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Editorial: Steam Greenlight's $100 Fee - Helpful or Bothersome?

Marcus Estrada

Steam Greenlight is the hot new thing in the PC gaming world nowadays, and for good reason: the service is there to allow indie developers a real shot at getting their games onto the immensely popular digital platform.


Sure, there was always a way for people to try and submit their games to the service, but many were rejected. Popular indie games that were on other platforms weren“t granted a way past Steam“s gates. Now with Greenlight it appears the task may be easier, as now gamers will choose what they want to play.


As sweet a deal as that may initially seem, there were people out there who wanted to abuse the service. As Greenlight went live, it was flooded with interesting indie titles that were ranged from finished to "in progress." The game amount increased from dozens to hundreds and soon there were far too many for any one person to check out right away. Unfortunately, that“s when Steam and everyone else noticed a problem. There were serious games on the service, yes, but also a lot of joke and offensive postings.




Many of the “games” were simply meme-filled posts which brought nothing to the service. Then there were sensitive topics treated with no respect, as one might expect from a troll. Beyond that, there were also obviously fake uploads such as multiple versions of "Half-Life 3" that kept popping up. As great as the service could be, it was weighed down by all this awful, ridiculous clutter. Valve needed to do something to combat this, and by the second week of Greenlight“s operation, they shared their solution: a one hundred dollar fee.


It certainly makes sense as a gatekeeping measure. The biggest reason that so many people were making joke postings was because it was free for them to do so. It was free and it was a platform that thousands of people would be looking at. Those who already posted won“t be charged retroactively either, although anyone submitting now will have to be. The fee itself will only be charged to a developer once when they submit their first game. After that, they will not have to continue to pay money with new games. It seems like a fairly solid method to keep casual trolls at bay.


Is this really the best solution possible? According to Valve, they implemented this method because there was a lot of “noise and clutter” being submitted. Not only that but there are people who don“t “fully understand" the purpose of Greenlight. Obviously much of the clutter will be cleaned up, but what of the second point?


Just because someone donates $100 to submit their game, are they suddenly aware of Greenlight“s point? You“d assume that they would take the time to read before downing the money, but the fee doesn“t guarantee it. What if a kid makes their first game, uses the credit card attached to their account, and posts it? Unfinished projects as well as things that aren“t really up to snuff for Steam will still be posted for one reason or another.




The same holds true for some trolls. Although most aren“t willing to spend money for their pranks it doesn“t seem fair to assume they“ll all be gone now. I still expect to see some clutter coming to the service either to deceive users or rile them up. What price would make them stop? It would have to be higher, but no one wants that. At best everyone would probably like to go back to no fee but that“s not going to happen now.


What about reducing the fee down to $50, or even $20? If trolls are so opposed to wasting money to have a good laugh then these lower costs would probably offer the same benefit as the $100 one. The exact price to submit games seems to have been chosen randomly and may be tweaked later.


One question to ask Valve is why have they chosen to “punish” everyone to squash out the bad apples? The money does not go back to Valve, but instead goes to Child“s Play charity. Valve doesn“t need or want the payments, so why go with this method? The move doesn“t seem to have been made because they wish to be in line with other digital publishing platforms. Judging from the fact that Steam didn“t make this the rule from day one shows it isn“t entirely thought out.


What about the idea of banning accounts who are obviously submitting troll content? Some might say it would be hard to tell the difference between troll and newbie game efforts, but really if you have looked at the listings, it“s easy to see. If banning accounts in some fashion were implemented as the main rule, then it would have much the same effect as a fee. That is, as long as they also would make sure the only accounts that can upload something are in good standing and have a purchase tied to it. The account regulation is currently in effect, at least, and helps ensure that people aren't joining Steam just to spam Greenlight.




One point that gets brought up is how other services like Apple“s App Store and Xbox Live Indie Games charges a fee. This is true, but they don“t do it in the same way that Steam is now doing. With the App Store, you are given rules which to abide by. As long as you follow these rules, then your item will eventually be pushed to the store. Are you guaranteed anything by publishing to Greenlight? Of course not, it“s just the chance that you“ll get zillions of “thumbs up” to get it going.


The biggest question I have is how worthwhile it even is to spend money just to jump into a popularity contest. If you have no social media management abilities to help get the word out about your game, will people just flock to it? It“s possible, yes, but the most liked games so far are ones that are the most famous. Previously popular titles such as Project Zomboid rack up lots of attention but most are stuck with very low positive ratings. Obviously Greenlight is going to be updated to make games more visible, but so far it still doesn“t help most developers. Some say that Greenlight could be used purely as advertising since most games won“t get through it, but again, at this point the service just isn“t at a point where that would be useful.


Getting a game onto Steam has always been a bit of a mysterious process for independent developers. Many great games have been rejected, and not-so-great games attached to big names were pushed right through. With Greenlight, we are now in control of selecting games that are worth our time. It“s a great deal with a few negatives that Valve still needs to work out. While their newly implemented fee will help, it also hardly seems the only method to maintain listings. Perhaps soon we will see a new solution promoted by Valve that will please everyone.



What do you think about the $100 fee? Will it serve its purpose amicably? Are there other ways you can think of to solve Greenlight“s current problem?

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