In June 2017, Valve retired its community-based approval platform ‘Steam Greenlight’ and replaced it with ‘Steam Direct’, a direct route for developers to get into the marketplace. After nervous rumours s of thousands of dollars in fees, Steam Direct settled at a $100 per game fee that’s been serving up mixed reactions from top indie developers around the world.
But what’s done is done and there’s no going back. The Greenlight community is officially dead and Steam Direct is the present and future. So how does this affect the developers, players, and community that empowered the Steam marketplace for years?
Changes to the Steam Ecosystem
There are three main benefits to the succession of Steam Direct from Steam Greenlight. These are:
- Reducing game approval time to just one or two days.
- Putting an end to ‘Trading Card Abuse’.
- Offering better visibility to games.
Let’s take a look at each of these perks in turn.
Game approval within one to two days
Gone are the days of relying on community votes and comments to get Greenlight. Today, games go directly to Steam moderators for a technical quality check, Steam compliances confirmation and verification against malicious content or code.
This efficient solution single-handedly eliminates the unpredictable timeline of getting 'Greenlit' by the community, which used to take anywhere from about one week (for a great game) to months (for an average game).
The end of ‘Trading Card Abuse’
Game trading cards are a strong economy for the community. Some dishonest developers realized this, and began creating fake games with the trading card system. They then offered free Steam keys to bot-operated Steam accounts. This allowed them to rake in monetary benefits by releasing a sham game with no real user activity.
To solve this, Steam introduced a fee of $100 per game in the hopes that deceptive developers won't spend the money to create this malicious ecosystem. To further reduce the submission of fake games, the new update to SteamWorks will not allow for dropping trading cards, unless they are part of a specific trust or confidence metric. This could quite possibly eliminate every fake submission in the long run.
Better Visibility for honest-to-goodness games
If there’s one thing that holds top spot for the biggest new game challenge, it’s discovery. Developers have been frustrated about this for years. By putting a screeching halt to fake activity around fake games and obtaining faster approval times, Steam hopes that as their discovery algorithm naturally improves we’ll see major improvement to the quality of games offered to their customers, translating to increased, more meaningful visibility for game developers and their games.
So are we saying it’s a total win-win for Devs?
You can’t argue with the fact that developers are already benefiting from the faster, more reliable game launch process. The $100 fee isn’t a biggie, since it’s recoupable if the game reaches $1000 in sales or in-app purchases. And it’s not too high; it’s even affordable to non-western country based developers.
Will Steam Direct make a dent in the current discovery platform? While the end results will only be clear in the long run, we lean towards the optimistic on this as well.
But it’s not really all peaches and cream. Devs did lose a little. The Greenlight community was a great platform for developers to gain direct visibility with players. It was a terrific platform to understand first reactions, overall sentiment and obtain player feedback. It also really shined when it came to pre-launch opportunities such as newsworthy items, approval notifications, as well as PR and social media activity during the launch
The new direct approval system ensures that all technically compliant games get approved quickly, but it doesn’t ensure that all of the ‘best games’ (according to the community) are approved. It’s important to note that a bad or reskinned game could also be technically compliant to pass Steam’s Greenlight, so let’s see how the moderation team will filter such games.
Is Steam Direct hype-worthy?
In a nutshell, it truly does solve some of the major problems for Valve, and allows the moderation team to work more productively and approve games faster. Game developers will just have to welcome Steam Direct and hope that Valve makes good on all it’s discovery algorithm promises with this development.