Posted on 07 Jun 2017 by L Coulsen

Steam Direct: Greenlight’s Red Light

Farewell Steam Greenlight, we barely knew thee. Nor, it seems, did all that many of us wish to know thee. Though I found it to be a rather intriguing system with a great deal of potential personally, the Steam community response was primarily negative. As such, Greenlight has now been officially laid to rest, and the rather more intriguing Steam Direct will be coming to replace it as of June 13th.

The chips are down and the results are in. After much consideration, and consultation with the Steam userbase, Valve have come to the conclusion that Steam Direct will set you back a flat fee of $100 per game. This will guarantee your product is released on the platform with all of the rights and privileges thus entailed. So, think of it like the listing fee you’d pay on a website like Ebay, but a tad higher. Though it also gives you a potentially infinite profit return. It’s also “recoupable”, which I think means you get it back if your game proves itself to not be wank by the Steam community.

There are other changes coming along the way as well. The most notable being a real push towards making Steam Curators a much larger, and much more visible, part of the Steam Store as a whole. Essentially, Valve is moving towards making curators the chief watchdogs of quality on Steam. Something which, I’m sure, a lot of people will be less than enthused about. Since, let’s be honest, keeping track of the quality of the products they sell should be Valve’s job. And yes, it should be Valve’s job. But if you really think any one company is large enough to achieve such an undertaking, I want some of what you are smoking.

Green no more!

You could argue, of course you could, that department stores manage to do that. Except, they don’t. There are entire business sectors, nevermind individual companies, that do a lot of that work for them. Trading standards watchdogs, consumer rights, environmental health (which are typically government agencies don’t forget) and health and safety to name but a very, very few. Each of which will consist of dozens of departments, individual companies and tens of thousands of employees with very specific mandates, dealing with extremely small sub-sects of an industry.

So yes, Valve should do it, but that just is not possible. Think of it as being akin to a website like Reddit, or any kind of forum for that matter. There will be a larger company that deals with the business side of things, and is ostensibly responsible for the day to day running and content of their platform. But there will always be volunteer moderators that look after certain threads and sections to take the pressure off the business side of things. And basically, that’s what Valve are intending for curators to do. And it’s worth bearing in mind, they won’t just fire and forget. People from Valve will still be around to keep an eye on things as well.

All in all, this has the potential to be absolutely huge. Giving rise to potential revenue for millions of new developers that, otherwise, may have never done anything with their grand ideas. Will there be floods of shite? Well, sadly, yeah there will. $100, even on a game by game basis, really isn’t all that much money. And there will certainly be people that will still throw out a game just for shits and giggles, price it at $5 and make a show of how bad it is. There are entire sections of YouTube that lap all that up.

'Cause YouTube is where the poop is...

And there’s another problem Valve have highlighted. A significant percentage of the people who do throw out terrible games, then use multiple bot accounts to farm Steam Trading Cards of their own game, then to be sold on, admittedly for pennies, to other users. It may not seem like a great deal, but considering it’s your game, you have a literally infinite supply of codes to give to yourself. Adding the per game fee is part of the steps to discourage that. But there will also be a system whereby a game cannot drop cards until it reaches a certain degree of trust with the community. Something else which curators will have a large part in. If they find a game that’s a blatant cash grab, they can effectively make it worthless.

But really, the key thing to take away from all this though. Whether you agree or disagree with the direction Steam is heading, all of this is coming from conversations with the community. This is not all Valve just having a wild idea, maybe when singing to itself in the shower, shrugging its shoulders and saying “fuck it, let’s do it!” The community has spoken, and whether you have seen this reflected in what you see, or the people you talk to. This is what the majority wants the future of Steam to look like. Or at least, the largest part of the community that spent time engaging with Valve about all of this anyway. And it all looks pretty damned spiffy to me.

But what do I know? I’m just one voice, like everyone else. So feel free to tell me I’m wrong, call me a shameless shill, pat me on the back and call me Mister McGoo. It really is, all up to you. Which is what excites me most about this.

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