook/G+ type “Like” button that is embeddable onto websites, so they don’t have to push people to another website.
    2. Field for linking to their website/demo.

    • The Random One says:

      Agreed on the second one; the first one seems abusable. (Plus I’m almost never logged in to Steam on my browser, just on the client.)

  10. Author X says:

    I notice that he says, “the section for concepts and future projects” – that’s good, I think there should be a section for concepts and future projects. But please, make it a separate section, so that we can choose to browse completed games or vague concepts.

    I know they require developers to indicate whether it’s a game near or at completion, so why not let the userbase use that information?

  11. Tuco says:

    I think Stumpokapow from neoGAF explained better than most what’s the general misunderstanding about Greenlight, so let me quote his post:

    “I’m not against any of the alternate submissions, but I really think this is still based on the faulty premise that Greenlight means Valve wants hobbyist games. They don’t. They want commercial games. They want games that will sell many thousand copies.

    The developers who don’t think they can make 5+ figures on Steam with their game shouldn’t be submitting. The developers who don’t have any confidence that their Greenlight submission will get on Steam shouldn’t be submitting. That’s the stakes here. Greenlight wasn’t introduced as a way to loosen the quality restrictions to enter Steam, but rather to get the same quality and polish of games but give Valve and easier time and help erode their team’s blind spots.

    I empathize that it’s a bit too early to tell how many of the games currently on the service will end up on Steam, how many votes will be needed, what kind of exposure, community feedback, etc.–this is an argument to wait a few months to find out.

    The stuff about the negative feedback is valid, Steam trolls suck, but some of it has already been addressed. The balance of voting isn’t visible anymore and the down-vote option is now a “No thanks, but good luck” option.

    I think the fee is designed to do the following things:
    – Deter pranksters and jokesters
    – Deter legitimate fans of games submitting commercial games because they don’t understand the purpose of the service
    – Third, and probably most importantly from Valve’s POV, deter well-meaning developers developing actual games that just aren’t up to Steam’s standards of professionalism–IE to send the message that Steam is not intended to be an open service, it’s intended to be a commercial, curated service.

    I wouldn’t be surprised to see them adjust, lower, refund, or drop the fee as time goes on, but I think at this point they’re looking for a few weeks or a few months to gather data to figure out more about how the service is going to work going forward. I guess the moral of the story might have been that a slim beta with a few thousand helpful, articulate, and friendly users might have been a better move than throwing open the floodgates, but I guess they felt that they needed to see how the final product would be responded to.”

    • Author X says:

      Yes, I definitely agree that the games should be up to Steam’s current standards (some weird anomalies in their current library notwithstanding). For some reason, the entries that said (or had the tone of) “lol, well, I made this in two weeks for practice, but I figured I’d put it on Greenlight to see if anyone wanted it, because that’s what it’s for right?” annoyed me far more than the intentional trolls and “request” entries.

      • trjp says:

        The problem is that the idea of Steam games having some sort of ‘standard’ is a myth – as is the idea that quality is somehow released to investment or professionality or whatever…

        Even trying to bring the question of “should this game be on Steam” is insulting to everyone involved because there’s no frame-of-reference to work with.

        There are many professionally developed/marketted games on Steam I’d not wipe my arse on – there are 1 man “coded in a bedroom” titles I think are works of genius and I know for a fact that asking the “community” to decide on the difference between those would not work.

        It’s been said before but if Portal had been put on Greenlight back-in-the-day, no-one would have voted for it. See all Cthulu/Breath of Death and loads and loads of other ‘successful’ titles on Steam.

        • Tuco says:

          What you are saying is irrelevant.
          What games you like to play it’s just your problem.
          We are talking about what games have any appeal as potential sellers, here.
          Because those are the games Valve is most likely interested in.

          • trjp says:

            You’ve not read what other’s have said here – you CANNOT predict the success of a game and the interest of the ‘community’ is no more useful than looking at tea-leaves…

            You can’t ask people if they will ‘buy’ something you’ve not told them the price/availability of – it’s a nonsense question – hell, even WITH the price people often can’t answer that question honestly ;)

            Greenlight’s purposes is to ensure that Valve don’t “miss” games that they should have on Steam (as happens right now) – thus they’re enlisting the community as ‘hamsters’ to run around a maze nudging vote buttons.

            Problem is, they’ve not decided how to reward those hamsters – indeed they offered some reward (progress ratings and visitor counts etc.) and then removed them again!?!?

            Thus the ‘hamsters’ aren’t going to do much – irregardless of the question they’re being asked!? :)

        • Author X says:

          I’m not saying that games made by single developers in bedrooms are bad – some of my favorite indie games are made by lone, dedicate, creative people. However, a good deal of the games in the initial flood were not labours of love but labours of boredom and practice, devoid of real effort.

          No matter how vague or nebulous Steam’s standards, I’m certain they fall above a less visually-appealing Progress Quest clone (this one literally used to include “Just to test people’s reaction. :)” in the description), or whatever this is. I’m not saying “this is a niche title with a low budget and does not appeal to me, personally,” I mean, “they clearly didn’t even try”

          When I’m saying it should live up to standards and not look like it was lazily , I don’t mean I’m ruling out Cave Story or Binding of Isaac or Breath of Death VII, I mean I’m ruling out the “game” I made in my first programming class to demonstrate that I know how to make 2D collision detection. I have the good sense to know that’s not a real game and “testing peoples’ reactions” on Greenlight won’t accomplish anything, but apparently a lot of people don’t.

      • equalsP says:

        I agree, people didn’t see Greenlight for what it was supposed to be, and thats what the $100 makes sense. Valve had this idealic vision that people submitting games would be part of professional dev teams (could be one person, and by profession I just mean they are devoted to making games). Seems that most of the entries are garbage, stuff that would never get picked up by a publisher.

        The idea of Greenlight is for a game that is in the phase for looking for a distribution platform (which for indie games is pretty late in the cycle, so it should be mostly finished, somewhere in the alpha/beta phase) to get exposure and support. Valve sees lots of games and needs to decided if they would be profitable or not. For McPixel, they probably though it wouldn’t sell. No one would spend money on it. No one from the committee was “feeling it”. so they rejected it. But with the whole Pirate Bay thing, SOS showed that people want the game, and people would buy it. Thats why it got on steam after all.

        And that’s why they say that people need to build communities around their game. Steam is not going to accept games that won’t sell. So you need to show there is a need for your game. This is basic business. Show a need and people will support you.

        I just feel that Greenlight doesn’t really add anything new, except make it inside the Steam system. Its not a funding/development tool like Kickstarter, its a distribution deal.

      • SkittleDiddler says:

        There is no “Steam Standard”. They don’t even have a dedicated QA department, and I would hazard to guess that they don’t even bother to pretest 80-90% of the games they add to the library.

        As far as I’m concerned, Greenlight was created so that Valve could throw off any accusations of poor QA reliability. Now they can simply blame the community: “Hey, suckers, it’s not our fault that game doesn’t run for 75% of the people who bought it on Day One. We didn’t greenlight it, you did.”

    • RobF says:

      Yes, the big problem with this theory is you don’t and can’t know what will sell thousands of copies until it sells thousands of copies*.

      Of course Valve want things that make money for them, that’s a given. Of course they’d prefer things that sell thousands, that’s obvious to everyone and then some. But -what- is a viable commercial project is, well, it’s messy, right?

      Certainly, there’s ways to tip the balance in your favour (see upper tiers of indie where they spend 5 years creating games invariably to a certain quality bar, you can’t rely on these guys to prop a store up though with a release schedule like that) but it falls over really, really fast when you look at stuff like Minecraft. It’s easy to take it for granted now but on release? Who’d have known this would happen?

      And there’s niche titles on Steam that only get to sell thousands of copies by virtue of being on Steam. That’s a thing that happens.

      There’s a mythical quality of what makes a Steam game too. What is a Steam game? Is it Braid? Is it Defy Gravity Extended? Is it Waves? Is it Arcadia? Is it Colourblind or is it that bloody thing with the unicorn and the gems or is it The Cat And The Coup or Trauma or what? All of them are on Steam, all of them vary in style and in quality, what is a Steam game is simple. It’s a game that’s gotten onto Steam. Before that? It’s not a Steam game, the catalogue -now- is way too broad.

      Maybe before 2010 or something, totally predictible. Now? Nah, not so much. I mean, ffs, the first Greenlit game is McPixel. It’s an amazingly cool thing, I love it to bits. You can bet no-one would have called -that- “a Steam game” prior, right? Yet there it is and through Greenlight. We know how it got through, SoS did a remarkable job of plugging it but still, if we’re talking the mythical “Steam Game” quality bar, I imagine most people would class it as falling vastly short of such a thing.

      Game sales are awkward, they’re messy and they don’t fit neatly into theories of this is commercial/this is not commercial. There’s so many different audiences wanting different things and sometimes a game not selling thousands can be a worthwhile consideration and sometimes the game you don’t expect to sell thousands does just that given the right place.

      Anyway, theories of the fees intended use are fairly moot, it was covered at the FA panel that they’re there to eliminate the spam problem in short order. Something it succeeded in doing. It was decided after looking at similar submission fees such as the IGF/App Store etc…

      It’s to keep the jokes and the jokers out, not necessarily to filter between shit and not shit because as I’ve gone over many times, the only thing having $100 to splash down on a fee proves is that someone has $100. Valve know this. The rest is, whilst with the best of intentions, attempting to rationalise and simplify a far more complex issue with many shades of grey.

      *well, you can do what many AAA studios do and work out a set of criteria of things that must be in a game in order to reach a certain level but it should be glaringly obvious why this is a flawed approach and why it’s certainly not suited to Greenlight.

  12. Johnny Lizard says:

    Greenlight is a solution to a problem that hasn’t existed for some time – how to bring indie games with large fan bases to Valve’s attention.

    • trjp says:

      It was still a problem – I know several indie developers who’ve created many games which are well known in ‘indie circles’ but who’ve tried submitting to Steam and heard nothing whatsoever.

      Problem is – their old system was closed and obscured and random and their new system is closed and obscured and just-about as random.

      The only difference is that they can blame someone else for missing games now…

      • Ritashi says:

        The problem was that Valve refused to just bite the bullet and hire people to go through all the submissions, so some submissions likely got no more than a passing glance; and due to Valve’s internal structure, getting onto Steam probably depended more on who happened to look at the emails that day than whether your game belonged there. This is a problem that never *should* have existed, but did because no one at valve was willing to just crack down and get some structure set up to handle the admission process. Submissions that never even got replies (a very common story) is just ridiculous, and it’s very much not in Valve’s favor to have that happen. It sucks for devs, and what sucks for devs sucks for distributors.

    • woodsey says:

      What? It exists because they didn’t have the man-power to handle all the submissions they received.

  13. Marik Bentusi says:

    It’s a real mess, but points for actually taking risks and experimenting. When the system changes for people on the top, they might have a looong fall ahead.

    Anyway, I wonder how they’ll increase the audience of Greenlight, as there’s currently only so much overlap between the average steam user and the Greenlight regulars. Since they’ve been big on achievements during the Summer Sales, I wonder if they’ll take a look at Newgrounds’ system which basically adds a level-up system based on how much you vote – if you’re a regular, you gain voting power. Everything accompanied with little unlocks on certain milestones of course. Little badges you can pin on your page, stuff like that.

  14. Caiman says:

    What concerns me most about Greenlight is it seems to stifle projects that aren’t mainstream, or that don’t hit whatever the current popular trend happens to be. I’m a bit confused by this. Is Steam saying “we will only sell games that are popular, and hence commercially viable”? What if you have a fantastic niche product, either something that will have a dedicated small but core fanbase, or something that is more akin to art. I mean, can you imagine Dear Esther getting enough votes to succeed in Greenlight? I doubt it. In some ways if you have a slightly left-field game, Greenlight seems more akin to throwing yourself to the wolves.

  15. HisMastersVoice says:

    I’m surprised such a simple concept could be so misunderstood. Let me break it down for you.

    Valve wants to earn money.
    It does so by selling stuff on Steam.
    Greenlight asks you if you’re willing to buy something on Steam.
    It does not ask you if the concept is interesting or the author a charming man.
    It wants to know if you’re going to buy it.
    BUY. IT.
    As a result, all the napkin projects, lunch break mods and stuff that does not sell itself through a game play vid and 10 sentence synopsis will not, and in fact should not get through.
    Because it will hurt both Steam AND the dev if the game doesn’t sell.
    That’s why they’re asking you if you want to buy the thing, and not if you like it or want t play it. I’d want to play a lot of things if they were free, but I’m not willing to pay for them.

    Greenlight is NOT a project site. It’s NOT a self promotion portal. It’s not for the half made or the hopeful. It’s for those who have solid, finished (or nearly finished) product ready to be displayed on the front page of Steam.

    • trjp says:

      You’re missing something very fundamental

      You can’t ask people if they’re going to buy something when

      a – you’re not saying what it will cost
      b – you’re not able to tell them EXACTLY what they’re going to get
      c – you can’t tell them when it might be for sale.

      The question should be “Is this a game you’re interested in?” – nothing more, nothing less.

      • Tuco says:

        What you are missing, on the other hand, is that informing potential customers of these things (what you are charging for it, what makes your game good or special and so on) it’s something that developers should bother with.

        Valve doesn’t have any obligation to promote these games, when they aren’t even selling them yet.
        They *will* sell them if there’s enough interesting around them, which is *all* they care about.

      • Ateius says:

        ^ what Tuco said. There is absolutely nothing stopping developers from including all that information in their Greenlight page (some do!). If they choose not to do so, then you’re absolutely right – people can’t answer the question as reliably and their game might not get all the votes it could. That’s not Steam’s fault, though. That’s on the devs.

    • Tuco says:


  16. Ritashi says:

    The solution to the problem of things that fall through the cracks is really really simple, and has nothing to do with Greenlight. The solution is to actually hire and pay some people to sort through all the game submissions you get. It’s not hard. I feel like Valve are moving in COMPLETELY the wrong direction in trying to solve this simple question. If you have a list of hundreds of things, and you want to find the good ones (by some metric for “good”), then you offer some group of people some kind of reward to go through the drudgery of looking at each one. Typically, this manifests as a job, though some other reward systems can work (LoL’s tribunal, for instance). Everything Valve does with Greenlight just makes it sound more and more to me like they were just feeling really lazy and didn’t like the drudgery of sorting through the submissions they get, so they came up with a half-assed solution to the problem that doesn’t fix anything.

    • trjp says:

      or even better, have a proper ‘peer review’ system using the Community – but not just as lab-rats pressing a button, get them more involved.

      I hate to hark again to Microsoft’s model for XBLIG but the fact is that a staid and creatively dead company has a better solution there than Valve do here!!!

      Games are peer-reviewed by other game creators and then made available for the wider community – why can’t Valve copy that.

      Let anyone post a game – selected ‘peer reviewers’ (a mix of game makers and selected players) then look at those games and knock-out the comedy stuff and things which are nowhere near ready. The rest then goes into a public area where people can show interest (or not) – and all that feeds back to Valve who ‘do deals’.

  17. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    Ugh. I’m done with Greenlight as a gamer. Perhaps if they removed the fee for submissions I’d take another stab at it for the sake of the potentially good games on there struggling to get through. As it is, I feel Valve have dropped the ball on this one and I’m not going to do their work for them nor support them for it.

  18. killuminati says:

    The idea is great but every time I access the Greenlight pages, it feels too much like the Android store full of to be honest, crap games that are copy+paste of others or free to play scum or in general poor quality products.

    I repeat, maybe its ME, I’ve browsed some games and some are nice others well.. fit perfectly in the description above..

    • Malibu Stacey says:

      It’s definitely not *just* you. I can’t be arsed with it either. I can count on 3 fingers the games I’ve bothered looking up & clicking the “Yes I would buy/play this game if it were on Steam” (Black Mesa, Air Buccaneers and Rob Fearon’s “Death Ray Manta”).

      • Ateius says:

        I dedicated myself to an hour-plus of looking through Greenlight submissions. After taking the time to customize what genres it would display for me, I ended up approving … maybe 10 games? Out of over a hundred.

        There are a lot of gem-puzzle games being marketed as “strategy” and pixel-art platformers as “RPGs”, for some reason.

  19. Lucent says:

    Let’s just solve the problem right here, right now.

    link to