Valve confirm Steam Direct publishing fee: $100
On and on
$100 (£80-ish) is how much it'll cost to publish a game on Steam after Greenlight shuts down, Valve have confirmed. They're ditching the Greenlight system of having would-be players vote on which games reach the Steam store, and replacing it with a system that'll let developers sign up and, after being verified, submit games directly to Steam for a fee. What we'll probably see is many more games hitting Steam, and quicker. Valve had previously tossed around $100 and $5,000 as mooted figures.
$100 is how much applying to Steam Greenlight costs, though that does let devs submit as many games as they please after all. Registered Steam Direct developers will need to pay $100 per individual game. Valve say this fee will be "recoupable", though they haven't yet explained quite how that'll work.
Why $100? Valve explained in today's blog post:
"[. . .] we've seen a bunch of great conversations discussing the various pros and cons of whether there should be an amount, what that amount should be, ways that recouping could work, which developers would be helped or hurt, predictions for how the store would be affected, and many other facets to the decision. There were rational & convincing arguments made for both ends of the $100-$5000 spectrum we mentioned. Our internal thinking beforehand had us hovering around the $500 mark, but the community conversation really challenged us to justify why the fee wasn't as low as possible, and to think about what we could do to make a low fee work.
"So in the end, we've decided we're going to aim for the lowest barrier to developers as possible, with a $100 recoupable publishing fee per game, while at the same time work on features designed to help the Store algorithm become better at helping you sift through games. We're going to look for specific places where human eyes can be injected into the Store algorithm, to ensure that it is working as intended, and to ensure it doesn't miss something interesting. We're also going to closely monitor the kinds of game submissions we're receiving, so that we're ready to implement more features like the the Trading Card changes we covered in the last blog post, which aim to reduce the financial incentives for bad actors to game the store algorithm."
Dovetailing with that, Valve detailed plans to expand Steam Curators [psst! follow the RPS Steam Curator], the lists of games players and groups can create. Future plans include adding the ability to attach YouTube videos and to create custom lists.
Steam of the future will be, according to Valve's plans, a bustling store where automated recommendations and player-driven curation mesh to show players games it thinks they want. We're many years past the point where people could reasonably follow every game released on Steam (even our Alec). Valve are still working on alternatives to that and these systems have come a long way, though they can still seem a bit wonky. Valve are making automated systems more transparent so, when they are wrong, it's more clear why they are wrong. Valve say:
"Like all the work in the Steam Store, Steam Direct will take some iteration to get the kinks out. We're optimistic. Aiming for the low publishing fee gives every game developer a chance to get their game in front of players. The Store algorithm will do its best to make sure you see games that are worth your time to look at. Combining everyone's increased visibility into the algorithm's thinking with the human eyes of Curators will hopefully ensure that whenever that algorithm isn't working properly, we'll know about it, and have the chance to fix it."
I realise some folks get antsy any time Valve open Steam up more. Some have strong (and strongly wacky) opinions about what does and doesn't 'deserve' to be on Steam or to even exist. That's daft, of course. And mate, come on - Steam had duffers even back when only Valve games were on it.
As fees go, $100 is certainly less than $5,000 but ah, it's a shame. It'll exclude a lot of games I've hugely enjoyed over the past few years -- games which are released free, pay-what-you-want, or by developers who don't have $100 to spare. Sure, Itch.io and Game Jolt will still support those games, but Steam is the de facto storefront of PC gaming. While Greenlight had these problems too, it always seemed a stopgap measure. If this is the blueprint for Steam's future, it'll lack some of the most interesting and important games being made these days.