Green means go (make games): Steam puts the approval process in users’ hands with Greenlight

By Eli Cymet |

Have you ever seen a game on Steam and thought to yourself, “wow! This looks terrible! I never would have let this on here?” Or for that matter heard about a developer whose title was rejected from Valve’s popular download service, all the while knowing it deserved a chance? Well, you big know-it-all, soon you’ll be able to do something about it. Also, I apologize for calling you a know-it-all. 


Announced today and debuting on August 30th, Steam Greenlight is a partner platform that will allow developers and publishers to plead their case with the download giant’s massive community in hopes of getting their work published on Steam. Using Steam’s Workshop system for organizing and downloading player-created content, potential customers and fans will be able to judge, give feedback, and ultimately make the call about some of the next games to hit Steam. 

How will at all work? Simple. Anyone with a game, be they publisher, independent developer, or student learning to program will be able to upload content to Greenlight, provided it runs on either Windows PC or Mac. From there, it’s up to them to catalyze existing fans, develop new ones, and spread the word in order to get positive ratings, which serve as votes toward the potential publishing of the title on Steam. Because Steam doesn’t “know what kind of traffic to expect” (read: lots and lots and lots), there isn’t yet a set amount of thumbs up a title will need to get. 

With that said, the Greenlight info page makes it clear that Valve is interested in quality over quantity, mentioning that “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.”  In other words, popularity in the overall community will serve as a much better barometer of what’s being fast-tracked to Steamville. 


Perhaps the most interesting part of Greenlight, however, is the fact that Steam is willing – and happy! – to accept unfinished titles, screenshots of work in progress, and games deemed as being “concepts.” As long as the uploader specifies that this is a game not yet fit to be published, Greenlight will assign it a separate designation, and still allow content creators the benefit of early promotion, cultivating a strong following, and gaining community feedback and what would push their game ideas into the limelight. 

With a significant amount of backlash hitting over the “Kickstarter craze,” and the argument that it’s leading to a flooded market of people asking for cash in exchange for concepts, I find Greenlight to particularly interesting. With a platform that encompasses about 70% of the digital download market, Steam may not be the same as cash in a developer’s pocket, but it sure is close. By allowing game makers to petition for feedback and crucial support, this venue puts power in the public’s hands, while still demanding a finished product from the content creator.


With that said, absolute power creates absolute entitlement…absolutely, and I can see developers still struggling with any changes they choose to make to their game as a result of the fact that they are not answering to one publisher, but instead? Thousands. With that said, however, I will always come down on the side of the democratization of these spaces on which corporations normally have a stranglehold, and this is a rare example of a company giving up some of its decision making power to the public – yet again cementing why Valve continues to stay ahead of the curve in this space. 

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