Thursday, March 21, 2013

Why Steam Greenlight is a Bad Thing

Steam Greenlight is a program where indie developers can pay $100 for the privilege of being considered good enough to be sold in the Steam catalog. Upon paying the fee, developers can post their games in the Greenlight catalog for users to vote whether or not their game is worth buying. Each vote is tallied in some sort of back end manor which is hidden from the public and the results of which are totally unknown until Steam releases its list of seemingly arbitrarily selected games.

One of my problems with Greenlight is that the concept relies on developers seeking more votes for their game than any other game. Mathematically speaking, if you’re a developer, every vote for any other game is also a vote against your game. Outside of Greenlight, it’s much better for games to market cooperatively. A developer doesn’t just want to sell his or her game, but also needs to keep players playing indie games. That said, Steam Greenlight takes people who once worked cooperatively and turns them on each other. Thanks Valve!

Since the approval process works completely hidden from the public there is no way to hold Valve accountable for the true selection of the most popular games. Let’s say there is a game that for some reason Valve does not want to sell. Castleminer Z is a good example. Castleminer Z was turned down twice from being sold on Steam. Now, its Greenlight page is in the top 100 most popular Steam games. If Steam does not want to sell this game, what is to stop them from just over looking it no matter how popular it gets? However, they had no problem taking the developers 100 bucks.
In order to avoid a legal mess, I have to say that I’m not accusing Valve of any criminal wrong doing.

I don’t think Gabe’s idea of Greenlight is an evil thing. I just think the effect it’s having is really bad. Gabe himself has said he is not happy with it. But here it is for now. So what does this mean for the consumer?

I would like to point out that a very large amount of games that are struggling for attention on Greenlight are already for sale on Desura. I am willing to bet the Desura prices are cheaper as well. (DLC Quest was 1.99 on Desura and premiered on Steam with a 2.99 price tag.) Just some food for thought.

TL;DR – Use Desura more. Greenlight Sucks.


  1. Stopped reading when you displayed you don't know how dollars signs work.

  2. Have you ever played Monopoly? Most people that only casually play play the game wrong. They simply try to accrue wealth. The correct way to play Monopoly is to try and put the other players out of business as fast as possible. People that don't know how to play tend to have long running games that take a million years because no one is trying to shut down the other players. Your article just made me think of that.

    I do agree with you though competition is good for business. Steam having competitors is a good thing. Now that they've become so popular their starting to dick everyone over. Power corrupts and all that shit.

  3. Indie devs working cooperitivly keeps gamers playing indie games and helps keep small devs on the map. Doesn't always work out that way, but its something I see alot.

  4. Its pretty easy to see which game will be greenlit and which not. Its not even always about quality its more often about what looks marketable. UneEpic a little Metroidvania (I hate the term but cant find a better one) game with some nerd humor has been added to desura but refused on Steam. It has been greenlit now. On the VERY beginning of Greenlight you could see the votes. They changed that very quick tough. I really think obscure gems will suffer, niche-games with smaller audiences, games that could become potentially legendary. All that Im seeing is another uninspired Multiplayer Shooter, another Minecraft or Dwarf Fortress rip off, and some Ill admit interesting looking games like Projekt Zomboid (altough its goddamm Zombies again, but the isometeric graphics and gameplay sound interesting). Steam needs to work on greenlight and help the indie scene. GOGs voting system worked great, and they always tried on getting the most wanted games out as soon as they could (They got freaking System Shock 2!). There situation is slightly different but they sell many modern and almost all indie games currently sold. Good article overall, and excuse my somewhat rambly awnser.