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Valve: Steam Greenlight is the solution to 'an intractable problem'
Valve: Steam Greenlight is the solution to 'an intractable problem'
July 10, 2012 | By Mike Rose

July 10, 2012 | By Mike Rose
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"We had this huge business problem," admitted Jason Holtman, Valve's director of business development as part of a keynote lecture at the Develop conference in Brighton. "How do we go through the thousands of indie games submitted?"

The answer was Steam Greenlight, the new initiative announced by the Steam behemoth earlier this week that is looking to streamline the submissions process for indie developers hoping to get their games on Steam.

As part of the existing Steam Workshop, Steam Greenlight allows developers to submit their game for consideration, and users can then pledge support for the games they like best. Valve will then check out the games that get the most attention, and those that pass Valve's approval process will then become full-fledged products available on Steam.

Trying to work out which indie games are suitable for publishing on Steam is "an intractable problem," he admitted, adding that "there's no way to tell what's awesome and what will succeed."

With Valve's current method for finding and encouraging indie game development, Holtman says that it's incredibly difficult to work out what is worth pursuing. Even if the company has spotted Minecraft earlier on, how could they possibly have known how popular it would become?

With Greenlight, Valve is looking to put its past experience with its community to work in a new area -- the experience it gathered from its Team Fortress 2 marketing and involving the community with each new update.

It was when asking the question "how do we make TF2 updates interesting?" that Valve realized bringing the community in and making the updates feel exciting and personal was the key to really grabbing consumer attention, far more than any regular advertising and PR could.

"We realized it wasn't a multiplayer game -- it was a hat manufacturing game," he joked, referring to the influx of virtual items that have invaded the game, especially since it went free-to-play last year.

Holtman explained that, even though there are only 6-8 people working on Team Fortress 2 at any one time, by getting the community involved it could exponentially expand the amount of buzz the game was receiving.

With the Soldier vs Demoman update, for example, the company asked players to compete as their favorite of the two characters in order to win the next update of their preference.

Every inch of marketing, from the official blog posts to the banners and graphics, was put together by the TF2 team rather than a marketing team -- as is every update for the game. By personalizing every part of the update push, it really struck a chord with gamers, said Holtman, and made for a far more exciting update than your bog-standard PR spin.

"If this had been written by the marketing team, it would have sucked," added Holtman.

The other side to this approach is that "the community is better at knowing what should be next for the game," he continued -- hence the introduction of the Steam Workshop, which allows players to create their own content.

With all this in mind, Valve is going into Greenlight with the ideals that encouraging development and involving the community are the best ways for the company to understand what indie titles are actually desired.

"We wouldn't find and ship the right things" without this approach, admitted Holtman. Greenlight will encourage virtuous development cycle, he adds, and help Valve to prioritize game releases.


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Comments


Alex Nichiporchik
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That is probably the best idea Valve had in years.

We've submitted a game for 3 times now and actually made a poll on the interwebs, where 3k people signed to get our game onto Steam.

That didn't go through.

If those people go via Greenlight, Steam will have no choice anymore.

Respect to Valve for admitting they have a problem and coming up with a solution.

Kyle Redd
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Given the thousands of games they're getting for submission, I'm curious to know what percentage of the most-voted Greenlight games will actually make it to the approval process. Or will they take all games that reach a minimum number of votes (10,000 maybe)?

Will they end up reducing the number of games that get approval the old fashioned way, to make room for the new influx of Greenlight games?

Tom Baird
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On the Faq (http://steamcommunity.com/greenlight) they state:

"How many votes does a game need to get selected?"

"It's going to change during the first few days/weeks since we don't know what kind of traffic to expect. Part of the drive for this system is the need for customers to help us prioritize which games they want to see made available on Steam. So the specific number of votes doesn't matter as much as relative interest in a game compared with other games in Steam Greenlight.

We're going to be reaching out to developers as we see their games getting traction regardless of whether they have achieved a specific number of votes or are sitting 1st or 2nd place at any given time. We are most interested in finding the games that people want, not requiring them to always hit a specific number of votes."

So it's more of a submissions pool they can draw from as the store spaces become available than a '5000 votes gets you an Store slot' or 'Top 10 each month get store slots'.

Kyle Redd
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I guess that makes sense. I imagine the several months of Greenlight are going to be fairly chaotic while Valve and the community try to sort out the particulars of all of this.

Vincent Hyne
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Now they should embed crowd funding into it, and remove the 5% charge Kickstarter, and 3-5% charge Amazon takes, and give all the funded money to the developer.

Tom Baird
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Valve is a great company, but they are still a company and not a charity. Surely they deserve a cut for connecting the buyers with the sellers.

Joe Wreschnig
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Valve's cut presumably comes when the game goes on sale on Steam. I don't think there are any public numbers about that, but I bet it's a lot closer to the 30% standard cut for app stores than the 3-5% standard cut for payment processors.

Vincent Hyne
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That's fine. Selling a product is not the same as funding its development.

What I'm saying is, let the development go unimpeded, and take your cut from the sales of the product, which is what they've been doing forever anyway.

Jorge Gonzalez Sanchez
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I hope this is done right. If it's anything like user-aggregated news sites like reddit, It'll be worse than useless.

The problem with these kind of user-driven systems is that there is a lot of money in going around them. Before you know it, this could turn into a battle between the guys making and updating the ranking system and the "pros" who can get you up there for a fee. This leaves out the 99.9% of the people who try to use the system normally. Regular fork won't get anywhere trying to submit their game and getting voted, since pro efforts are so much better tailored to game the system.

Valve has a great track record. I'm pretty sure that if someone can pull it off it's them. But I'm not very optimistic.

Mitchell Burton
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That should be easy enough to avoid if only accounts with paid games can vote. Maybe with a cool down between votes. What's the cheapest game on Steam? $1 for one vote per week?

Might not make a fee for votes system impossible, but would hopefully push the cost out of the reach of the small outfits that might use it. Especially if Valve bans accounts will no/little play time from voting. Or just bans accounts with many votes and no play time.

Jane Castle
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Thousands of indie games?????? Are there really that much? Is this per year? That is more games than the traditional industry produces. I am assuming that most of these games are not of very good quality if thousands are being made.

Certainly it makes sense for Valve to be a gate keeper now as I don't see thousands of indie games on their site and that is probably a good thing.

Fabio Macedo
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Of course there are that much. The way the press makes being indie feel like something insanely cool and special will drive lots of people to it. Never mind talented people are rare in every form art, place or budget, and hitting the sweet spot with a game developed in your garage is as much of a gamble/effort as becoming a pro athlete, which doesn't prevent lots of parents betting everything on their kids becoming a sports star anyway.

Jane Castle
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That was my assumption Fabio, that a lot of these "games" must be of very poor quality. Hopefully with this GreenLight endeavor we can see what types of games are being submitted to Valve.

Dylan Tan
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I think to be fair, we all wants to see quality games, from the bigger studios as well as Indies. Main problem right now, there are many Indies with half hearten attempts with their games, either due to lack of direction, funding or resources. Steam get bombarded with all sort of games included (especially) these half hearten attempts, and overwhelming them , then when a good games comes along, it gets the same treatment as the rest, and failed to get the recognition it deserved.

james sadler
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They've said it many times that there is a huge flood of poor quality games, direct rip offs of major titles (Modern Warfare with the title screen changed), and really unstable games that prevent them from finding those few awesome games that come through. I forget how many people they had attached to review all submissions (and they claim is it thousands a day), but it really isn't enough to weed through the chaff. I like this idea of a community greenlight to some degree. I fear that it may become a popularity contest versus quality game contest. How well the developer is at marketing versus producing a game. Most developers aren't good at or don't have time for the social game of this kind so I hope that steam will continue to use their existing submission process as well.

Jane Castle
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@james thanks for responding. I was not aware that they were being swamped by so many games of dubious quality. But it makes sense, few indies are capable of making professional quality games.

Curtis Turner - IceIYIaN
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How bout on August 9th or before that? I plan on announcing my first game on my B-DaY :P

And hopefully they never "Greenlight" mods... Otherwise my 1337 Board mod would never make Steam!


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