When Steam Greenlight was launched in August 2012, developers had numerous concerns with the platform.
Valve's idea was simple: Since the company was finding it difficult to keep up with the influx of games being submitted for the Steam platform, Valve decided to let its players decide what should come through the gates.
Steam users are now able to look through the Greenlight catalogue, and vote for any games that they think should be available via Steam. If a game receives enough votes, it will rise to the top of the pile, and be accepted by Valve.
There's still other ways you can get onto Steam -- via a publisher; via a prior relationship with Valve; being so notable that Valve comes to you instead of you coming to it -- but for 99 percent of developers, Greenlight is now the only way in.
Since the launch of Greenlight a good 15 months ago, those issues that developers originally had haven't exactly disappeared. While Valve appears to be pushing games through a lot quicker now, the same old problems remain.
Gamasutra talked to a variety of developers -- some with games on Greenlight, others whose games have been through the Greenlight process and are now on Steam -- to get their thoughts on where Greenlight is now.
The following Q&A piece has been split up in such a way that each question will be followed by answers from those developers who are still looking to get Greenlighted, and answers from those who have been Greenlighted immediately afterwards. This is so that it is easier to compare and contrast answers from the two groups of developers.
Developers hoping to be Greenlighted
Ryan Creighton, Untold Entertainment (Spellirium): Spellirium was posted to Greenlight in April 2013, around the time we launched an independent crowdfunding campaign to raise support for the title. I really don't see it as a matter of "pushing Spellirium through the system," because I don't see any hope for the game making it through the system.
There are a great many games currently on Steam which, if they were made to run the Greenlight gauntlet, would likely never be approved. Bookworm Adventures, Spellirium's closest kissing cousin, comes to mind -- and most of the minor entries in the PopCap library like Venice and Big Money! Deluxe wouldn't stand a snowball's chance on Greenlight.
Just as I'd like to see a lot of motorists re-tested to see if they could actually earn their driver's licenses again, I'd love to see certain games pulled off Steam and run through Greenlight to gauge audience response.
It just goes to show that, while it's greatly reduced the workload of the game approval committee at Valve, Greenlight is not exactly a tastemaker when it comes to choosing good titles for the service. If you take a look at the list of greenlit titles, it's clear that 3D games dominate, shooters dominate. If all our films were chosen by committee in the same way, every movie would be an Avengers sequel, and pornographic to boot.
Ian MacLarty (Boson X): Boson X has been on Greenlight since 18 October, so not that long. We've got 4237 yes votes out of 11684 unique visitors with 250 favorites and are "39 percent of the way to the top 100." We reached 3000 yes votes fairly quickly, but now we're only getting around 100 yes votes a day. These stats are fairly meaningless though as Valve don't choose games based solely on their Greenlight rank.
I think our case is somewhat unusual, as we hadn't originally planned to go on Greenlight. The plan was always to use the free PC version to create awareness of the game before the iOS launch. It was only after a Rage Quit video of Boson X generated a large spike in visits to our website that we decided to submit to Greenlight. It just seemed that not submitting would be squandering a good opportunity.
We're adopting a wait-and-see approach to Greenlight. If we get on Steam then awesome, if we don't it's not a big deal -- the iOS version is doing reasonably well and we're preparing to launch the Android version soon. We're not going to expend a huge amount of effort on Greenlight, because there's just too much uncertainty. Of course if we are Greenlit we'll be putting a lot of effort into ensuring the Steam version of Boson X is worth the asking price.
Ashton Raze, Owl Cave Games (Richard and Alice): Our game's been on Greenlight since the service launched, back when it didn't even cost money to get on. We're 68 percent of the way there now, which, yeah, is taking a fair while.
A lot of existing players are pretty keen to see it on Steam, but I think to an extent the game's a little bit of a hard sell if you haven't already played it. Most people who have seem to love it though! I'd like to see it on there, because obviously it'd be great to reach more people.
Antonio Iglesias, Kraken Empire (Kromaia): Our game has been on Greenlight for 32 days. It takes a long time -- too long sometimes. Some friends of ours finished their game, a pretty good game, and tried to get through Greenlight to sell on Steam. It took them almost a year to get greenlit with an already finished and interesting game.
That is why we decided to enter Greenlight as soon as we had something interesting to show and play -- it seems better to get on Greenlight some time in advance than on final release.
[Note: The following answers from Colin Walsh were given to Gamasutra just hours before his game Drifter was Greenlit – hence, Walsh's answers are from the perspective of a developer looking to get his game through the Greenlight process.]
Colin Walsh, Celsius Game Studios (Drifter): As of writing this, Drifter has been on Greenlight for 154 days. It feels like it's been quite a lot of time, and compared to getting on to other similar storefronts perhaps it is -- but I realize this is far shorter than many other titles that have been through or are currently still on Greenlight.
Also, since they started approving larger batches of games more frequently it feels like things have sped up a fair bit. So before that point, I'd have said the process definitely felt more difficult than it does currently.