The days of Valve’s game publishing lottery have come to an end. Valve shut down the Greenlight service last week, and on Tuesday evening the company brought Steam Direct online, which introduces per-submission publishing fees.
In February, Valve announced that it would discontinue the Steam Greenlight publishing platform and replace it with a new service called Steam Direct. The company realized the Greenlight system became too cluttered to work efficiently, and it concluded that a per-title publishing fee could help streamline the process. The company believed that a publishing fee would eliminate submissions from developers who weren’t serious about their project and make it easier for serious projects to see the light of day.
Greenlight Is Gone
Valve disabled submissions and voting on the Greenlight platform on June 6, and the company is now crunching through the 3,400 submissions that remained in the system. Valve said it is actively approving as many Greenlight games as it can, and many of them are already approved.
Valve charged developers an upfront $100 fee to gain access to the Greenlight program, and the company is willing to give refunds for that fee to developers who didn’t get any value from the platform. If you have a game in Greenlight that Valve denies and you’ve never published a game through the service, you can request your money back. The refund applies if you have multiple submissions and none of them been Greenlit.
When A $100 Fee Is Free
Valve’s expects to see an influx of game submissions now that the Steam Direct publishing service is up and running. You would think that the $100 publishing fee would stave off the masses, but Valve seems to think that the changes will have a positive effect overall.
“With this transition to Steam Direct, we'll be keeping an eye on new submissions and making adjustments as necessary. We aren't quite sure whether there will be a lot more new submissions, just a bit more, or even fewer. It's most likely that there will be an initial surge of new submissions and then a new rate somewhat higher than what was coming through Greenlight,” Valve wrote on its blog.
Valves expectation of higher submission volumes may be fueled by the new refund structure built into Steam Direct. You have to pay for each game you launch on the Steam platform, but the $100 charge is fully recoupable through sales, and you don’t have to sell many copies of your game to get the refund. Valve said that once a game reaches $1,000 in sales or in-app purchases, the developer would receive a full refund of the initial fee at the next pay period. In effect, Steam Direct ends up being completely free, much of the time.
Steam Direct Process
Publishing a game through Steam Direct involves three steps. First, you must fill out some paperwork to set up an account. Valve needs your company name, address, contact information, and tax account details. The company also does an identification check to prevent fraudulent account creations. You must also pay an upfront $100 fee to activate the account. The account activation fee unlocks your first appID, which you can use once your paperwork is approved and your Steamworks account is set up. You can purchase additional appIDs for $100 each after your accounts are approved.
Once your game is in Valve’s system, the company must review it before approving it for public sale. Valve said that the Steam team must play the game “to check that it is configured correctly, matches the description provided on the store page, and doesn't contain malicious content.” Valve expects the review process to take “a day or two” in most cases.
Along with the release of Steam Direct, Valve revamped its developer documentation for Steamworks APIs, tools, and features. The company also updated its development best practices documents.
Valve said the new documentation system’s new layout is easier to navigate and it offers better search tools to help you find the information you need. The company also introduced a new Steamworks help tool that lets developers pose specific questions and get assistance for configuring their game properly.
"Valve said that the Steam team must play the game 'to check that it is configured correctly, matches the description provided on the store page, and doesn't contain malicious content.'"
Unfortunately, these measures don't really do anything to prevent zero-effort asset flips from oversaturating the market. I suppose it slows them down a bit because a dev can't just flood the store with 20 flips a day like some have in the past, but it certainly won't put an end to much of anything else. If you charge a buck for a lazy asset flip that drops dozens of trading cards for people to sell and profit from, you'll sell a thousand of those easy and get the $100 fee back, no problem. So the honest indie devs and students that are just trying to get their small, hand-crafted game out there will have to hope it can be discovered among the hundreds of asset flips that are still going to be in the way of its discovery.
But I suppose it is worth doing now that those scummy websites that sold Greenlight votes are now out of business. And games that straight up don't launch are going to be cut. So at least there's that.
That would be an excellent thing. But I would not be surprised if Valve drag their knuckles a bit on that, because they do make a serious bit of dosh from it themselves.