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Mace & Crown | February 20, 2018

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Valve to Replace 'Steam Greenlight' with 'Steam Direct'

Nathan Laplante
Contributing Writer

Valve Corporation, the company behind the popular online game marketplace “Steam,” has recently revealed that they fully intend to replace their controversial Greenlight program with a new service called “Steam Direct.” The Steam Greenlight Program was launched in 2012 and was put forth to give independent developers a chance to pitch their games with the hope of being put on the Steam storefront.

Through the Greenlight process, developers would pay an initial $100 fee for the posting, and then Steam users would then vote on the games that they liked. Games with the most votes would become available for purchase on the online marketplace. While this method has produced several commercially and critically successful “indie” games, such as the critically-acclaimed side-scrolling platformer “Broforce,” the process was notorious for lacking reasonable standards of quality control. This led to the marketplace becoming saturated with broken, low-quality and in many cases copyright-infringing games.

Perhaps the most notable example of Greenlight “shovelware” was the infamous “Slaughtering Grounds,” developed by a group then known as “Digital Homicide.” “Slaughtering Grounds” was criticized for being developed almost entirely from pre-made assets purchased from an online store in a practice commonly known as “asset-flipping.” The developer also came under fire for it’s use of uncredited Google stock imagery for the game’s effects. Practices such as these were fairly common within the Greenlight program, as they resulted in cheap and easy-to-develop products.

This lack of quality control within the Greenlight program drew criticism from both users and game journalists alike, and it appears that this backlash is at least partially responsible for the implementation of Steam Direct.

“Greenlight also exposed two key problems […]: improving the entire pipeline for bringing new content to Steam and finding more ways to connect customers with the types of content they wanted,” according to the Steam Direct announcement. According to the post, Steam Direct is set to launch in Spring 2017 and will utilize a paperwork-based verification system that is “similar to the process of applying for a bank account.” The process will also feature an application fee for each new title presented, in an effort to prevent over-saturation. While Valve has yet to decide on a final cost for the application fee, they have “talked to many developers and studios about an appropriate fee” and that the cost could potentially be anywhere from $100 to $5,000.

Reactions to the introduction of this new proposal have been mixed. While many see Direct as a superior alternative to Greenlight, there are also a number of those who see Direct as more unfriendly to aspiring indie developers. The main source of doubt is the potential price. Many find the possibility of a $500 publishing fee to be extremely discouraging to up-and-coming developers who are already struggling financially. The discussion over the potential cost has caught the attention of Raw Fury, a game developer most known for games such as “Gonner” and “Kingdom.” In response to this issue, Raw Fury has promised to cover the price of admission for certain developers in the event that the cost reaches the $1,000 or beyond range.

“We chatted amongst ourselves and came to an immediate understanding that there had to be something we do the contribute to the indie community” the developer said in a post on the company’s official website. “So we’ve decided to try to financially support some developers that are doing amazing things but might struggle with Steam Direct if the fee ends up being on the expensive side.”

All things considered, it would appear that most users are pleased with the new approach Valve is taking with Direct. While Greenlight was marred by sub-par releases and a lack of proper oversight and quality control, it seems that Direct is a response to fan feedback and a genuine attempt to improve their service. If Valve can find a way to make the entry fee affordable to most developers, Steam Direct may succeed in a way that Greenlight did not, while also benefiting consumers and developers alike.