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Thoughts on the Steam Direct Fee Reveal and Upcoming Store Changes

Like a lot of other people, I too have been sceptical regarding the Greenlight replacement, Steam Direct, ever since the original announcement. How will it be curated, if at all? How much will each submission cost? When will the switch be flicked to shut down Greenlight, and will Steam Direct be put into motion immediately following said event? A lot of questions and only a handful of answers. Or only one, rather: the submission fee, and quite frankly… their decision is both good and bad.

Once Valve has replaced Greenlight with Steam Direct, a lot is going to change, but ironically, the price tag associated with putting your game on the new platform is the same as its precursor. Originally, they [Valve] were “hovering around the $500 mark”. This should reduce the amount of rubbish/joke submissions, although at the same time, it would pretty much guarantee that a lot of potentially great games never even got a chance at joining the popular storefront. Fortunately the community spoke up, and Valve listened: $100 will be the magic number on Steam Direct. A very reasonable amount if you ask me, even if it does open the door to games of, well, questionable quality.

Based on yesterday’s blog post, it seems this is going to create a lot of work for Valve, as mention is made of how they’re going to “closely monitor the kinds of game submissions”. Whether this means developers with blatant asset flips/carbon copies, pointless joke games, unplayable garbage and similar will be shut down prior to even being considered remains to be seen, however. Personally, having waded through virtually every Greenlight submission for years now to keep The Greenlight Groove going, I’m hoping that’s how it’ll be. That does bring up another question, though: what qualifies as ‘should not be on Steam’, aside from obvious rule breakers?

Some would argue that the likes of Mr.President!, a political parody/satire, has no place on Steam, while there are those who might even tag the somewhat silly Pony Island as a waste of time and space. But both examples are in fact perfectly playable, with plenty to experience in either, even if they do cater to a very specific crowd. Plus, they’ve sold quite well, meaning Valve’s certainly made a pretty penny from letting the two slip through the cracks. Which brings me to another goal for Steam Direct: “to reduce the financial incentives for bad actors to game the store algorithm”.

This refers to the Changes to Trading Cards post, which details how more than a few developers are abusing the system for profit, damaging the store algorithm in the process. See, the trouble created by this particular lot stem from the ability for any developer to hand out free keys for their game(s), which can then be used to generate cards, and… I’m sure you’re see where this is going. Unfortunately, this wreaks absolute havoc on the store algorithm: cards come to be after game x has been played for y hours, so multiply that by who knows how many, and suddenly the most obscure – often absolute garbage – titles are seemingly popular. Except they aren’t. The developer has simply gamed the system, so to speak, generating fake playtime for his/her title(s) and across several instances too, which is then interpreted as a lot of people actually enjoying it/them. Yeah. Not cool. Hopefully, Steam Direct will be monitored closely enough to limit such behaviour, if not eliminate it entirely. Probably wishful thinking, but it sure would be rather groovy.

We believe that if we inject human thinking into the Store algorithm, while at the same time increasing the transparency of its output, we’ll have created a public process that will incrementally drive the Store to better serve everyone using it.

On top of that, the Curator system will also be receiving some much-needed changes, which should help users wade through the tens of thousands of games available, as… well, let’s face it, Steam is beyond crowded at this point. YouTube integration and ‘collections’ are both on the menu, both of which are bound to benefit their followers, enabling video makers to show their creations alongside recommendations and, you know, gather a bunch under a certain criteria. Could be a list of personal favorites randomly picked, titles from a specific genre/developer/year, or something else entirely. Sky’s the limit (…maybe?).

As for when all of this is going to be put into place – not even Valve knows yet. They did mention how the next post will be about “the sunsetting of Greenlight” though, meaning surely it can’t be far off now? Surely. Patience is a virtue, I suppose.

(Source: Steam Direct Fee & Upcoming Store Updates)