What steam should do

So a while back I ranted about why steam was damaging to independent developers as a whole (yes they are good for those that make it onto the service, but everyone else has a harder time), in that post I said:

I would argue then, that steam *should* be as good to indies as people *think* that they are. If steam are the only way *most* people get their games, then it’s nothing less than steam’s RESPONSIBILITY to give all indie developers a decent chance.

I then continued that because steam are a business, it was not in their interest to be good for all indie developers, just the developers they thought would make them a decent amount of money.

But let’s say steam genuinely wanted to be awesome for all indie developers, let’s say they could do it with barely any added cost (and would in fact make more money from indie games than they currently do). It’s totally possible, and if they did this I would put a strikethrough all the text of my ‘Fuck Steam’ post and leave a note at the top saying steam are fucking wonderful. What’s more, if steam did this they would not lose face at all, all the people pissed about greenlight before, and all the people in favour would be on steam’s side together.

So here’s what steam should do.

  • Keep greenlight
  • Keep the $100 fee to get on it
  • Move greenlight into the store

Instead of the greenlight buttons ‘would you buy this game if it was on steam? yes/no’, just have steam’s regular ‘add to cart’ button. Developers will have already uploaded the game, they get money if somebody buys the game (instead of a hypothetical “oh I’d totally buy this”), steam gets a cut of the money, and gamers who want the game have it in their library right away without waiting for the game to get the rubber stamp and added to steam.

It really is that simple. Steam’s catalogue explodes, any developer with $100 gets to sell their game on steam, and steam makes money from greenlight. It’s in everyone’s best interests, the developer, steam and their customers.

About now a bunch of people reading this hate the idea because it will saturate steam with really shit games, ‘If you flood what’s available on steam it’s not good for anyone, surely?‘ I totally agree, most of the games submitted would be shit. So keep greenlight off the front page of steam. Just how right now greenlight games dont get put in front of people unless they prove themselves with a lot of people clicking the “I’d buy this” button, don’t feature any greenlight games as part of the main store unless they prove themselves with people actually buying the games.

So just picture that for a moment, steam employee-person, for every single “I’d buy this game if it was on steam” click under the current system, even on games that haven’t been greenlit, an indie developer would have been paid and you would have taken your cut too.

Those “I’d buy this if it was on steam” clicks suddenly stop being something intangible, they become meals for indie developers and go towards real things like rent and bills. That $100 greenlight fee is no longer a lottery ticket that *may* result in a chance to sell to steam users, it is an actual pass to sell to actual steam users.

So there you have it, simply put, this is what steam will do if they care about indie games development as a whole. It’s what steam will do if they want to make an extra buck. It’s what steam will do if they want more games available to their customers. It’s what steam will do if they want to cross out the number one google result for “fuck steam”.

It’s true this would not address the problems of steam’s near monopoly on game download sales but it would stop smaller indies, who currently have to try and survive outside steam, from shouldering the burden.


49 Comments on “What steam should do”

  1. red says:

    What about liability issues, such as if the game contained copyrighted elements, or malware?

    • Sophie says:

      for $100 per year, per title, I should think steam could keep an eye on this themselves, but that’s not the only solution. Developers could agree to accept liability in the agreement. I’m sure there are other ways to deal with this too, but ultimately I’m not a lawyer or anything though, so I’m not going to run off with anything.

      to be honest though I think this is a small issue compared to the problems that my suggestion would actually deal with.

      • I believe the $100 is a one time fee and per account not per title. But aside from that yeah they could even separate it with labels/tags of completely unverified, verified not malware, etc.

        • Dan says:

          Or possibly charge another fee per title on top of the annual/one-time fee. Few devs producing crapware are going to have the financial resources to publish a series of bad games at, say, $25 a game.

          The $25 could go toward the verification system you mentioned. They could call it a malware/copyright check certification fee.

          Something like this could easily be outsourced if it’s too much for Valve to handle internally.

      • TheLogan says:

        From what I understand of greenlight, the whole point is just to get rid of crap, the games at the top will be looked at and when steam has bandwith to deal with more games being sold (crappy excuse, i know ^^ ) the valve/steam guys then take a look at the top ones and move them to the store.
        It’s not a perfect system, heck it’s not even a good system, but it’s better than what was there before.

        Having thought about it for a moment, what I’d like to see is,
        you pay 100$
        You submit your game.
        Your game reaches a clear goal of “I’d buys”, and can now be bought via greenlight to show up on your steam account, but it won’t go full steam until someone looks at it from steam’s side.

        This would allow the community time to downrate/flag copyrighted material and similar, unless it’s really well hidden.
        And would give developers income, while they are in the queue to go full on steam.

        However, I doubt anything like this will happen, after all I believe the reason Steam still has the last quality control is because they wan’t to avoid cases of fraud, copyright infringement etc.

    • bluescrn says:

      Google Play (Android) manages to avoid major problems, whilst allowing devs to upload anything with no slow review/approval process.

      Yes, there’s been some malware and copyright infringement on there, but it’s generally not a huge problem, compared to the huge amount of decent apps on there.

      Automated scans for known malware and a peer review system for games (like XBLIG) could help minimize abuse of the system.

      • James says:

        The obvious difference is that Android provides a robust sandboxing system at the OS level. An Android app with no special permissions poses fewer risks to the user than a Windows app does.

        Sure, an Android app can request additional permissions that let it perform more malicious actions, but those permissions are presented to the user prior to purchase/installation.

        Without a similar sandbox model, it probably isn’t safe to reduce the amount of review to Google Play levels.

    • MechaCrash says:

      I think a good example of how this could work is with the “community developed hats” thing TF2 has. Sometimes things get by that shouldn’t, but Valve does its work to monitor the content and removes it if issues are claimed and found to be true.
      It’s the less restrictive version of a full check and test on submission that alternative platforms (Apple app store, Windows marketplace, etc.) implement.

  2. greg says:

    What about storage issues? Seems like an awful lot of work for steam to sell something so minor.
    The system works as is. The good indie games are on steam, stuff that really isnt worth your time, let alone money, isnt. As a consumer, there really isnt a problem. But for those who dream of an easy life making games, well lifes not easy its hard, really fucking hard so head down and plod on I say.

    • Sophie says:

      re: storage; I host a lot more than one game for less than $100 per year, I don’t see how storage is a problem at all.

      As for your point, life is hard so we shouldn’t try to make it better? maybe I’m just not so defeatist. It’s what steam’s greenlight is claiming to do for one thing, why not suggest how things could change to actually accomplish greenlight’s goals?

      I’m not delusional, this won’t result in ‘not-good’ games becoming hits all of a sudden, but what it *will* do is give developers a better chance. So long as there are games on greenlight right now where somebody has clicked “I’d buy this if it was on steam” and the game *isn’t* on steam, a developer has missed a chance to get paid. maybe it was only one sale, but one sale can make a difference and it was a lost because the current system prevented it.

      • You say storage isn’t a problem and that you host more than one game for less than $100 – what’s your bandwidth limit for that time and do you imagine that Steam has the same bandwidth issues that you do?

        I’m all for a more open architecture but what you are proposing would lead to the same problem all iOS developers now face with the App store – over saturation.

        • Sophie says:

          Bandwidth isn’t a problem unless people are downloading the games, if people are downloading the games then they have paid for them and the bandwidth is covered.

          as for over saturation, I don’t think it would be any different than steam is now, greenlight games are not listed on the front of the store, you only hear about a game if a friend/developer/social media tell you about it. and stuff that climbs to the top that way (just like how greenlight works now) gets featured as part of the main store.

        • JoeV says:

          Steam already takes a cut of the developer’s sales. They can easily put X% of that towards bandwidth and initial storage cost and Y% could be profit.

          The major problems of over-saturation as I can see it stem from cheap knock-offs and clones, looking to cash in on a quick dollar. It’s easy to say “This game is low-quality and shouldn’t be on the App Store” but why not? If someone likes it, let them buy it. Under this proposed solution these games would remain in the backpages, and would have to be searched for specifically or happened-upon.

          This seems like a good compromise for Greenlight. I disliked the system for relying on majority-rule voting, because while it makes low-risk sense for Steam (only games with huge followings get Greenlit) it also means that only popular games get on the store. Popularity is not perfectly correlated to quality or worth. Great games may have only small followings.

          Of course, only the most popular/best-selling games would get front-page status under this solution, so Steam gets the financial benefit of having the top-selling titles AND the community benefit of being an open host.

          I’m sure there’s logistical/legal/etc. problems that haven’t been thought of here, but it strikes me as an interesting solution.

    • bluescrn says:

      The problem is that the current system has no consistency or clear rules, particularly for those who can bypass Greenlight.

      As it is now, it seems all about ‘who you know’, celebrity retweets, and a good amount of pure luck. The quality of your game seems a fairly small factor. And game quality is always going to be incredibly subjective, anyway.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I wanted to point out that if Double Fine’s Amnesia Fortnight Humble Bundle is an indicator of the public’s mentality, public voting is a good way to keep it all as conservative as possible. Considering that all of the top-voted proposals could be clearly identified through cross-referencing a successful title (“this is like Journey,” “like Ico,” “tower defense”), the question of whether or not left-field gameplay or concept would ever find adequate support to “make it” seems to swing towards a firm “no.”

    The public may not know what it wants until it is in front of them. Existence of a work may certainly find rejection, but new games require going through the experience to evaluate. Problem is, you can’t tell people what’s interesting about your game without spoiling it (consider explaining to someone why Hotline Miami is not a mindless celebration of violence, and keep in mind that some will find it stupid and mindless regardless of what has been explained). And without such disclosure, many a “superstar indie darling” would look awful “on paper.”

    Your proposal addresses this issue without removing the public… I applaud you for the thought, but I’m also cautious about factors in play that would prevent this from happening. I’d love to hear what Valve thinks of this.

    • Sophie says:

      Honestly I’m not sure my suggestion addresses this, games would be no more visible than they are on greenlight now, except that people would be able to buy and play them right away.

      And I’m not sure the amnesia fortnight thing is a relevant comparison to greenlight anyway, since you have to pay *before* you can vote on a game idea.

      • EdgarAllen says:

        Wouldn’t it basically turn greenlight into a separate indie store? I don’t know if valve would want to segregate their business like that. I could see peoples perspective on it turning into something similar to how they view the academy awards; where many people feel animated films do not deserve to win best picture because they already have their own category. Would people show a similar view towards indies because they already have their greenlight store, no need to bring them into the full steam platform?

        I just fear segregation like that would doom many good games to be lost in greenlight land never to really be seen from again.

        • Sophie says:

          It’s already segregated :/

          “I just fear segregation like that would doom many good games to be lost in greenlight land never to really be seen from again.”

          this already happens, at least with my suggestion it’s more fair for ‘second class’ developers, and gives them a better chance at making a living from their work.

    • KestrelPi says:

      (Briefly off topic here I don’t think is really true in the case of Amnesia Fortnight:

      Many of the lower voted games in AF also referenced other titles as points of inspiration, or if they didn’t, clearly were inspired by such things. And I don’t recall perfectly, but I don’t remember Autonomous mentioning other games directly as inspiration, and that’s one of the winning games. I don’t recall Kaiju Piledriver doing so either, and that did well. And even the ones that did reference other games like Hack ‘n’ Slash, generally had their main ‘selling point’ as something else (the hacking elsement).

      So I don’t think it’s fair to characterise the voting but… and now now to get back on topic)

      I do think it’s fair to suggest that systems where the public gets to decide tend to miss smaller and more unassuming ideas, ideas that might grow into something great if they’re given a chance by being featured on a major platform, but perhaps don’t stand out immediately. So I do wonder how the smaller ideas would fare under this system.

      Just because a game doesn’t do the numbers that’d get it a front page on Steam doesn’t mean that it’s not very successful for what it is, and I wonder how to bring that sort of game to more peoples’ attention.

  4. Evan Miller says:

    I disagree that this would aid indie developers.

    – As noted, there will be an immediate and massive flood of crap.

    – Greenlight would immediately be considered ‘the crap channel’ and then be largely ignored (see: XBLIG).

    – Good games would have an even harder time getting noticed in the midst of all that crap on the crap channel that everyone is ignoring (see: XBLIG).

    – Indie devs would continue to whine about how hard it is to get off the crap channel onto the ‘real’ service (see: XBLIG).

    – A bunch more developers would sell 5 copies and still make no money.

    Better content discovery and curation are what’s helpful in an oversaturated entertainment market, not yet another flooded store. You can already prove yourself using other services, bundles, contests, etc. in order to get on Steam.

    Is it easy? No. Should it be easy? Trick question! Reality doesn’t care about ‘should’.

    What I’d like Steam to do is hire more employees because they just aren’t able to handle the amount of contacts/content they have now, so too much falls through the cracks.

    • Sophie says:

      “As noted, there will be an immediate and massive flood of crap.”
      maybe, but so what? it’d be no worse than the current state of green light, anyone who want’s to fork over $100 gets a spot, but it’s not going to flood the store itself so it adversely effects nobody.

      “[bunch of comparisons to XBLIG]”
      Greenlight would still be a path to the main store for ‘successful’ games, in a way that XBLIG never was for the main xbox store.

      “A bunch more developers would sell 5 copies and still make no money.”
      at least they would see some return for the $100 entrance fee, if they don’t make their money back it’s on them anyway, at least this way green light isn’t such a gamble. (and steam would take a cut from this ‘bunch’ too)

      “Is it easy? No. Should it be easy? Trick question! Reality doesn’t care about ‘should’.”
      you *really* pissed me off here. it should be obvious why, reality doesn’t care about a lot of things but it’s our RESPONSIBILITY to try and make life better. “life doesn’t work for you? not my problem that’s life” is such a cowardly excuse I can’t even express how upsetting it is. were we talking face to face I would have walked away at this point so as not to lash out at you.

      • Stegersaurus says:

        Funny thing about the path to main store for ‘successful’ games comment. XBLIG used to be advertised as that. MS used to pretend that successful XBLIG games would get a chance to be on XBLA. In all the years run, that has not happened once. Closest is XBLIG devs who won the Dream Build Play contest and got offered XBLA slots.

        • Yet several games have already been picked to move from greenlight to the main store.

          Also how would the change make it any harder to find good games on greenlight it is literally just replacing the i’d buy this button with an add to cart button, nothing else.

  5. Mike says:

    I think there would be problems here. Firstly, a lot of people seem to value the fact that Steam is a place where mostly good games reside. You say the front page of Steam wouldn’t change – it wouldn’t, but trawling through by genre, price range or name would really be made much harder if the submission was free for all.

    Steam are also guaranteeing a minimum standard, of sorts. Towns has shown how this can be problematic – if you could put anything onto Steam and charge for it, this would quickly generate backlash against games that promise to be finished in future, and never reach that point.

    I personally don’t view Steam as having a minimum standard, nor do I really browse idly for games, but I know people do. I doubt they’d want to change it for that reason alone.

    If Greenlight were to be separate from the Store, and with the visibility it has now, what’s the benefit for indies anyway? What’s the difference between that and linking to a ‘Buy It Now!’ page from a Greenlight page?

    • Sophie says:

      “trawling through by genre, price range or name would really be made much harder if the submission was free for all.”
      when I say this stuff will be kept off the store, I mean there too, unless somebody specifically seeks out green light games, they won’t appear in the store. I’m cool with this.

      regarding unfinished games, of course they shouldn’t be available for sale (in my opinion they shouldn’t even be on green light in the first place, kick-starter is the place for that stuff.)

      “If Greenlight were to be separate from the Store, and with the visibility it has now, what’s the benefit for indies anyway? What’s the difference between that and linking to a ‘Buy It Now!’ page from a Greenlight page?”
      Trying to sell games outside of steam is difficult to say the least for a bunch of reasons, but it mostly comes down to gamers who refuse to pay attention to anything if it’s not on steam or doesn’t come with a steam code. I was asked to be in a bundle a while back and was given an *insulting* offer of a percentage cut and the reason was that my game wasn’t on steam. being able to say “the game is available on steam” *IS* a value add for a game.
      And the obvious difference is that developer’s don’t get paid when somebody says “I’d buy this on steam”, why not get people to put money where their mouths are, and make sure developers get paid at the same time?

      • Mike says:

        Those are pretty good responses… I don’t really have anything to say! I think given your explanation that the Greenlight thing would be wholly separate, and your suggestion that unfinished games shouldn’t even be on there, I’m behind what you say 100%.

        While what you say about the bundle kind of shocks me, I don’t think this would solve that problem though. Being on Greenlight would not equate to being on Steam, for the very reason that anyone can put their stuff on Steam.

        Still, you make good points.

        • Some people only want games that are on steam because of the technical benefits of being on steam i.e. download management if they lose their data, a game hub, etc. Those technical benefits which are a large reason for people only wanting steam games would still be possible if the game was on steam through greenlight.

  6. Darren Grey says:

    Every objection I can think of for this I instantly see a solution for. This would seriously work. It’d be like the Android app store, but with a barrier to entry and a better search / link-to system – both pluses in their own way. Community reporting of abuse would stamp out any problems.

    I think the reason Valve won’t go with this is that they want to give a good service to the game developers that come on Steam. Every dev I’ve spoken to about their Steam release has commented on the amazing service from Valve, with marketing tips, help with integration, etc. Still, it seems silly to deny so many access to *the* PC gaming portal because they want to be nice to some of them.

    The other thing would be legal blah blah blah. It’s really not an issue – Google get away with it after all – but it’s something that regularly puts companies off good things.

  7. Gordon Luk says:

    While a 2-tiered search index is an interesting idea that doesn’t exactly exist yet on any app store, it’s actually pretty close to being Apple-Featured vs. just being in the app store.

    We’re now four years in to the population of Apple’s “open” App Store with a $99 barrier to entry and over 700,000 apps exist there. More supply of games means not only more competition, but also downward pressure on pricing and less time available to “feature” games, especially once you’ve faded from the launch window.
    You can see the difference between 2010 and 2012 in Tiger Style’s lifetime numbers that they shared at http://blog.tigerstylegames.com/post/22262030273/tiger-styles-lifetime-sales-numbers.

    So I’m not sure what you’d get exactly from a secondary index of Greenlight-only games for sale – it would most likely create user confusion, reduce traffic to the existing games even further, and create (again) downward pressure on pricing to elevate sales as developers attempt to get into the main index.

    I would love the opportunity to sell on Steam, but I appreciate that they are being cautious in order to preserve the relatively healthy marketplace they have.

    • Sophie says:

      I think the difference is that on the iOS store, people aim to get the immediate feature, you need a cheap game that sells well immediately to get into the charts and onto the radar.

      if there is *no* chance of being on the radar until you have already sold plenty, I think there is less of an incentive to make quick cheap games. even if that does become a issue it would be easy for steam to manage by just putting those games that are low quality, simple, cheap things into their own category (like how PSN has the PSN minis) and keep it from effecting the rest of the store whilst still taking in the cash that that stuff generates (if it does generate cash, steam has a different audience to iOS).

  8. Coues Ludovic says:

    Maybe you should have phrase it “Turn greenlight into a store”

    Cause that’s what you want. Just turn the “I would buy it” button into a “I’m buying it right now, put it into my library”. Which make a lot more of sense. I have voted for game on greenlight which I would probably never buy and people would be happy to buy greenlight game would probably never make it to the store.

  9. Assuming Valve actually promotes successful Green Light games to the main store, I think what you’re suggesting is a great way to handle it. A lot of people, myself including, would rather have games in their Steam library than not. I feel like any indie developer will have an easier time if they can offer that to people, even if it is in a “crap store”.

  10. st33d says:

    Even just the idea of browsing Greenlight as a shop instead of some screwed up X-Factor popularity contest works a lot better for me instead of the current system.

    Our lot at work put a great deal of effort into marketing our own pitch and it was just barely enough to rise up the ranks. If a big site with a lot of fans with a demo that’s received less than 1% of negative reviews or comments is barely what you need to make progress then there’s definitely something wrong. Because that’s where our pitch is at.

    It doesn’t feel like selling something. It’s not even comparable to the “flood of crap” on the app store because it’s not even a store.

    The niche games that were nice to see on Steam won’t get on there anymore. Only X-Factor winners. Pretty much why I deleted the Greenlight page for the game I’m making at home.

  11. This is a brilliant and simple idea and I hold out hope that as this greenlight experiment evolves that this is the direction it will move in.

  12. cafeine says:

    A couple points:

    re the “flood of crap” argument: Steam is already full of crappy games as it is, a couple thousand more crappy games wouldn’t change much, it’s already useless as a shopping platform. It would need a massive UI redesign to be even remotely efficient at allowing users to discover games that might interest them.

    about people who refuse to use anything other than Steam: I don’t understand that. Do they also use only one channel on their TV?

    about Greenlight: the whole idea of having a popularity contest for “acceptable games” stinks, it’s a sure way of shutting up dissenting voices, especially in such a reactionary milieu as video games. It’s already happening, with games dealing with sexuality being shouted down by the mob. Oh, and $100 is expensive, especially as it comes with no guarantee at all of success.

    I think indie game devs would be better served in the long term by supporting a dedicated service that caters to their interest, with no barrier of entry and strong cataloging features to help exploration like user-generated playlists.

    • Sophie says:

      I think the TV metaphor would be more like people using only their TV, and ignoring the radio, internet, buskers and live acts. ;)

      as for what you say devs would be better suited for, I agree. right now steam is not looking for out all but a handful of indie developers. but since those who get on steam seem to do well, everyone is desperate to defend their chance at being the one to beat all of the others to the punch with no regard for what everyone else has to deal with.

      personally my favourite distribution service is IndieVania and I like to bring it up every time I can, sure there looks like a lot of low quality junk on there, but there is also a lot of cool stuff that doesn’t stand a chance on steam/greenlight the way valve has things right now.

  13. Dave says:

    The biggest problem is that it’s near-impossible to objectively rate the quality of a game.

    I’d say there’s a fair bit of crap on Steam already, but what’s crap to me might be your favourite game.

    It’s sad the Valve have taking the lazy/greedy approach. Instead of trying to build a system that allows the best and most interesting games in – they just want a system that aims to get the most profitable games in, with the minimum of effort/expense from them.

    Indie gamedev success these days seems to be just one big popularity contest. It seems that personalities and celebrity tweets have become more important to success than the games themselves :(

    Yes, you could argue that ‘popularity contest == marketing contest’, and there’s some truth to that. But when you’ve got to successfully run a marketing campaign just for a *chance* to get the game up for sale on the near-monopoly distribution platform, something seems a little bit wrong.

  14. I’d imagine that, if Greenlight became a big free-for-all, not only would people label it as a crap-pit and ignore it altogether, but that the risk of legal ramifications due to malware and other security exploits that could be uploaded could put a far greater dent in Steam’s credibility (and potentially it’s wallet) than the current controlled manner. It is apparent to me that Steam wants to (try to) maintain a quality catalog and be associated with a good game selection. Is it always successful, no. Is it obvious that crap games can make it on if they are backed by big publishers, yes. But over all I believe their formula is working; I’d guess they are far from tight on cash. That is why most companies exist, to generate profits, not to appeal to hungry developers who would very likely be flooding their systems wih shovelware and by extension devaluing any potentially good creations by association (being located in the same section). If one unmoderated application with malware got on to the store and got news coverage for it I would dismiss the entirety of Greenlight. I believe many would do the same. They wanted to give another outlet for potentially profitable games to make it onto their service, not harvest what we must admit would largely be garbage, in a digital wild west.

    • Sophie says:

      “I’d guess they are far from tight on cash. That is why most companies exist, to generate profits”

      totally agree, like I’ve said. but I think they WILL do something like this, if they want to show that they care about indie developers and want to foster true creativity in the games industry. I don’t think they will because I don’t think they care but I’m tired of fuck of hearing how great steam are to indies when they make life for most of us harder.

      as for greenlight becoming a big free-for-all, I think the $100 fee proves you can curb the amount of gross submissions (though I still object to it’s use as a lottery ticket), and the malware issue could be covered by a few automated checks, user reporting and making the developer liable for anything that their software does in agreements and such. it’s not an insurmountable obstacle.

      and like I say, it’s no different from the current system (which steam seems pretty happy with) except more developers get paid for their work, and more gamers get games. Your digital wild west scenario is a little over dramatic and not applicable when all I’m doing is changing one button on the greenlight pages.

      • “the malware issue could be covered by a few automated checks, user reporting and making the developer liable for anything that their software does in agreements and such. it’s not an insurmountable obstacle.”

        Liability is moot when you open the system up, anyone can spoof an identity if it’s not involving a lot of legal background work and sacrifice $100 (which really is not that much money), create their own malicious day-zero attack that is not in any detection libraries (specifically for this attack; many malware detection patterns are recognized *after* they have already compromised systems and have been noticed), in order to bomb the trustworthiness of the whole Greenlight program; it would be a pretty huge deal that people would take notice of. It would be a disaster that no automated security system is going to prevent for very long; there are plenty of trolls with $100 to spent in order to land a comparatively big bruise to a respected company’s image.

        Image is very important to a company, it’s nearly as good as money because it retains your users. If people write off a whole portion of your system due to its vulnerabilities (as I would), assuming they were still interested after seeing all of the legitimate but sub-par creations listed, you would be losing out on much more than $100 in future potential sales. If the malware author did not submit proper identification (why would they), liability doesn’t matter, and Steam will bear the brunt of maintaining faith in their system regardless of whether people can sue the developer or not.

        User reporting of malicious applications implies the damage has already been done; malicious code is on the system and is already infecting. Valve’s image is already being fired at and trust in their product already being degraded. If they were okay with that risk they could be like other digital download services, where the user recognizes risks involved and the middle-man is pretty much hands-off except for taking a cut – I don’t want to use a service that I feel has some inherent risk to use for something I paid for. That’s one of the nice things about choosing to buy games rather than being one who torrents and runs cracks which may or may not do further undesirable things to one’s system.

        User reporting of malicious software acknowledges the futility of having an automated system checking the posted works of people who are Unknowns that filled out some forms that other automated systems figured were legit (which we know have ample room for failure given the prevalence of identity fraud). It would not exist if we had total trust in these systems. What prevents me from filling out your data in the registration fields presented to me any more than someone could fill out my own in the fields on your site and pretend to be me? If that is all in the way of making it onto the service, it’s almost nothing. It isn’t the same as doing a lot of back-and-forth communication between two established business entities (significantly more work involved in setting-up and not as easy to spoof) that builds credibility well before consumers have access to any downloadables, and doing manual investigation of the downloadables provided, the rights involved, etc.

        Valve is already having concerns about copyright lawsuits with the ‘Faceless’ game, and that is *with* the currently moderated system. If the system was open, this game would have gone through and there would be minimal if any time to stop people from buying it before they’d realize the potential implications. And I feel relatively sure that the developers are still required to accept liability even now, so that’s obviously not something Valve is willing to just sign and dive behind if something happens.

        “all I’m doing is changing one button on the greenlight pages.”

        I haven’t spent hours checking out Greenlight games, but from what I have poked around in I’ve seen only proposals for games, artwork, descriptions, videos of what they’ve made so far – no actual executables (demos) that I could download (outside of being directed off-site to obtain), or suggestions that such executables are even on Steam’s system yet. But I also recognize that maybe I wasn’t looking at projects that have this feature up.

        If it’s the case that they are only allowed to present promotional materials, I would assume that there are still legalities involved after a game reaches enough popularity to be greenlit (at least as far as votes are concerned); this also seems supported by the Faceless attempts to get on the service, as they (at least since I’d last heard) were still not approved, suggesting another round of investigation happens behind the scenes once votes are sufficient. One that they have been stopped at.

        This is significantly different from changing one button as it is another case of Valve covering its ass that wouldn’t happen if things were automated. And they seem very concerned about covering their asses and the image of their product.

        I believe Valve owes much of the success of Steam today to the fact that it is not an open system.

  15. Scott says:

    If you asked Valve what Steams strength’s were – i’d imagine they’d say things like our service makes installing games easy and for the most part ensures they work (which across many versions of Windows isn’t an easy thing to do).

    To do this they would be helping each developer package their game and test it across platforms on Steam (because I cannot really see Steam compromising on this). So opening Greenlight to all would add an immense amount of work in the form of support both to the developer of the game, and the many customers who have purchased the game. Because if the title doesn’t work or isn’t good most users will turn to the store they purchased it from for help or a refund. This isn’t an easy problem to solve either because unlike Android, iOS and XBOX Valve doesn’t have control over the operating system (Mac, Windows, Linux) and thus there is no consistency in how games are built. So each game they support, adds significant overhead.

    In the interest of full disclosure I do work at a similar digital distribution store Desura – and while I do support your idea of giving more indies a chance, this is a constant challenge we’ve faced, which I wanted to add to the discussion.

    • Sophie says:

      I think you do make a good point, and I can attest that as a developer selling a game on Desura, it’s a nightmare to upload games to your system, especially on windows :P

      that said I haven’t seen anything that couldn’t be titied up with a more streamlined upload interface and shifting the packaging of MCF files (or whatever it is that the Desura client does to the game files) onto a web server, so all the developer has to do is upload the files they have built (this is what IndieCity does IIRC)

      I do appreciate that with something like my suggestion, steam could not offer the same level of support to greenlight developers as they do to developers submitting to the regular store, but I think that’s OK.

      I think most of the issues could be automated and if you have all the developers uploading games, you have one hell of a test system to find problems and eliminate them for uploading, I think it would require an initial investment to get things up and running in the first place, but one that would easily be covered by developers paying their greenlight fees, and steam taking a cut of greenlight sales.

      thanks for commenting though, I appreciate you lending your perspective on this. :)

  16. Totally with you in this.

    Strange how the game industry, which relies so much on high-end technology and it always was seen as the most innovative industry has become so unbearably conservative.

    It seems they have learned nothing from the music and the movie industry.

    Me, I’m still pretty convinced that the less barriers we have, the better. Will there be a ton of crap? Sure. Time to wake our critical sense up. Because among this crap there will hide a lot of treasures.

  17. Mr Hat LemonTail says:

    This has grabbed my attention. I feel like I’m arriving late at this ‘party’ but for what it is worth, a few notes:

    – Steam has come up with greenlight probably to turn a problem they had into a profit or a positive. Everyone wants to be on Steam. It’s not surprising that hasn’t changed with this system. It’s probably profitable, since it has such a big audience. I hope they don’t stop here.

    – I mainly play indie games these days. They are just more fun. I’m sympathetic with the effort and dedication it takes to make them. But mainly they are fun, refreshing and mind bending. It probably is related to it. When the motivation is making millions, their might be some sacrifices here and there.

    – One of the most prominent reasons I like Steam: I’m disorganized. This way I can easily keep track of my games.

    – This is the thing I ‘dislike’ the most about indie games, they are hard to keep track of.
    I try to follow devs on twitter, find out about new things through indieroyale, desura, etc but it takes a lot more effort than just opening steam. I know this is no ones fault.

    -A decentralized system where indie devs can link in and promote/sell there stuff for just the cost to run the system would be great. It would make steam less relevant for me. People are trying this and have tried. The problem is that they keep coming up the same solutions and answers. I had high hopes for desura, but they are gone.

  18. Ian Knowles says:

    I have been trying to convince my gaming community since greenlight came out that greenlight must be an appstore and not a popularity contest before sales.

    Their only argument is a selfish one that they’d have to deal with lower quality apps (totally ignoring that it works fine for google play and the apple store).

    I am frankly outraged that valve have declared problem solved by instituting a system more arduous than the app store. Gabe is a complete hypocrite the way he loudly pronounces closed systems like the win 8 store are bad and happily makes it arguably harder to get on steam.

    I have heard some concern from successful indie devs also that a more open approach would lower the sales impact of passing greenlight which is understandable but bleh.

    I think the best compromise to satisfy people is to make greenlight a store category, where sales can be made but theres still a graduation to the store proper (when you pass a high sales mark).

  19. Paul Davey says:

    I do wonder what would happen with games like The War Z and such if this were to happen though, the kind that promise something that isn’t there and sell people on an experience they are desperate for but do not provide.

    I guess there are a few things that can happen, one is that since the game is available for purchase the people who do purchase it find out its not what it promises and make a bit noise on the page so no one else buys it, but unfortunately not everyone who buys these kind of games does this.

    One problem with this however is that however you do the system somebody has to find out about these games at some point and bring them up, with a system like you propose where buying the game is made as easy as possible this person is likely to be the consumer, this will leave the consumer with a bad view of the game and the service that sold it to them, couple this with steam’s policy on refunds and you end up with some number of people who are unhappy. This kind of thing could cause people to avoid the greenlight platform entirely due to the bad reputation some number of games may get.

    I read the gamasutra article on having a store that uses a system like kongregate, the problem I see with that though is that a large portion of the reason why kongregate can have the community sort the games and determine which are good is that the community never has to pay for the games to do so, they just need to play them for free, this means that there is a far greater number of people willing to do this and they have far less disappointment when they find bad games since they have not invested anything but time into the action, having a paid store that uses this model once again runs into the problem that somebody has to invest something in something they will not be happy with in order to expose that it is not worth their time.


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