On Friday, Valve, the company behind the Steam platform, announced that their current Greenlight program will be discontinued and replaced by a new, stricter, fee-based system – namely “Steam Direct”. The announcement comes less than five years since the launch of Greenlight which has allowed indie devs to publish their new titles to an enormous user base following a successful voting period.
Many see the current, and soon to be extinct, system as nothing more than a popularity contest with those devs already backed by a strong following able to get “Greenlit” with relative ease. However, the news won’t be popular to all with the potential new fees ranging between $100 – $5000 per title (exact details TBC) – meaning many solo devs look as though they could be priced out of any future Steam releases without a considerable budget.
In addition to the higher fees, Valve intend to introduce a more stringent application process but still aren’t looking to implement the quality control standards to prevent a mass of poor quality games making it onto their platform. Surprising, given that this move is an attempt to remedy the quality issue…
The below tweet, made late last year, highlights the issue at hand. The sheer number of releases (quantity over quality) has meant that Valve have been left with no option but to move to fix a problem they created themselves by not introducing better quality control from the outset.
38% of all Steam games were released in 2016 pic.twitter.com/JiX2pt6JhB
— Steam Spy (@Steam_Spy) November 30, 2016
What does this mean for devs and GameMaker Studio developers?
If you planned to release on Steam in the near future then the short answer is, it’s gonna cost you more. Valve have been clear that the new cost (whenever the final figure is announced) is “fully recoupable at some point” but just what does that mean? If they have a revenue target for each title and they simply return the fee then maybe it won’t be as bad as it could be, however, you’ll still need to find the fee to begin with – which could eat into your development budget.
One other solution, and probably most likely, is that we’ll see more and more crowdfunding campaigns to get this fee together without impacting the dev. I’m not sure this makes it much different from the currently “popularity contest” though so let’s see how it all pans out.
In any case, as this blog grows and as more information comes out about Steam Direct, I’ll be working to find potential opportunities to support our community. Whether that’s reinvesting income to allow you publish on Steam or helping drive awareness of your crowdfunding campaigns for the same benefit, I’ll be working to support you in any way that I can.
We always have Itch.io too, a free-to-publish platform, who rather amusingly tweeted this in response to the announcement (unofficially):
Introducing itch.io direct
— itch.io (@itchio) February 10, 2017
I’d love to hear what you think of the news. Are you happy that there will be tighter controls or are you concerned that Steam won’t be an option for you in the future? If the fees are as high as $5000 then how would you look to raise that sort of capital?
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