Gamasutra: The Art & Business of Making Gamesspacer
View All     RSS
October 31, 2014
arrowPress Releases
October 31, 2014
PR Newswire
View All





If you enjoy reading this site, you might also want to check out these UBM Tech sites:


Let's talk about Steam opening up Exclusive
Let's talk about Steam opening up
February 28, 2013 | By Staff




From: Frank Cifaldi

To: Kris Graft, Christian Nutt, Leigh Alexander, Mike Rose, Brandon Sheffield

Subject: Let's talk about Steam opening up

Valve co-founder Gabe Newell doesn't speak publicly very often, but he took to the stage twice in recent weeks first at UT Texas then at the D.I.C.E. Summit -- to talk about how Steam has become a "bottleneck" in this new world where smaller, cheaper games are managing to actually find an audience and make money.

Valve just can't keep up on being a gatekeeper for all of this content, he says, so they're talking about opening Steam up completely into a more iTunes-like model where anyone can distribute a game.

Rather than Steam being a platform, he hints at it becoming an API that developers can put right into their games. And to solve that ever-present discoverability problem, he says Valve wants to open Steam up so that its community can "curate" content by giving its users the power to open their own stores.

We've been having some interesting discussions behind-the-scenes about what this all might mean, so I thought it would be a good idea to get some of these thoughts down in a way that would bring Gamasutra's readers into the conversation. So let's talk about this! I'll start.


Frank Cifaldi (@frankcifaldi)
News Director

It's impossible to say whether this will work out, but I'm all for it. I think he's dead on, here. I've often bemoaned the lack of, for lack of a better word, proper DJs in this modern digital age where everything is at my fingertips. Discovery engines do an OK job of recommending things that I might like, but I miss being at the mercy of tastemakers that might expose me to new things I might have otherwise missed. Like Newell said during one of his talks, imagine a video game store run by Old Man Murray in its day!

I have to admit that I might be getting overly optimistic here. One need only look only at the Android store to know what a mess a purely open system can be.

What do you guys think, is Newell on the right track, or is this a dangerous direction for a platform that people have come to rely on?

Mike Rose (@RaveofRavendale)
UK Editor

I'm sort of wary of open platforms like this, and I think at least an element of curation can do wonders for keeping an online store manageable for those exploring it. The iOS store is obviously a prime example of where a (relatively) open platform has worked pretty well, allowing smaller studios to expose their games to hundreds of millions of people. But then again, just because we hear about all these great iOS success stories, doesn't mean that success if guaranteed - in fact, it's quite the opposite from what I've read.

Compare that to Steam in its current form. I constantly hear stories about how a game from a small indie studio wasn't selling very well, and then it launched on Steam and suddenly saw a huge rise in sales, simply for being on the popular and, more importantly, trusted platform. Getting on Steam is a *huge* deal to indies, and a lot of people feel like they've "made it" if they're accepted onto the platform. Now imagine that suddenly everyone and anyone can be on Steam - it simply wouldn't be that special anymore, and I can imagine that rather quickly, launching on Steam would no longer do anything that special for your sales figures.

It could also have a negative effect on consumers. Right now, there's this really strange situation where some PC gamers absolutely hate DRM, and will consistently rail against it - yet at the same time, they'll refuse to buy a game outside of Steam, even though Steam is technically a DRM machine (although it is relatively light on the M). This is one of the main reasons that developers want to get on Steam - this perception by many that if a game isn't on Steam, it isn't worth playing.

So if suddenly ever game under the sun is on Steam, how will that alter consumer spending? My opinion is that at least some of these people who would only buy on Steam will suddenly not feel like every big new release on the platform is that notable anymore, and may well pass on a game that they would have previously grabbed without question. An exclusive system like Steam won't feel as exclusive anymore if the door to the VIP door has been taken off its hinges.

So I guess my thoughts are: If they're truly going to open up the platform to everyone, there still needs to be a heavy amount of curation, perhaps in the form of user ratings, games featured on the front page, multiple daily deals, lots of promotions to help the good stuff that might otherwise get missed in the inevitable release stampede - all that sort of stuff.

Leigh Alexander (@leighalexander)
Editor-at-Large

"Wisdom of the crowds" is an increasingly popular philosophy to business these days. I'm pretty in favor of open systems and not a fan of Apple-like gatekeeping, but like any system, there are downsides to this one. I keep saying I think we'll see a huge Kickstarter backlash soon, for example, and that there are a lot of reasons not to let your fans be your publishers.

Similarly, there are a lot of reasons, as Mike points out, that crowds create a mess. This is where I think we see the unique opportunity for curators to play an important role in crowd-driven systems.

I agree with Mike's reservations, but I also think the solution isn't necessarily even the best possible user rating and recommendation engine. There are so many ways to game ratings. I think frequently systems driven by masses of users result in their own constraint against innovation -- people want things that are exactly like the things they already like, and respond to these oft-repeated, visible and obvious genre or style signals.

We hear all the time that sometimes the most successful products come from an innovator giving people not what they want, but what they didn't know yet that they wanted. Educated tastemakers and social leaders are going to become crucial to the landscape.

I hope that's a role we can help play as media, for example! I'm excited just thinking about the kind of content we could organize and serve on, say, a Gamasutra Steam channel.

There's been a lot of anxiety in general about content democracy, and what that does to the formerly-authoritarian relationship between creators and consumers. I think now we're reaching a critical mass in content democracy where audiences will gravitate toward and elect their own information sources and content curators -- rather than educated authority becoming irrelevant, it becomes more necessary than ever, and excitingly, curation is a role one needs to earn through beneficial interactions with the community.

It's an exciting frontier in the evolving relationship between creators and their audience, I think! A messy wild-west would be so bad for everyone that some signposts must necessarily evolve naturally out of it.

What do you guys think good curation will look like?

Brandon Sheffield (@necrosofty)
Sr. Editor Gamasutra; Editor Emeritus, Game Developer

I'm similarly skeptical, but I'm sure Valve will have a store of its own that indies can still "make it" on.

The trouble with community stores is if everyone can have a store, then you've got even more noise than if all the games are just out on the platform. I think noise will increase exponentially, and I'm not sure what that'll do for discoverability. Plus, why would you follow a store? As a consumer, I'm not one to follow a particular tastemaker, though. Maybe a bunch of people would look at Brandon Boyer's store, or Notch's. But how will discoverability of storefronts work?

This whole thing is particularly interesting for me as a developer, since I just signed a deal on behalf of a third party, for publishing on Steam. Seeing how that shakes out in light of this potential "free-for-all" is going to be a good experiment, because the publisher does have greater marketing capability than the developer in this case, but is perhaps no longer necessary as a gatekeeper to the Steam store.

Personally, while I think discoverability is very difficult on iTunes, I like only seeing a few things, as a consumer. A huge number of games in front of me gives me option paralysis. I don't know how to solve this problem though, and I don't think anyone does! Maybe Valve can figure it out.

I'm of the mind that this is better than Greenlight, but will come with a whole new set of problems, and we may see a glut of lower quality games flood the marketplace, which is never a great thing.

I think the best curation is an Amazon-style "if you liked or looked at this, maybe you'll like this other thing!" - but most stores already do that to some degree. I'd like to see a service where, like the thousands of QA and support staff for World of Warcraft, we have an army of paid curators that pay attention to tastes and trends, and actively recommend interesting titles based on those trends for each user of steam. That is an unsustainable and crazy dream... but it sure would help discoverability!

Christian Nutt (@ferricide)
Features Director

I have to say that the idea of relying on DJs, as Frank put it, appeals to me and that this seems like a natural extension of how the internet works today. The people I like best on Twitter aren't necessarily the wittiest, or even my real life friends. Many of them are those who share the best and most interesting things in their feeds.

Interestingness is the currency of our times; time is the resource many of us lack. If Steam will enable us to save time and effort by getting recommendations straight from trusted sources, I see that as inherently valuable.

Now, we don't know what form this will take, but it see it, at its highest potential, as creating "mini-services" within Steam places where you can go to find the just kind of games you like. The great thing is that nothing would stop you from trying the games that are outside of your comfort zone, yet it would enable you to mine your own niche. If this ends up being what I ultimately envision it could be, I don't really see a downside.

Frank Cifaldi (@frankcifaldi)
News Director

I'm going to have to disagree with Brandon here, I don't think this is going to create more noise for consumers at all. If anything, this will REDUCE noise. Rather than having to wade through the hundreds of diverse titles trying to find that 1% that might be appealing, this is going to create an ecosystem where (eventually) an end user is going to immediately see something they want to play, every time they go shopping.

User-curated content will not bury indies. I see it more as an organic, honest "marketing" tool for making sure their games are seen by the people who might actually want to play them. This will INCREASE not decrease discoverability for weirder and more interesting games, because they won't have to shove through the crowd to get noticed. They'll be displayed front and center to people who might actually buy them.

And as a bonus, it will significantly decrease regrettable purchases. Every time a player takes a chance on a game that turns out to be lousy, they're getting less and less likely to experiment with new games in the future. With user-curated stores like Newell is proposing, this is going to happen less often. Consumer fatigue will decrease because every purchase a player makes is probably going to be satisfying, so they'll end up buying more games than ever.

I can even see a scenario where user curation becomes the cure for video games' devaluation into free-to-play apps, but I'll spare you all that tangent.

Kris Graft (@krisgraft)
Editor-in-Chief

Like Brandon, I can't say that I follow a specific tastemaker, and I don't think that's how most people discover games, or make their buying decisions. When a game isn't recommended to me personally and directly, I more often discover and buy after I detect a buzz trend among a group of people whose opinions I value (see social media).

Valve's system for discovery shouldn't really be focused on game discovery; it'll have to center on people discovery. If a user-gen storefront system can facilitate this, then sure, it has potential to be useful.

To answer Frank's question, is this a "dangerous" move for Valve? It'll be difficult (massively so), but the PC has always been an open platform with what you could call discoverability challenges. In trying to solve some of those discoverability challenges by creating its own curated platform, Valve has found itself as a gatekeeper, and I think that goes against the philosophy of openness that Valve often espouses. It's impressive that Newell is self-aware enough to realize this, and is willing to realign his company to "fix" a situation that most execs wouldn't think needs "fixing."

Newell has attributed Valve's success to the openness of PC and now the company is going in the direction where the PC naturally wants to go. It's the right decision, but again, it'll be very difficult. Valve is full of smart folks, but it's not hard to imagine how a company could really trip up when taking on such a massive endeavor as putting PC game discoverability in the hands of customers. (Yikes.)


Related Jobs

Next Games
Next Games — Helsinki, Finland
[10.31.14]

Senior Level Designer
Activision Publishing
Activision Publishing — Santa Monica, California, United States
[10.31.14]

Tools Programmer-Central Team
Vicarious Visions / Activision
Vicarious Visions / Activision — Albany, New York, United States
[10.31.14]

VFX Artist-Vicarious Visions
Magic Leap, Inc.
Magic Leap, Inc. — Wellington, New Zealand
[10.30.14]

Level Designer










Comments


Alex Nichiporchik
profile image
So I'm not the only one scared of 0 visibility during Steam launches if the platform is open.

They absolutely need to come up with clever algorithms that benefit and reward games with something interesting.

Andrew Sum
profile image
This is my fear too, as a developer and a consumer. I like the way Steam is "curated" because it makes my buying choices easier.

Dane MacMahon
profile image
There are easy solutions here and actual benefits to content creators. For one thing with the "stores" idea your audience will do your work for you. A "hardcore cRPGs" community will care a lot about your old-school cRPG game just because it exists, without marketing or persuasiveness on your part, and promote it on their store inside Steam. Fans of that genre will check that store often to see what is coming and what is released. Instant audience, free marketing.

The same could be said for platformers, horror games and on down the line throughout different markets, both niche and not niche. The cream of the crop overall makes it to the front page of the whole Steam system, attracting more casual buyers.

The risk of course is that if you make something for a more crowded market or genre it has a very real chance to get lost in the shuffle, but isn't that already true?

Arthur Souza
profile image
I just hope pc games dont become mobile games and everything has to cost under 5 bucks.

Robert Boyd
profile image
Unless you've done something terribly wrong, if you've made a good hardcore cRPG you don't really need to market to hardcore cRPG because they already know about your game. You need to market to everyone else who might not identify themselves as hardcore cRPG fans but would still enjoy your game if they found out about it. For an example, see Legend of Grimrock.

Dane MacMahon
profile image
If you're aiming for a wide audience from the get-go then yes, perhaps the separate stores and wider competition would be a negative. However for a smaller budget game I was speaking to the appeal of having an instant player base who, for free, promote your game to the point it can be noticed by the more casual audience.

If you're making a puzzle game or something then it would be immensely harder, but then I guess I operate on the belief that the last thing you should be making for Steam is another puzzle game.

Raph Koster
profile image
The DJ comment is interesting. Does it suggest that games will rush towards the bottom of price the way a given song has almost no market value? We're already seeing that trend in a lot of places, and I think open markets tend to push towards it.

Tadhg Kelly
profile image
Supply and demand tends to reach an equilibrium when impediments are removed.

Kenneth Blaney
profile image
I think the comment about DJing isn't to compare it to music as an industry, but rather to compare it to a crowd of experts who expose wider audiences to new things.

That said, in some game markets, the race to the bottom is already complete with "free to play" accounting for all of the major games.

Adriaan Jansen
profile image
I think it's something incredibly interesting. I kind of see Steam as the popular town market. Everyone walks by, and there are a lot of customers not getting the best they could get, since the current market owner can't appeal to everyone at the same time. By opening the market to allow other market stands from other entrepreneurs, while taking a share/rent, you can appeal to a greater audience. Valve is probably still going to have it's "famous high end store", while other more niche-stores emerge with content that was not accessible before. It sounds pretty exciting/normal to be able to shop at a store with the face of a valued game critic (and new ones might emerge).

But there are some challenges. If the only service such a store could offer is quality pick, it quickly becomes a stagnant market. First and for most, nobody is waiting for the 999 stores opening at once, all kind of offering the same kind of games. There also just so-many niches that are completely satisfied by only choice of product. For example, if you could shop at Valve/Yahtzee's shop, how would a new shop rise to popularity when it comes to getting the best games? Most 'channels offer a lot more: Radio offers music mixed with news, trivia and contests. Youtube offers exclusive handmade content. TV offers massive exclusive deals with shows, sports and people we are interested in. I can see it work, especially exclusive content (hats designed by "X" if you buy at my store!), but I also see it as a...complication... to the people who just want to create and play games. A whole new distribution layer is added on top of the PC market we already have.

James Coote
profile image
Who wants to make a Sci-fi themed Steam store with me?

The big questions are :

Who do you let have their own store, and how does Valve choose?
What games can those stores sell (only their own games, or any game available on steam)?
How do the stores make money? Do they take a cut of sales?
Can stores control prices? Have their own sales?
How do customers browse the stores? How do they discover new stores?
How much control over presentation / what tools will store holders have?


So say a bunch of Sci-fi fans want to make their own sci-fi themed steam store. First they have to get organised, show they have a history of running sci-fi fan sites, show they have a structure / hierarchy and decision making process and a commitment to running the store long term

On that basis, Steam would approve them for a shop front. They would have to rent the shop space from Steam, but in return would get displayed along with the other stores on the steam home page. Being a community shop (as opposed to a publisher shop), they would be able to pick any game that has made it onto steam (by existing methods). However, they would get a much smaller cut of any sales (5%), and would not be able to set prices. If they generate lots of revenue, their take goes up to 10% (Steam would take 20% and the publisher/developer the other 70%)

Kenneth Blaney
profile image
I imagine your description fits the goal, however the barrier to get your product listed on Steam will probably be much, much less. Then, Steam itself would be a sort of inventory of all games that stores can sell. The service we currently think of as "Steam" would then be replaced by a Valve run and curated store.

Who knows what the barrier to entry is going to be for stores. Maybe it will be open to everyone? If that's the case, I can imagine a bunch of websites doing "Top 10 Steam stores" basically making discoverability one step removed from the developer and crowd sourcing it.

Justin Sawchuk
profile image
I think any joe can have a store. Give them 5-10% of the sales, so all they are doing really is showing whats featured. Stores that arent getting any traffic wont make any money (so no need to curate the curators), you will have a few good stores like people on youtube who work full time as let's players and everyone else who make nothing.

Kevin Fishburne
profile image
Require anyone running their own Steam server/store to connect to a central database administered by Valve for game registration. Valve would approve the game if its required properties were supplied (Name, Studio, Publisher, Platform, etc.) and if it passed a malware check. All game registrations would require tags added by the developers. Once "published" players could add new tags, vote up or down existing tags and search or sort games by tag strength and arbitrary importance ("java" "sandbox" "rpg" "action" "gamepad"). Bloggers could write reviews via the Steam client, which could then be voted up or down by players and equally searched/sorted by the tags taken from the review target. Valve could allow independent distribution including snail mail, download (torrent, http, whatever), or charge for premium accounts where Valve's servers would provide the binaries, thus freeing small studios from being "Slashdotted" should their game get unexpectedly popular.

I don't think open needs to mean anarchy, spam, gaming the system or anything else negative. There are intelligent ways to do most anything, even if the goal is outside the box or complicated. Of course this is just off the top of my head, but I'm optimistic that this is possible. Kudos to Valve; just awesome.

James Coote
profile image
To be honest, I don't think Steam stores should be able to upload their own games, just sell what games get onto the store through the existing (greenlight) system

Kevin Fishburne
profile image
@James Agreed. Every game still needs to be approved by a mechanism like Greenlight.

Valve needs to distribute the bandwidth requirements of uploading so many game binaries. They should allow approved alternative download methods for specific games. If you have to "log in" to play it no longer matters where you downloaded the client from as you still pay when necessary through the existing channel.

Haven't looked in to Greenlight, but now that they're pushing Linux support I just may.

Brett Williams
profile image
I am unsure Greenlight will survive this transition since in the same talks Gabe doesn't talk highly of it. I think that's actually the discussion that lead to him talking about it becoming more of an open API, was that the Greenlight gate mechanism is flawed. It's possible these two things will coexist but it didn't really sound like that from the way he presented it.

Jannis Froese
profile image
I think the new system is supposed to replace Greenlight, as nobody seems to be happy with it.

So I guess Valve will simply accept all games uploaded to them, perhaps with some registration fee to reduce spam and the amount of ultra-low-quality games.

Kenneth Blaney
profile image
I would not be surprised if they add support for some kind of P2P download option... possibly mandatory for some stores?

John Flush
profile image
To me it just seems like another layer of complexity that will only make it a chore to discover a new 'store' than another 'game'. And the developer is now another layer deeper and marketing to more than just valve, now they have to market to each store that they 'think' has visibility.

Kenneth Blaney
profile image
The advantage is that once you have found a collection of stores that a consumer likes/trusts, discoverability on the part of the consumer is over. Whenever the consumer wants a new game they can just go to their favorite stores and ask "What's new?" The developers then just need to try to court store owners instead of each user individually.

Kenneth Blaney
profile image
Not easier... just different. I suppose my wording was misleading there.

I think Valve's intention here is that there are so many good games (but SO many bad games) that they can't curate it effectively anymore. So, they are looking for ways to crowd source it and coming up with a way to reward people for doing it.

Raymond Ortgiesen
profile image
I don't know how "noise" on steam could ever become a problem. We live on the internet, the noise will sort itself out and the system will be patched until it works. Just like Greenlight wasn't the final step, neither is this or whatever else Valve decides to do next.

Everyone bitched Steam was too closed and a fee to get on Greenlight was absurd. Now that Valve has made it so you can get more games and share your games easier, we hear complaints that it makes being in the club less special. Who cares about your arbitrary "I made it" milestone? More games I say! Amateur games! Shitty games! Weird games! Great games!

Aaron Clifford
profile image
I agree wholeheartedly. One of the things I loved about Android when it was in it's infancy was you could flip to the "latest apps" in the store and drink from the app firehose.

I like B movies, weird games, and even games that other people think are shitty. With this model I cod find games like that through the people I find interesting. Seems good to me!

Arthur De Martino
profile image
There tons, TONS of incredible games that are outside of Steam, flat out refused and didn't manage to gather enough votes for their Greenlight.

"Oh but Arthur, what about the bad games?"

Let'em have it. Let the good and the bad coexist, let god (The consumer in this case) sort them out. I feel people are overthinking this.

Robert Tsao
profile image
It's an interesting thought, but honestly, I don't see the point.

I don't think this system of user-curated content last for long before it evolves (or devolves) into the same paradigm that game coverage and visibility follows now. To fight against the inevitable backlash and lack of trust in consumers, I believe Valve would still have to establish a set of restrictions and still exercise a degree of control, similar to how Apple does now. When it comes to promoting a game and how successfully said game will capture the consumer's attention, it still boils down to either proven experience or the resources to market the game. What happens when the leading "tastemakers" on the store become EA and Activision?

Honestly, I can't really see the point of an open, user-curated system like they're proposing, because really: how will it be different than it is now?

Jannis Froese
profile image
Of course we will keep many of our current "tastemakers" like EA, Activison and RockPaperShotgun. I agree that the new system isn't likely to revolutionize the game industry, but that's not the point.

The point is that Valve can't keep up with the flood of Indie games and Greenlight doesn't seem to work out. The internet has shown that user curation can work decently with massive amounts of content (see Reddit or StackOverflow), so it's a logical solution for Valve's problem.

Michael Joseph
profile image
The number one source of discoverability problems are games that just don't stand out.

It's something established developers are obviously going to be worried about, but discoverability shouldn't be in Valves top 5 things to focuss on. There's a lot of shows on Netflix and maybe "Mega Shark vs Crocosaurus" doesn't appear in the "most watched" list. But maybe games do end up becoming these timeless commodities. It would be about time.

I think Valves #1 & 2 focus should be the end user experience and developers tools and SDK

Brian Kehrer
profile image
the biggest source of discovery problems is not having a marketing budget. Unless you want to be playing games which include virability and discoverability as a primary mechanic. Steam now is the equivalent value of tens of thousands of dollars worth of marketing for titles of certsin standards.

drop the standards, the value of impressions drops. user perception, plain and simple. If you spent time developing a game, it isnt hard to get on steam.

Carlos Rocha
profile image
As a developer, I'm terrified as to the low amount of visibility this will generate. We're already seeing this problem with Greenlight, with the games that are selected already have an installed user base, and games that may be good, but aren't already known get overlooked. Opening it even more would make it extremely difficult for people to discover new types of games, and as Leigh Alexander pointed out, people tend to like the same things, just as an analysis done here on Gamasutra a few months back showed when looking at the games approved on Greenlight. People always say they want innovation, but they go towards the trendy and popular.

As a developer, this scares me, but this industry is ever changing, so I guess it would be another thing to get used to, as fast as things grow, just as fast they can disappear (facebook games anyone? Hopefully not kickstarter).

Dane MacMahon
profile image
Do people really say they want innovation? Or does a small minority scream that in a super loud voice?

Michael Joseph
profile image
Is asking for innovation even necessary?

Creativity is built into us and so is curiosity. I suppose these can be stamped out though...

I believe that passionate developers are always looking to create the games that they want to play and which don't yet exist. That is the definition of innovation re: games. Innovation drives all great games. But that's not to say all financially successful games are driven by innovation.

Kris Morness
profile image
Kongregate has an excellent discovery system. You can view recently submitted games -- where most are total garbage plus you can search per genre, and invariably all the best games make their way into forefront of popular. Steam could do exactly the same thing and be just fine.

The major difference is that we're talking about games for pay vs free games, where some of those games are going to be significant downloads. Games that people don't buy aren't going to get looked at, so there needs to be a way for people to try before they buy, and Steam has a mechanism to do that already where you can play a certain game for free for a couple days. Do they have the bandwidth infrastructure to host mass open trials of newly submitted games?

Lars Doucet
profile image
Exactly, I talked about this a long time ago in my article, "The Holy Grail of Digital Distribution" before Steam Greenlight was announced:

http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/LarsDoucet/20120607/172033/The_Hol
y_Grail_of_Digital_Distribution.php

Good discoverability engines exist. Let's learn from them.

Kris Graft
profile image
Yeah Lars, I remember that. That was an interesting article. *thumbs up*

Allan Munyika
profile image
"I more often discover and buy after I detect a buzz trend among a group of people whose opinions I value (see social media)"

I agree with Kris, this seems like a more organised user curated system than the "all hell breaks loose" scenario. As a gamer I also find that I buy my games based on the buzz generated by most of the online social groups to which I belong to. Me and my friends who are also avid gamers are online looking for a great games to play during the week and on weekends we congregate at my place for a LAN and in the process we show off what games we bought during the week. If I see something that I like or something which a friend recommends I buy it because I trust my friends opinion. Those recommendations made during the LAN will also be shared with other people in different social circles which my friends are a part of and to which I do not belong, and information from them will come to me even if I do not directly interact with these other social groups. It's kind of like how social networking websites like facebook work.

Ryan Christensen
profile image
Let the markets decide, very smart of Steam to start to mimic mobile markets. Open markets can fuel hardware sales, then recommendation engines become even better on larger economies. Gabe mentioned larger economies working in their favor at his recent talks and this is a huge step in that direction.

Val Reznitskaya
profile image
A more open Steam sounds like the dream of every small team, and if Valve thinks this through, they might even pull it off. Visibility is a difficult problem, but I don't think it's an impossible one. Making the club less exclusive will definitely be a paradigm shift, but that can't be helped if Valve wants more developers to have exposure. Whether or not the change will be worth it depends entirely on its execution.

My biggest concern is quality. Even with Apple's "gatekeeping," I see plenty of games designed solely around making as much money as possible get 4 or 5 stars for being "addictive." Steam might caters to a different audience, but I can still imagine plenty of mobile developers wanting to cash in on a popular platform with an established user base. If a sudden influx of ports initiates a race to the bottom, games that pop up fullscreen ads or pester you to buy something before even showing you gameplay aren't far behind.

User curation is nice and all, but who will want to sift through all of the buggy half-baked clones full of broken promises? Valve needs a system that will keep some of that burden off the users. Otherwise, Steam will lose a lot of trust.

Jannis Froese
profile image
The way I understand Gabe N., Users will be able to open their own Steam storefront in exchange for a cut in the game sales. Of course some people will be wiling to try countless games, find the gems, put them on their store, and get rich in the process. I don't see a problem as long as the problem of store discovery get's solved.

Val Reznitskaya
profile image
If that's really how they'll do it, I can see it working in the long run, once certain stores establish a reputation. Until then, I think it will come down to how Valve decides who can open a store. If anyone can do it right away, there will likely be a flood of developers opening stores to push their own games. To the end-user, digging for a store with quality games might not be that different from digging through the games themselves, at least initially.

Again, it depends on how they handle the process, but I think that cutting out gatekeeping entirely will be a bad move.

Curtis Turner - IceIYIaN
profile image
You need like what, 50,000 likes to make Steam's GreenlighT?

What do most indie game developers sell there first few titles at? $1 - $5... There's only one video game on Steam for $1.

If anything we just need more search options. I cannot even search for dedicated medieval first person games... Or non-turn based combat RPG's. Etc.

Steam has such a monopoly on pc downloaded games, that indies kind of have to develop elsewhere.

Glenn Sturgeon
profile image
I agree. It'd be nice if they had the game search broken down similar to Newegg where you pick a basic item then there are sub specs listed on the side bar to assist in narrowing down the process. example for newegg would be, intel CPU sub catigories on side listed as CPU socket, core build, manufacturer, cost..
With games this could be simply changed to Genre, then sub categories like 3d,2d perspective, art style SP, MP, developer, cost...

I also worry about a possible flood of low quality garbage making it that much harder to find something intresting. imo theres already a alot of bad games that make it onto steam.

Brian Kehrer
profile image
"The number one source of discoverability problems are games that just don't stand out."
Wrong. It's marketplaces that offer text and screenshots as the means of review, and rank titles based on total downloads.

Only two groups win in this move. Developers of bad games, and Valve - since Valve still gets 30% of all revenue, and doesn't have to employ people to vet games.

The lack of quality gatekeeping is a disaster for producers. iOS is not a walled system from a quality perspective, only a business one - making it the absolute worst of both worlds. Quality expectation is driven down by a flood of low quality titles, which in turn drives down prices. This has been born out time and time again - from Atari to iOS. Following that, game budgets shrink, because, despite consumers seeking quality, there is no quality differentiation in the marketplaces available.

It isn't difficult to get a game on steam right now. I've released 3 games on Steam. One developed with 4 people, one with 6, and one with 20. They varied in quality - and Steam was easy to work with.

Valve, unlike the console producers, doesn't abuse their authority. I don't understand why it needs to change, except perhaps a vocal or philosophical minority is upset that their crummy iOS game was denied access to steam.

If they truly open it up, they risk killing a trusted source for consumers. I'm not sure I see an upside.

I can only hope they have a plan for curation. Otherwise, I see no need to give Valve 30% - and I fear we'll see a surge in supply, with an overall decrease in quality - resulting in games becoming fungible goods, as they mostly are on the mobile stores.

Kenneth Blaney
profile image
"I don't understand why it needs to change"

"Since Valve still gets 30% of all revenue, and doesn't have to employ people to vet games"

I think you answered your own question. At the end of the day, no matter how good/philanthropic/pro-consumer/etc a corporate philosophy Valve has, it is still a company that exists for the purpose of making money.

Brian Kehrer
profile image
true enough, Kenneth.
I should rephrase:

I dont understand the individual who thinks it should change.

what we need is less content of higher quality, in all forms of media. But they're all suffering a race to the bottom, with so few great titles its hard to get funding for anything but a clone. a lot of non-professional developers are claiming not getting noticed means your game isnt good enough.

not getting attention means your game isnt funded. Steam was great for indies because it afforded them the equivalent of a few hundred k in marketing spend by being featured. Once open, steam is worth a lot less. This has little impact on the dude in his basement, but is a pretty serious blow to the small dev team looking for 1 mil in funding to make a game with original ip. I doubt many of the propents of this change have run a small shop, reliant on distribution channels like steam to fund original ip.

Kenneth Blaney
profile image
The 100k in marketing value (which I absolutely agree is important) would be a service still available in this new Steam. I'd imagine the service we now think of as "Steam" would become "Valve's Storefront". Now instead of "Yay! I got on to Steam!" we'll be saying "Yay! I got into Valve's Store!" with a bunch of smaller intermediate victories in between.

To a certain extent, this does help smaller groups with distribution and money handling as this is a reliable way to sell a game without having to worry about hosting fees or overloaded servers.

Michael Joseph
profile image
If your quality stand-out game cannot compete with crappy half baked releases from "competitors" still in short pants, then I think maybe your quality stand-out game isnt as quality stand-outish as you think it is.

There's a giant sense of entitlement buzzing around this thread.

Raymond Ortgiesen
profile image
The sentiment seems to be that with Steam as it is now, if you manage to get on it you have a guarantee of exposure. With the way they're changing it, that guarantee is lost. If your game can't stand out from the piles of shit people are concerned will flood the store then you probably weren't headed to steam in the first place.

Maria Jayne
profile image
I can't honestly say I want Steam more "open". I like that it's not easy to get on the digital platform, Judging by the level of noise to quality on greenlight I would fear the sudden open influx of poorer games trying to cash in on it's carefully nurtured customer base.

But then...I also never wanted Steam when Halflife 2 was released, I saw it as a tedious hurdle to have installed to play one game so it's fair to say perhaps they see a future I cannot.

I suppose what is key is how it's handled and what tools are in place for users to feel empowered and secure. I'm trying to stay open minded on the idea, Steam has done nothing but improve my experience since I acquired it.

Ian Welsh
profile image
I like curation, thanks.

Frank Cifaldi
profile image
What's funny about this comment is that it could be arguing for either side. I like curation too, which is why I am embracing user storefronts.

Ryan Christensen
profile image
Curation still happens on external sources for what is good. Steam is not the place most people learn about a game they want and it is curated. The market itself should be free market based. Apple's market is awesome but getting featured without paying for a slot is impossible almost. So curated markets eventually turn into paid placement.

Robert Boyd
profile image
People complain about advertising influencing the media but wouldn't it be much, much worse as far as media impartiality goes if all the major media sites & reviewers had their own Steam store?

IGN Review of Assassin's Creed XII - 10/10! Perfect Score! Click here to buy Assassin's Creed XII directly from our IGN-Steam store!

Kenneth Blaney
profile image
It probably would at first, but we are already seeing backlash over review scores and that is without the obvious monetary incentive. All that it would take is one "This game is a 10/10! Perfect!" review on a crappy title that would make a user think twice about ever buying from IGN's (or whomever's) store ever again because the buyer would KNOW that IGN made a handful of money from the lie.

Basically, I think the profitability of that scheme would rely on the consumer's inability to realize he's being fleeced. Maybe I'm just an optimist in that I think people will realize it.

Steven Christian
profile image
The 'Recommended' section of the Steam Store is terrible.
I tell it not to recommend particular games to me and it still recommends their expansions or DLC, or even the base game itself; it recommends games that I already have purchased on Steam, and the remainder are games that i generally have no interest in.

Based on me playing some unique and wonderful Indie game, it recommends a Hidden-Object game.

Give me a break, I have NEVER played a Hidden-Object game on Steam, not even a Point-and-Click Adventure game.

Steam discoverability and recommendation algorithms in their current state are terribly dysfunctional.

On this basis, opening the Steam Store is a bad idea.

Once Valve fix their recommendations, perhaps we can revisit this idea.

William Johnson
profile image
To be fair, you might be in the mood to try something new. Or maybe you just so happen to be a person that might like hidden-object games if only you'd try them... Why wouldn't you try the hidden-object game? What if its a revolution of hidden object gaming? It could change everything, if only you're just try it.

Bob Johnson
profile image
All these stores? It seems like work to me. I will probably just end up blindly following some recommended store and never look elsewhere.

Erin OConnor
profile image
How many games on iTunes can you name (recomend) off the top of your head ?

I can only think of 3.
Fruit ninja
and...geometry wars ? No thats not it.
geo-something...tower defense.
There is the other one where zombies come and eat your brains unless you stop them. Its called...

Ok. Guess I can only name 1 off the top of my head.

I really would hate to see steam turn into something like iTunes where every game (almost) is forgetable.

Abel Bascunana Pons
profile image
1. Steam would lose its sense of exclusivity as provider of good-high quality games, becoming kind of a portal where we would increasingly see many browser-based style games.

2. play sessions with PC games are longer than with mobile games, that are played during smaller timespans and in different situations (metro, bus, etc). PC gamers are more wary to buy low-prod games, even if they have the same price as the mobile version. But if games on Steam are shallower content-wise, this might attract a more casual audience.

3. Convincing PC gamers to buy those games would mean adopting the freemium model in many cases, so maybe it's here where Steam see the businness.

Matt Cratty
profile image
The wisdom of crowds is brilliant for financial planning.

It sucks for making a game that I personally would like to play.

This is not something I'm excited about.

At all.

Goodbye to steam as a bastion of (mostly) quality content.

Hello to sifting through reams of rubbish.

Jeff Murray
profile image
The cake is a lie.

Justin Sawchuk
profile image
Lets say all the bloggers that love pretentious art house games and the rest of us gamers simply hate, calling games like postal "trash", so they can have a store for them and a store for the rest of us.

Ryan Creighton
profile image
We already have a system like this. It's called Mochimedia. Anyone can upload a game to the service. The "store owners" are the people who run web game portals - they're the curators of the content. The content itself largely sucks. Every once in a while you get a store owned like Kongregate that raises investor money and spends enough cash on marketing to rise above the pack. Then they become one of the only "stores" of note, and the best content is floated to the top of their list via player ranking/ratings systems. And we just end up trading one gatekeeper for another.

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

Darcy Nelson
profile image
Yo dawg, we heard you like Steam so I put Steam in your Steam so you can Steam while you Steam.


none
 
Comment: