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Valve Admits Greenlight Far From Optimal

By MrJenssen23-07-2013

Well, here's a non-shocker for anyone who's been paying attention. Among developers, Steam's Greenlight initiative isn't all that popular. It initially may have sounded like a great way for developers to be able to directly advertise their games to the people, without having to risk being stopped by Steam's quality assurance team.

"Over the many years that Steam has been selling games, the release rate of games on Steam has continued to grow significantly. During that time, there's always been a reliance on a group of people to make tough choices on which games to release on Steam. [...] Steam Greenlight has replaced our previous submission process. Any developer or publisher who is new to Steam and interested in submitting their game to the platform should submit their game through Steam Greenlight."

That was the reason why Greenlight came to be in the first place, that a lot of developers felt they were getting an unfair treatment from Steam, and were repeatedly denied their application to sell their game on Steam.

Well, though Greenlight might've sounded all dandy to most consumers, the truth of the matter is that the system is far from perfect. Many would agree that it's even far from working at all. One of the many concerned, is one of the devs behind voxel-based puzzle game Six Sided Sanctuary. Devin, going by the name of 'poe' on Steam, has explained his begruntlement in an open letter.

"If you establish a set of rules and they suck, it sucks. But if you establish rules and break them all the time it's bullshit. You're marginalizing indie developers for no reason."

Though he admits this statement is a bit heated, and is otherwise more constructive in his letter, the main point is that a lot of developers still feel they're being unfairly treated. One of the main problems is that the Greenlight pages are both confusing and clunky for consumers to browse. It feels like you have to go out of your way to find Greenlight, and once you're in it, you still have to go out of your way to find any of the games you might be interested in. This leads to less people visiting Greenlight. Those who visit it, won't have much of a good time either, fighting with the system's clumsy design.

As spotted by Indiestatik, Valve-employee Tom Bui has now responded (see above) to this letter in the Steam forums.

"The primary problem right now is that we simply cannot ship as many games as we'd like. [...] What matters is that we give customers the chance to buy your games and let them vote with their dollars. [...] We realize that we are failing in this regard and are working to fix it. We've made some progress, but we aren't where we want to be yet. [...] Until we can ship everything we want, Greenlight is serving the purpose of helping us prioritize what we ship. It is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination and has a bunch of downsides (even with all its failing, it is much better than our old, opaque system)."

So, Steam are admitting that the system isn't all that great at this point, and that they don't fully know what the right solution is. This should be a good indication, because it means they're trying to do something about, and that change will come soon. Right? Well, Gabe Newell said something very similar back in February, calling Greenlight a "bad example of an election process". That was half a year ago. Greenlight hasn't changed since then, not even slightly.

So where does this leave us? If the system isn't perfect, what should Valve do? Should Greenlight be dismantled? Or is there hope for it? Going back to poe's open letter, I think he has two good ideas. One has to do with mimicking Humble Store's system.

"Let people get games they want in their steam account, even if the games don't show up in the Steam store. This should allow developers to use the basic download servers of steam for downloads/patching."

The other solution is "Interact with us. Transparency. SERIOUSLY.", where Valve let developers know why their game wasn't picked, despite it being in the top 10 or top 100. Does it need more polish? Tell the devs. Is it never going to be accepted into Steam? Tell the devs. That sounds pretty good, doesn't it?

I personally never understood why Greenlight should have replaced the old submission system in the first place. Why couldn't Greenlight be the go-to place for devs that didn't get accepted? Say you're a developer, you submit your game for approval. You don't get accepted, and you get a reason why. You then have the option to submit your game to Greenlight, see if people show interest in it, and then the evaluation team will need to take another look at it with the high interest in mind. Alternatively, devs could also go directly to Greenlight if they so wished. It may not have been a perfect system either, but it'd surely be a better temporary solution than what Valve did when they started relying solely on Greenlight.

But what do I know. What do you all think? What would the perfect system be?

Comments (6)
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Posts: 1317

Haha, have you EVER tried to ask Steam support of anything? It literally takes DAYS. I wanted to cancel a pre-order of a game once. I asked them one and a half week before the game came out. ONE DAY BEFORE RELEASE, they finally answered, saying "okay we've given you the money back". BARELY in time.

Posts: 3290

Hell, even if it was just a standard E-mail saying "we are sorry, upon review it has been decided you do not presently meet the criteria. Please try again" with a mail X for full details option. I mean, dude, if Steam support can reply to what must be thousands of users every day, I'm sure they can spare a couple people to reply to developers just as quickly

Posts: 1317

Yeah Steam need to get better at informing people why they're not getting picked. Now of course, they can't inform EVERYONE because they can't check EVERY game on Greenlight. But they CAN check every top 100 game. And they do check them. They need to inform those higher up, that don't get picked, WHY they aren't picked. Just like Poe suggested.

Posts: 3290

The issue here isn't that high ranked games aren't getting the go-ahead per se. It's purely that they don't know why. Is it because others are further along in development? Is it because there's some concern that the votes aren't genuine? Is it because the mighty Gaben can't count to three?

Transparency, as you said, is key

Posts: 1317

The point is that these games sometimes get released after reaching the top 100, while others are in the top 1-3 and have been there for weeks if not months, and are still not getting favored. Why? Why are they not picked, and why are they not informed WHY they're not picked, by the evaluation team?

Posts: 297

Well to be fair, I already think it has some form of success with releasing certain games that otherwise, still o may never have been on the store, so I'm thankful for that, but the process probably needs to be better handled and let a few more through a lot easier, not sure how they'll be able to do that with legal things they have to do and all that, but hopefully they find some solution.