Gabe Newell On Steam Greenlight: We're Better Off With It Than Before It

By William Usher 1 year ago discussion comments
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Today marks the day that Valve celebrates the one year anniversary of Steam's Greenlight service for indie developers and software designers. The community tool allows for indie devs to share their vision and for gamers to vote whether or not they like that vision, and Valve's head honcho seems to like where things are going so far.

Now personally, I have no problems with the Greenlight process... in fact, I love it. I've come across a ton of games I would love to buy and play and voted for a ton of games I would love to buy and play, that's not to mention all the games I never would have discovered without it, such as Project Nimbus, Hot Tin Roof or The Novelist.

However, not everyone is fanciful on the idea of the Greenlight procedures to make it onto Steam's store, and despite being one year older there are still some who feel as if Greenlight is not up to scratch.

Well, we had an opportunity to lob some questions at Valve's acting president Gabe Newell, regarding the policies of Greenlight and how the company is working toward getting certain games the necessary spotlight and position they deserve within the community-driven service. According to Jedi Master Gaben, Valve is really feeling what Greenlight is bringing to the disco floor compared to what the company's policy was before, regarding curation, saying...
“A year ago, before Greenlight, folks would send mail to us or fill out the posted submission form, hope that someone saw it and liked it, and waited in the dark for a reply.

While it is not perfect, Greenlight is an attempt to pull that process out of the dark as we simultaneously work to improve our ability to increase our publishing throughput.

So, we feel we are better off with Greenlight than we were before it. We’re getting closer, but we haven’t yet arrived at our end goal of completely removing the bottleneck, aka “selection process,” on Steam.”

I like the attitude at Valve, in which they feel that some things could be done better with the service. Any company willing to recognize and move forward with bettering a product or service to the benefit of all users deserves props in my book. So, props to Valve.

But like all great things that garner criticism, there will be those who love Greenlight and those who hate it. Funnily enough, those who hate it will still have to thank it because games being greenlit happen far more often than Valve's old process, just as Newell mentions.


Sending Valve a letter and hoping it doesn't end up in a void is an almost nihilistic way of approaching the process of having your game greenlit. However, putting your game up for the community to vote and comment on at least gives you an idea of what your chances are of ending up on Steam, as well as what things you could possibly modify, change or update for the game.

While there are some fringe cases like Paranautical Activity that get hung up in the process due to publisher meddling, most other games have come and gone through Greenlight with ease. According to Newell, this process provides Valve with a ton of useful data in gauging interest from the community on a number of facets, mentioning...
“...votes in Greenlight give us a valuable point of data in gauging community interest, but we’re aware that votes alone may be an inexact form of gauging customer interest. So we also try to incorporate additional information we have about factors such as press reviews, crowd-funding successes, performance on other similar platforms, and awards and contests to help form a more complete picture of community interest in each title.”

This explains why games that are usually coming off a successful Kickstarter campaign are greenlit shortly after: lots of press coverage, lots of community interest, lots of feedback, good momentum.

But, there's a flip-side to this story. Why is there a curation process that follows strong community feedback? If gamers all vote that a game needs to be on Steam, why isn't that enough? Why are there still gatekeepers for the community-appointed gatekeepers? Newell had an answer...
"Much of the evolution of Steam and Greenlight is driven by what the community of gamers and developers tell us they want to see made possible. Right now, we’re focused on expanding the depth and breadth of our catalog. That expansion and addition of content is going to come with a need to innovate and iterate on how customers browse for games and evaluate potential purchases."

In short: Greenlight is still a prototype project of sorts. It's not necessarily there to replace Valve's curation altogether, but more-so as a way to move toward a gatekeeper-less process in which developers and gamers can connect. For now, this means that developers will continue to submit their games, the community will continue to vote and Valve will continue to react to those votes.

I'm glad Valve isn't finished iterating Greenlight towards something that we could all deem as the perfect portal for indie game developers to submit their titles and for community-appointed content to affect what we buy from the store. In the meantime, we just have to bear with it.

You can learn more about Greenlight, the Greenlight process and Greenlight games by heading on over to the official Steam Powered website.
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