On June 6, 2017, Valve decided to discontinue Steam Greenlight. After suspending the submission of new games, they had more than 3400 games that were pending in Steam Greenlight. Some titles weren’t granted approval since they lacked further feedbacks and voter data.
Valve launched its new services, Steam Direct, on June 13, 2017. Steam Direct will be their new platform for accepting new titles. They promised that it will be “a streamlined, transparent, and accessible route” for aspiring game developers.
Valve stated on June 14, 2017 the steps required for submitting titles. First, Steam requires identification of the personnel or company that they will work with. Game developers have to submit a digital paperwork that details their company’s information. They would also have to undergo tax and identity verification process. Then, game developers have to pay a $100 recoupable app fee per title to be released. The fee will also unlock their title’s appID. Game developers can also purchase more appIDs for $100 each once the paperwork is settled and they got set up in Steamworks. The app fee is returned during the payment period if the game earned $1,000 via Steam store or through in-app purchases by customers. Finally, Steam would conduct brief review periods so that titles will be released easily, at the same time they are inspected carefully so that games are working properly.
A new documentation system is implemented by Valve that provides important details such as Steamworks APIs, tools, features, and best practices. To help game developers, this new documentation system offers an organized layout such as an expandable table of contents, updated search and a new section on the Steamworks APIs.
Valve is also developing a tool for Steamwork developers that will assist developers along the way. The new tool aims to send useful feedbacks from Steamworks developers to Valve. Valve is also revamping the trading card system so that it is no longer abusable. They will use a new system where titles will only drop cards once it reached “a confidence metric”, indicating if it’s actually purchased and played by actual users or automated by bots.
As developers demand transparency and reliability, Steam Direct ensures changes in the system. They are also appreciating the constant feedback from everybody. Other Steam services such as Steam store and Steam Curator system will also receive changes. Valve’s recommendation engine will be rewritten for better prediction.
Game journalist Jim Sterling discussed the post mortem of Steam Greenlight on June 12, 2017. Looking back at Steam Greenlight, it was launched in August 2012 and initially designed for game developers to introduced their game to the market. Game developers pay $100 fee and submit their game with details like summary, description and video trailer. Steam users will vote and curate for the approval of the title.
Initially, the strict process ensured that only quality games were launched. Before, it was quality versus quantity since fewer titles were released at that time. But as Steam became lenient on accepting submissions, it opened a flood gate of poorly designed titles, shovelware and asset-flipped games. Steam’s quality declined as more titles received approval. Bad game developers found ways on getting their titles approved while decent game developers have difficulty on competing with the influx of bad titles. Cases of copyright infringement and cheaply-made games also became prominent. Other customers actually purchase bad games for the sake of laughs.
There were also mobs of customers called “Greenlight Boosters” who demanded money in exchange for approving titles. They offer free game codes while bargaining for votes. They also threatened game developers who wouldn’t take their “professional services.”
One of the infamous game developers who rose in Steam was Digital Homicide Studios. This developer purchased assets and repackage them as “original games” while neglecting gameplay quality. They have submitted more than 100 games on Steam and gave away game codes as bribery. After their failed $15 million lawsuit against Jim Sterling for criticizing their game “Slaughtering Grounds”, they decided to file an $18 Million lawsuit against 100 Steam users and Valve. Their lawsuit was dismissed again and Valve terminated their business with them. They pulled out all of Digital Homicide Studios’s titles due to their hostility against customers.
Other unprofessional game producers perform unethical practices like harassing customers, censoring criticisms, taking down Youtube reviews by filing accusations of violating Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and abusing Steam Greenlight’s Trading Cards system. Implemented in 2013, this system was meant as collectibles and rewards for players, as well as add extra monetization for game developers. Players can keep the cards from their favorite games while trading away cards from the games they cared less. Steam Community Market was utilized for trading cards in exchange for purchasing other games.
As the demand for cards increased, scheming sellers create “fake games” and generate Steam keys. After generating thousands of keys, they would distribute them to Steam account bots and farm Trading cards from users. Steam was not able to restrict fake developers on generating Steam key since it would hurt legitimate developers.
Although Steam Greenlight had a lot of bad games for the past years, there were some success stories involving genuinely good titles. This includes Risk of Rain, Superhot, Papers Please, Stardew Valley, Five Nights at Freddy’s and Undertale. Steam patrons are hoping for a better service that will end malpractices.