Steam’s Greenlight: The Good and the Bad

If you haven’t already checked out Steam’s new Greenlight feature you defiantly should. It’s a function Valve implemented on Steam that allows for small developers to post their unpublished games to be rated by the Steam community. If a game gets enough likes then Steam will work with the developer to get the game on Steam’s store client.

This is a great new tool for all types of people. Indie teams and developers now have a much easier time getting their games published on a large retailer’s client. In addition Greenlight is providing these developers with a much easier time building fans and a community around their game. Until now most indie games have gone undiscovered. In the past the only way to build this community and market games has been on much smaller websites with much less traffic.

Players are benefiting too by having the power to decide what games are going to be available on Steam. This power makes the games that gamers want more accessible, instead of leaving it for publishers and Steam’s staff to decide what games are worth playing. It also let’s players see a much broader library of games, most of which they would have never heard of.

So far it looks like Greenlight has worked. Valve has already had hundreds of submissions for their Greenlight project. But with so many games being submitted Valve is getting swamped weeding out games that aren’t up to par or just plain garbage. So they’ve added a $100 entry fee to weed out the serious developers from the rest of the pack. At first this entry fee seemed beside the point to me. But after thinking about it $100 for that much exposure and a chance to have your game on Steam seems like a hell of a good deal.

There are a couple of problems I have with Greenlight so far, though. The main issue is the content of a game I’m getting to see. Of course the developers are partially responsible for this. But Steam is only supporting video footage and screenshots of the games in addition to their bios. I was under the impression before Greenlight’s release that there was going to be gameplay available, or at least demos to try. It’s much harder to decide if a game is worth playing if you can’t try it out. I’m sure it’s also going to hurt the popularity of Greenlight’s success, as well as the games on it.

Another minor problem I’m seeing with this set-up is how games are going to get approved. A certain percentage of votes instead of a certain number are going to be required to get a game published on Steam. So games whose content are geared for more niche markets are going to inevitably fail. Entire genres are going to never make it (like simulation, puzzle, and 2D platformers) because these are popular game types.

We’ll have to see how Steam’s Greenlight works out in the long run. It might be a little too early to start making assumptions about this new community feature, seeing as a game hasn’t yet made it successfully through Greenlight’s approval process yet (and the fact that Greenlight was only released 2 days ago). But hopefully this will become a major outlet for new games to hit the marketplace. So if you have a couple free minutes check out Steam’s Greenlight. You’ll be supporting indie developers and the gaming community as a whole.