Steam Greenlight was first launched in 2012. It opened the gates of Steam to indie game developers. For a one-time fee of $100, you had a chance of your game being on the largest PC gaming platform.
However, just five years later in 2017 the service is being shut down. So, what happened?
Before Greenlight, every game on Steam had to be approved by Valve. The type of games accepted were generally limited to those by major developers or publishers. Only a select few indie games made it onto the platform.
This all changed when Valve began the Greenlight program. Small scale developers now had a chance of getting on Steam if they could get enough people to vote for them. Democracy in action!
Shovelware. Asset flips. Meme games. Complete garbage. These are just some of what, despite good intentions, the Greenlight program ultimately became known for.
This is in part due to poor quality control. Valve had swung from one extreme to the other: only the highest quality games by major developers to almost anything. The result of this is an oversaturation of low quality games on Steam.
Steam Greenlight got significant publicity after an incident between a game developer and the YouTuber Jim Sterling. The short version is that the developer issued a copyright takedown against a review and sued for damages. For more information about this saga, watch Jim Sterling’s own video on the subject. There have been other similar incidents, but none of them are probably as well-known as this one.
Another issue is, allegedly, of some games being made purely for their trading cards. These can be used to level-up an account and traded (for real money in your Steam account) on the Marketplace. Some people buy the cheapest cards available simply to level-up their account as quickly as possible. What’s the developers motive? They get a cut of the Marketplace transaction fee of course!
Hopefully the replacement for Steam Greenlight, Steam Direct, will patch the issues its predecessor had while still being accessible to budding game developers.
Perhaps games will need to go through a quality control process like the Apple App Store, where minimum quality guidelines are set out. Despite this quality control, the platform is still very accessible to hobbyist game developers.
Who knows, maybe I will release a game on Steam Direct in the future.