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Here's what Steam Greenlight voters look for in a game Exclusive
Here's what Steam Greenlight voters look for in a game
September 14, 2012 | By Mike Rose

September 14, 2012 | By Mike Rose
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    25 comments
More: Console/PC, Indie, Business/Marketing, Exclusive



Valve has Greenlighted its first batch of games, simultaneously revealing its intricate methods of selection -- i.e. picking the top 10 most voted for games on the service (minus Slender: Source, which was left out for reasons we can only speculate on).

This gives us the opportunity to analyze the games and genres that appear to be capturing the attentions of Steam players, in the hope that you too can top the Greenlight popularity charts and claim your place on the Steam store.

The biggest takeaway from the games Greenlighted is that Steam users are, in general, looking for the types of experiences that you'd perhaps associate more with the triple-A space, and less with what you might consider the more niche indie game scene (which is hardly surprising, given the audience).

First-person games, for example, are very much "in" -- six out of the ten games chosen feature a first-person perspective. Again, it's not really a genre you would associate with indie games as such, and is definitely more at ease with the mainstream and the modding scene.

Three out of the 10 games selected were mods (Source mods, of course), showing that Greenlight is a fantastic way for modders to get their works on the Steam store, whether they are planning to charge for them or not.

Take a look around

Another gameplay element that is clearly capturing hearts and minds right now is the free-roaming adventuring genre, with open-ended exploration at its core.

It's easy to say that games like Minecraft have really shown what this approach to game design can achieve, but in actual fact, the Greenlighted games that fit this header are more varied in their content than you might imagine.

Project Zomboid for example, focuses far more on survival than it does on creativity, while Routine, with its non-linear exploration aboard a Moon base, coaxes players into discovering areas in a non-randomly generated world that perhaps other players might not.

zomboid.jpgThere is, of course, another very obvious genre that runs through a good portion of the Greenlighted titles -- horror. Half of the games feature survival horror elements, with zombies a particularly prominent feature. It would appear that, as much as some of us continue to lament the oversaturation of zombie games, the genre is (ironically) refusing to die.

The most notable takeaway from the 10 Greenlight games is that not a single one of them is a puzzle game, a platformer or an arcade shooter -- three genres that make up a good portion of what is usually perceived as your average indie game. In reality, what this means is that Steam users are simply looking for more of the same. For the most part, they want experiences that are similar to those already available on Steam, which obviously isn't great news for a good portion of indie developers.

Breaking through

That being said, there are clearly some exceptions, as there always are in these circumstances. McPixel, a collection of minigames with a pixelart visual style, is unlike anything we've seen via Steam before, while Towns, a very indie-looking citybuilding management game, again isn't exactly your usual Steam fodder.

But none of this matters a jolt if you don't already have a community or fanbase built up around your game. All 10 games already had fanbases, thanks to either already being available to download/purchase elsewhere, or being in a playable alpha/beta form. Until you have such a fanbase for your game, it would appear that your chances of quickly being Greenlighted are slim.

Not that putting your game on Greenlight without a community is a bad idea. As a journalist with a high interest in indie games, I have spotted a good half-dozen games I find very intriguing through the service, which I had not seen before. On top of that, I've noticed dozens of people on Twitter posting links to Greenlight games that they believe are worth backing.

Hence, it would appear that a Greenlight page can indeed help you in your bid to build a fanbase. If you're willing to part with that $100 submission fee, my advice is to go for it, and then link the page alongside all your other press assets. The fact is that it doesn't appear to matter how quickly you build up your number of votes, so you might as well start as soon as possible.


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Comments


Ron Dippold
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No More Room in Hell and Project Zomboid are unabashedly zombie games, but it would be a bit unkind to classify Dream, Cry of Fear, or Routine as zombie games. Much more, well, Lovecraftian and Silent Hill. Still that's at least 20% zombies.

Kellam Templeton-Smith
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We're also overlooking everything getting buzz that's a take off on Amnesia, Dear Esther, or some element of those+Zombies.

Ian Fisch
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Honestly, with the state of AI today, aren't all games zombie games?

Kellam Templeton-Smith
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@Ian

I know you're being pithy, but aesthetic is pretty much all that separates most mainstream games anyways. People have clearly latched on to this aesthetic.

Matt Robb
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I really think people are still jumping to conclusions about Greenlight and how things will work in an ongoing basis. As the article stated, many of these first games already had a community. That blip will wear off after the pre-Greenlight games work their way up and out. Right now the Greenlight concept is being affected rather heavily by preexisting circumstances. The ecosystem has yet to adapt and really start behaving how it will after Greenlight has been out for a good while and is established.

Sherman Chin
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How many percent is needed for approval? The Alpha Kimori JRPG is now at 1% on Steam Greenlight even with about a thousand favorites but there is no way to see the actual number of votes. If it really doesn't appear to matter how quickly you build up your number of votes, please do vote for: http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=93036357

Adam Bishop
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I really do hope that the Greenlight stories don't just turn into people trying to draw traffic to their own Greenlight projects. I don't mean to single you out, but I've noticed that you have only two posts on Gamasutra and both are requests for people to visit your Greenlight page. One of the great things about Gama is the generally high quality of conversation and while I can only speak for myself, I would enjoy the comments a lot less if they become a place for people to promote themselves rather than engage in debate.

Benjamin Quintero
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Adam, you kind of just did call him out. lol

Sherman, Im guessing that you reach 100% when you are no longer part of the 99%. Not to sound funny. Your 1k votes are probably 1% of the top voted games. As long as they get more votes its possible that you can fall back down to 0... welcome to the 99%.

John Tynes
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"The most notable takeaway from the 10 Greenlight games is that not a single one of them is a puzzle game, a platformer or an arcade shooter -- three genres that make up a good portion of what is usually perceived as your average indie game. In reality, what this means is that Steam users are simply looking for more of the same."

Man, it's a shame those Steam users are stuck in such a narrow rut of tightly defined genres instead of enoying the great diversity, freshness, and innovation they could be enjoying in their puzzle games, platformers, and arcade shooters. If only they could try a different tightly defined genre instead of the tightly defined genre they're used to!

Seriously, you guys need a Ring of Unintentional Irony Detection +5.

Jane Castle
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You sir deserve MANY likes for this comment! :)

Robert Swift
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I agree! Personally, I am so bored of all the platformers and arcade shooters on Steam since I never liked those genres. I had the impression that 90% of all indie games on Steam came from those 2 genres which actually left a bad impression of indie developers on me.

Arthur De Martino
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John Tynes got this in the bag.

Jeremy Alessi
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This is what I would expect. If I have an innovative simple indie game I'm probably going to mobile with it. With a first person shooter on the other hand, the first thing I think is Steam.

R. Hunter Gough
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I still don't understand why La Mulana isn't greenlit yet. I was sure it would be in the first batch.

Alan Youngblood
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Sadly, this doesn't fix all problems. Marketing is still a real challenge to games, and I think it's worth looking at the system to see that the AAA bias (or even stereotypical indie platformers) is showing up again. Perhaps there could be a system for greenlighting those games which do not meet a mass-market, but have the business plan to confirm profitability with a smaller audience. Is our problem not one of a system that is high-risk and high-reward only? It stands to reason that the solution involves allowing for lower risk (yet lower reward). How does that all work? Simple. You allow for the lower reward to be sufficient payout by having smaller teams, smaller audiences. That's where you might get a really cool game with appeal to a niche.

As I see it the status quo is still in effect. That's working for some, but not for many, hence the complaints. There's basically two solutions (both of which necessary): 1) Smaller business, lower over-head, less risk and lower payout needs to be okay. 2)Developers need to start marketing and continue doing so until they get their desired results of profitability, market reach, audience, etc. Then they need to continue doing so to maintain it. Steam and Valve are awesome, but they cannot and will not solve your marketing challenges for a mere $100 that goes to charity. Not even a 30-50% cut of a proven market concept. It's something you must do on your own. Remember that flunkie from Atari that started a marketing company that actually sold personal computing devices? Steve Jobs anyone? Not saying he could have done it without the Woz, but likewise Woz could not have done it without being in a company that outnumbered engineers many times to one with marketers. You can do it all yourself, but do it you must.

Sean Hogan
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I hope no one actually tries to design their games intentionally around the recently greenlit games to try and get it on Steam.

We need more of every genre on Steam. But in that lies responsibility in the devs from the various genres/cross genres to work their ass off with marketing. Although maybe it's hard to to convince lots of people to vote or follow if you're not from a popular genre. Hoping some smaller niche games will be picked up by Valve...leading to, say, a niche cooking mama-final fantasy tactics-big rigs-solitaire-tony hawk mash up onto Steam. Etc.

Jane Castle
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With Green Light it will be interesting to see if votes actually equate to sales when the finished product is ready for market.....

Daneel Filimonov
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Note that not all the greenlit games are going to cost money (Cry of Fear and No More Room In Hell being one of few). Green Light isn't just about making money, it's about getting your game/mod/etc. out there and making your name known.

tony oakden
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The thing I don't really get is that surely these projects are what would have found their way onto Steam anyway? So basically Valve have simply outsourced the job of picking games to the community but the overall result, as far as the typical indie developer is concerned, is that business is as usual. It's just that now projects can be openly ignored by the community rather than behind closed doors.

Robert Swift
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Would you say that critics and audience always have the same opinion? I don't think so.

Rob B
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Wait though, Project Zomboid turned up on my front page of greenlight every time I went there until I voted on it. I didnt want to down vote it because Im sure people who like zombie games would be fond of this so it doesnt really give me much choice in the matter.

Is... is that how its supposed to work?

Gerald Swanson
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Originally they had a simple "thumbs up" "thumbs down" system. This made me think "I might not like this, but other people might like it..." But now they specifically ask "Would you buy (or play) this game if it were available in Steam?" I think that makes it pretty simple. Would you buy it? I think that makes it easier to answer "yes" or "no."

Rob B
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Ahh, yes, that does clarify things.

Im not sure why it showed up on the front page so often but suspect it was because at the time they were instigating the $100 charge which put the brakes on things after the first flurry.

It looks like itll be a pretty good little game either way.

ian stansbury
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One thing I would like to see is some integration with the steam client itself. What I mean is rather than just a silly "like" button it would be awesome if steam knew whether you played the game, assuming it has an alpha/beta of course. Some stats would be nice too. How many downloaded this game, of those how many actually played it and for how long? Then out of those "players" how many actually liked the game? I think a weighted metric is always more descriptive as people will randomly click one way or the other on a whim. With a minimal effort being needed to make your vote count it also displays the number of those who might actually spend the money on a game, which is what they are after in the first place.

Greg Quinn
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A big reason those 10 games got Greenlit is because they spent most of their time on the front page, giving them massive exposure, while other games were in the trenches with the pre-$100 piles of crap that were submitted.

These games had 150 000 views while others, submitted at the same time, hadn't even reached 1000.


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