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Steam’s Greenlight: Not What It Was Cracked Up To Be
Recently, Steam Greenlight title Paranautical Activity was picked up by Adult Swim to be published. Unfortunately, when Adult Swim approached Valve to get the game published to the service, Valve decided to make an example of the pair by refusing to list the game. Valve’s standpoint on this situation is that they don’t want indie developers seeking out publishers to bypass the Greenlight system.
My first, and main, question is deceivingly complex.
What is the point of the Greenlight system?
From the beginning of Steam, many people found it to be an excellent platform to get their games in the hands of people who would be happy to give them a shot. The approval process for games was entirely internal. Valve’s team of maybe 300 people would have to vet each title that came through their doors before the game could reasonably be posted to the service.
Many people were okay with this situation, but the company itself found the process overwhelming, and bottlenecks and backups occurred regularly. Valve came up with Greenlight to allow players to decide which games and software were okay to publish and support, rather than keeping the Valve team tied up working on doing it themselves.
The process to get games on Greenlight early on was fairly simple. It was simple enough that fake projects got posted (like Half Life 3 and Call of Duty 9). Steam’s reaction to this involved a mandatory $100 entry fee (which was donated entirely to the Child’s Play charity). Some indie developers made it clear that they were upset. It seems to have weeded out fakes though, so it seems that the plan has been at least marginally successful.
However at the onset of the system, there was some confusion about what the intention of the Greenlight system was. Many saw it as another platform for indie developers to get their games known in order to gain support for the development. One example of this was the case where Towns was originally launched for sale on Greenlight, even though it was only in development at the time. People were upset at the false advertising of a finished game, but the Greenlight system did eventually give the go-ahead to list it on Steam proper.
So in this case where a developer likes a project enough to pick it up off Greenlight to get it published, Valve had to set the record straight. Greenlight is intended to vet games, not publicize them. It was intended to keep the effort off the internal system, so when a game goes onto Greenlight and flounders, Valve doesn’t want developers to seek out publishers to bypass the system.
Why is this an issue? It’s all a matter of perception. A good place to get your idea in front of thousands is Greenlight. It’s an even better place to list your already completed game. If you are looking for publishers or monetary support for the development of your game, though, you’re still better off with Kickstarter.