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Valve, American game developers and creators of the digital distribution platform Steam, have officially announced that they will be discontinuing their Steam Greenlight program.
Steam Greenlight, launched in 2012, was designed to offer a way for small indie games to make their way onto the “main stage” of Steam’s online games store. Users of the service could vote on newly-announced indie projects, expressing interest without making an actual purchase, and games that received high levels of interests received the “green light” and were cleared to be published in the Steam store.
The Greenlight service has been mostly well-received, and has achieved notable successes over its existence; more than 100 titles that came through the Greenlight portal went on to earn over $1 million each. Steam acknowledges in their official statement that many of those would likely not have been published in the old, heavily-curated, pre-Greenlight store.
Over time, however, Greenlight has begun to encounter issues. Consumer interest in voting for Greenlight games has waned in recent years, and developers have become frustrated over the uncertainty of the process, as well as its overall opacity.
Enter “Steam Direct”, Greenlight’s new replacement.
Steam Direct, as its name suggests, sets out to be more direct in its approach to the facilitating of distribution for small, indie titles, intending to “decrease the noise in the submission pipeline”.
No more voting, no more gauging of consumer interest; with Steam Direct, developers complete a package of personal/company verification, tax documents, and other paperwork, and then submit as many titles as they want, paying an additional “recoupable application fee” for each individual submission.
This fee is where most early critics of the move are getting caught up. Currently, with Steam Greenlight, developers pay a one-time fee to submit as many games as they want; in Steam Direct, they will have to pay the fee again and again for each new submission.
Steam has not yet committed to a specific amount for the new Steam Direct fee, stating that they have surveyed various developers and studios and come back with a range of $100-$5,000. With a range that spans that high, some game developers are expressing concern that this may present an insurmountable barrier to entry for smaller studios and student projects. Daniel Steger of Steger Games, the company behind the highly successful indie title Mount Your Friends, fears that with Steam Direct, “hopeful devs will bankrupt themselves w/ no profit“.
Steam has not yet committed to any specific price point or strict guidelines, and is asking for the community’s feedback and input regarding the new service on various Steam forums around the web.
Steam Direct is targeted for implementation in Spring 2017. Until then, Steam Greenlight remains in place.