After saying bye bye to the voter-led Steam Greenlight last week, Valve have today launched Steam Direct. It’s their new way for developers to submit games to the store by filling in some forms and throwing $100 onto Valve’s gold hoard as an publishing fee. There’s a lot more info about all this in a blog post but let’s go over the basics.
If you’re simply a player of games, this means there'll probably just be more of them in the long-term. That’s not usually a bad thing. If you’re a maker of games, it’s more significant. You no longer need to go through the voting process to gather interest in your game, like a sniveling politician, before it can appear on Steam. Now, you only need to do something much more precarious: paperwork.
As well as contact info and the usual stuff, Valve also require tax information. After that, the application fee of $100 needs to be paid. This is recoupable, they say, so if your game gets over $1000 in sales you get this fee back. Following that, a review process to make sure you haven’t put any naughty code in the game takes place, as well as checking to see if it's configured properly. “These processes shouldn't take more than a day or two,” says Valve, “unless we find something configured incorrectly or problematic.”
The submission process itself can be found here. The reasons for this change in Steam’s procedures are many but much of it comes down to a battle against “Bad Actors” who were abusing the Greenlight process to release crappy games solely to make money on trading cards. Along with recent changes to the way those trading cards work, this new submission process is expected to combat that.
We aren't quite sure whether there will be a lot more new submissions, just a bit more, or even fewer. It's most likely that there will be an initial surge of new submissions and then a new rate somewhat higher than what was coming through Greenlight.
Our analysis suggests that quite a bit of the previous volume of submissions to Greenlight was motivated by trading card abuse... we expect there is a category of game-shaped objects that are unlikely to be worth someone paying even $100 to bring to Steam. So that will likely lower the rate of incoming new titles somewhat.
All this is important for developers, yes, but any change in the volume of games on Steam will have a knock-on effect on players too, even if it is only in terms of what they see on the store front. With that in mind, changes to the curator system and the way Steam recommends games to people are also under way. Here's what they say about that:
We're also quite a ways into rewriting the core of our recommendation engine to better predict which games any given user might find most exciting. And we're also in the process of updating various sections of the Steam store that haven't received as much recent attention as the home page.
All in all, some quite-big changes to the way things work. However, it might be a few weeks until we see exactly what effect this has on us as mindless, swarming consumers (if any).