Steam Greenlight is finally getting the axe from Valve Corporation, after several years’ warning that it was coming. According to a report from Ars Technica, the Greenlight program is slated to be replaced nearly five years after it was first announced with the new Steam Direct system. Steam Direct will launch sometime this spring, and according to Valve, will allow developers “a more direct publishing path and ultimately connect gamers with even more great content.”
But no announcement in the gaming community is without its teething pains, and this one comes in response to Steam Direct’s new listing fee. According to Valve, rather than a voting system like Greenlight, Steam Direct will allow games to be listed on Steam immediately for a flat fee — one that Valve says will be anywhere between $100 and $5,000.
That last announcement, as Polygon reported, prompted an angry wave of indie developers — many of them responsible for some of Steam’s best-selling titles, to flood Twitter.
“Cinders earned over $300k, but I started MoaCube with less than $3k in my bank account,” said MoaCube owner Tom Grochowiak, who is working on his fifth indie title, Bonfire. “Took me 3 years of well-paying job to collect, and I considered it enough savings to go indie.
“Now imagine our chances with a $5k fee.”
And for the "you can always borrow/crowdfund for the fee" crowd — I was already in the red and heavily indebted when the game launched.
— Tom Grochowiak (@TomGrochowiak) February 12, 2017
“My experience with XBLIG says $5k per title is too much. Hopeful devs will bankrupt themselves w/ no profit,” said Daniel Steger of Steger Games.
That said, as noted by Braid developer Jonathan Blow, Valve themselves haven’t even finalized their plans yet, not every developer is so upset; he accused Polygon and Kotaku of spreading “fake news” that Steam Direct “is some huge terrible emergency.”
“Getting rid of greenlight is great,” said Zoë Quinn, “but this seems [like garbage] too???”
It’s true that Steam Greenlight had a lot of problems, which devs have frequently complained about over the years. As Kotaku notes, Greenlight’s voting system essentially incentivized developers into courting the votes of their audience — and not necessarily making a good game. There was no internal consistency to which games were greenlit; while Steam says that over 100 games which started on Greenlight eventually made over $1 million, many more pieces of “shovelware” made it through the process.
Other titles only made it through for being sufficiently “edgy” and attention-getting. Developer Digital Homicide faced serious pushback after submitting an unprecedented number of games to the service, which were characterized by The Escapist‘s Jim Sterling as having poor graphics, numerous glitches, and in some cases, stolen content. Digital Homicide later filed suit against Sterling for “assault, libel, and slander,” and about 100 other Steam users for “personal injury.”
Which brings up the other point about Steam Greenlight which developers have been complaining about almost since its inception; it was a platform rife with harassment, with very few tools against it. Zoe Quinn’s Depression Quest is the most notable example. As per TechSpot, Quinn had to remove it from Greenlight after facing repeated death and rape threats. Depression Quest was a game made in Twine: a simple, open-source text adventure game platform that practically anyone can use. And there is a subset of gamers who really don’t like it.
One Twine developer, who asked to remain anonymous, said that their experience with Greenlight harassment, for attempting to publish a Twine game around two years ago, essentially forced them off of Steam entirely, and caused them to lock all of their social media accounts.
“I do want to finish [my game] someday but as it stands I don’t log into Steam much anymore.
“I get emails sometimes, so I don’t check my email much anymore. I used to get Greenlight comments, so I don’t log into Steam anymore.”
Meanwhile, as Blow puts it, “Valve themselves haven’t even finalized their plans yet.” And while some are seeing Steam Direct as a poor answer to a broken system, most agree that it did need fixing. What remains to be seen is if the cure is better or worse than the disease.
[Featured Image by Valve Corporation (edited)]