How Valve Saved Steam From Its Crisis of Confidence

Valve created Steam Greenlight as a way for developers to present their product to the world in the easiest way possible. Indie (independent) developers, with usually low budgets, would pay a $100 “hosting” fee and then can share screenshots, videos, and snippets of their game for people to vote on. Valve’s algorithms along with the gaming public’s voting choices allowed some great studios to come to prominence and some excellent games were produced.  But at the same time Valve realized their system was under manipulation, and the outcry of defunct backings burned brighter on shopper’s minds than the praises of the good ones.  If a game met Valve’s application requirements the developer would post their game on the site, players would vote for it, or not, and eventually, it would be seen by one of Valve’s ten curators.  If the project was “Greenlit” the game would show up on Valve’s store, Steam, and players would be able to buy it.

With Steam Direct Valve is hoping to streamline this process. Steam Greenlight was Valve’s way of publishing through democracy, but with over 12 million concurrent players a day, it is impossible for Valve’s ten person team to vet all the games that have been voted on. With Steam Direct Valve would collect a litany of information:

We will ask new developers to complete a set of digital paperwork, personal or company verification, and tax documents similar to the process of applying for a bank account.

in order to verify they’re a real business before proceeding any further. Then devs or studios would pay a fee, which has yet to be decided upon, for each game they wanted to post to Steam. With that fee being recoupable once sales were made.

Valve wants to make sure Steam’s shoppers are not only happy with the products they’re offered but are secure about their purchase decision before they hit that “Purchase” button, and I think Steam Direct is the best way to do this.

Steam Direct’s initial screening process, requiring tax and business documentation would make it more difficult for anyone with nefarious plans to steal the backer’s money or promote a product that does not deliver what it promises. The cash up front / fee is just another layer of consumer protection. Yes, it would be harder for game developers to enter the pipeline, but that’s the point. Genuine developers and studios, with the knowledge that their game is real and will be completed, are assured they will get their money back when the game sells – and the store is not inundated with scam artists or people that never intend to finish their game as promised.

It puts both parties at ease by creating a place in which customers and producers feel confident that the store will publish only quality products and people’s time and money will not be taken. Devs will no longer be worried that no one will invest in them because they or the dev next door might be illegitimate. Or be concerned about having to fight past half-finished and poorly made games so people can easily find them. Customers will no longer have to go through the tedium of looking through thousands of games on Greenlight to vote on, wondering which games will ever see the light of day and which ones carry malware.

This might not be Valve’s final iteration of their indie digital distribution platform, but each step they take provides developers better opportunities to shine and gets us closer to that final platform. With VR on the horizon, Valve has a massive opportunity to disrupt the digital media space. And by keeping consumer confidence high and continuing to aid the growth of up-and-coming developers, they’re only positioning themselves to succeed.

tl;dr
– After a couple of missteps and five years of rollercoaster success, Steam Greenlight has been put to rest.
– Pointed to the nearly unregulated volume of submissions, a sub-optimized submission process, and customer dissatisfaction as key factors.
– Wanted to create a more secure connection between the two parties, making it easier for studios to publish directly, and a streamlined shopping experience for gamers.
– In Spring 2017 Steam Direct will replace Greenlight, implement a quicker but more thorough screening process for devs, and provide the gamers with a shopping environment that is easier to navigate.
– With these new changes, Steam is cutting dead weight and cleaning up the process of self-publishing. Let’s see how it turns out. 

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