Friday, 7 September 2012

Steam Greenlight Submissions No Longer Free

Asshattery: it's why we can't have nice things.

It's been basically a week since Steam introduced it's new feature, Greenlight. Steam Greenlight allows indie developers to submit games which will then be voted upon by the community itself; with enough interest Steam will bring the game into Steam itself for sale and distribution. There are already plenty of promising projects on Greenlight, but in this past week there evidently has been more than a fair share of stupidity as well.

That would be why Valve is now introducing a one-hundred dollar fee for any future submissions to the system, per game. Interestingly, Valve itself is keeping none of this money, with all proceeds going towards Child's Play charity of Penny Arcade fame. This has still caused quite a commotion among some of the developers who had hoped to put projects on Greenlight, many of which cite the fee as being too high, especially since it must be paid for each game planning on being put up.

The article I linked above features reactions from some indie devs and teams. Some like Zoe Quinn say that there's not even really a choice: "$100 is a lot for me right now, because I’ve released all of my games [thus far] for free, and I’m supporting myself on freelance work and contracts till I get my first ‘real’ game done, ... That’s eating for a month." There certainly is room for the fee to go down and still be the roadblock that Valve wants in order to prevent low quality submissions and outright spam from appearing on Greenlight.

Of course, there's the other side of the story as well. Quinn herself did go on to say that, "I don’t think Steam would probably publish things that can’t make $100 on their own," and there is no mandate that says anywhere that the author cannot sell their game independently to raise the funds, or even choose another market to submit it to first, like the Xbox Live Arcade or Playstation Network. This sentiment is something that Dungeons of Dredmor Executive Producer Ben McGraw, who elaborates, "I know many [who live from paycheck-to-paycheck] in the indie community ... However, I’ve never seen a living-on-the-edge team who couldn’t scrounge up the $100 or so for an iOS license or the Xbox Live Indie Games license, etc."

To be sure, there are certain expenses to making a game and then attempting to get it published, and one-hundred dollars doesn't really seem like much when compared to say, the $40,000 it would have costed to patch Fez due to the way the licenses for the Xbox marketplace works.  Still, at the moment this is uncharted territory, and there's also a very good point being raised in regards to Greenlight fees: this isn't a fee to get your game published, it's one that you're paying just to have your game even looked at, and if the fickle public doesn't like what they see you've just wasted your money and one-hundred dollars is one-hundreds dollars regardless of what way you slice it.

Some have said that the money should buy someone a license, which would then allow them to put games into Greenlight for submission without paying a further fee. This sounds like a fair middle ground considering that it would be a one time only payment, and that anyone who sees fit to abuse it for petty shenanigans could easily have it revoked as well. It's one idea of many which also include things like lowering the fee per game, or requiring more stringent checks. Either way, this is the beginning, and there are bound to be some kinks to work out. Whether Greenlight will ultimately be a good or bad idea is still quite up in the air. Still, given the intriguing concept, I hope that it finds success.

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