Steam Direct will give developers sole publishing control of their games, but the undisclosed publishing fee could keep small studios at bay.
After four-plus years, Steam Greenlight will be no more this spring. Valve announced that it’s replacing the program with Steam Direct, a system designed to streamline the process for developers to get their games up on Steam.
Greenlight let developers upload trailers, images, and details about their projects to Steam. Users voted, based on this information and without purchase commitment, for games they would be interesting in buying. If projects garnered enough interest, they would be greenlighted for sale on Steam’s storefront. According to Valve, over 100 Greenlight titles have grossed more than $1 million to date. The program let Valve step back from evaluating each game submission by giving the power to its community. An argument could be made that this method didn’t effectively weed out duds while also allowing possible diamonds in the rough to be missed. Steam might have a content overload problem, too. Roughly 40 percent of all Steam games launched in 2016, in part thanks to Greenlight.
Steam Direct takes the community out of the process and gives all control back to the developers. With Steam Direct, new developers will complete standard issue paperwork and submit a recoupable application fee. Once the paperwork is all set, developers will have access to publish games directly to Steam — for a price.
The publishing fee for each game has yet to be determined. Valve polled developers and received responses ranging from $100 to $5,000 as a reasonable fee, but the digital distribution giant won’t set on a price until it receives more feedback.
Steam Direct seems to be an improvement over Steam Greenlight. Full control to developers means that great games won’t be kept in fan vote limbo or denied based on concept alone. The publishing fee could help minimize the number of submissions that frankly have no business being sold to the public. On the other hand, though, small studios with marginal dispensable money may not be able to afford the publishing fee, especially if it falls in the higher end of the proposed range.