If releasing professional grade film editing software for free via Steam wasn’t enough to get Valve on your good side, yesterday they announced Steam Greenlight, a system that will allow users to select the games that are available through Steam. The system will work in some ways as Kickstarter does, allowing developers to pitch an idea to a vast online audience. Instead of looking for cash however, Steam Greenlight projects will be hoping for votes that will grant their projects access to Steam’s marketplace. Theoretically in conjunction with Kickstarter or other crowdfunding, Steam Greenlight could help to produce an independent title from scratch with little to no start-up capital. At first glance the system seems not only simple, but transparent with no real “backroom” oversight.
This is a huge step for the industry as developers and hopeful developers now have an alternate path to success that doesn’t involve corporate publishers or dumb luck. Even though giving Steam users approval over incoming projects sounds a lot like giving them the keys to the car, there’s actually a pretty simple system in place which will keep any nonsense to a minimum, hopefully.
The idea seems relatively new, as their site explains it was the release of the Steam Workshop back in 2011 that gave them the idea for a community feedback system for games, “Steam [Workshop] established a flexible system within Steam that organizes content and lets customers rate and leave feedback. This opened up a new opportunity to enlist the community’s help as we grow Steam and, hopefully, increase the volume and quality of creative submissions.”
Their official opinion as to why a company would put its most lucrative product in the hands of its customers is simple; users should get to decide what they can buy. As Valve puts it, “After all, it’s the community that will ultimately be the ones deciding which release they spend their money on.” A simple an honest business strategy that puts Valve’s future and Steam’s in the hands of its community.
It doesn’t look like the system will be selecting a specific number of votes for a game to be given access to Steam; instead the game’s relative success compared to other games will determine whether or not it gains access. In this regard Steam Greenlight will be a democracy of sorts, which each vote counting towards the release of a new product.
Surely Valve will still retain some control over larger projects, at least until Greenlight is up and running. But even if they only implement the system for indie games it’s a step in the right direction. We won’t have to wait long to try it out as Steam Greenlight is set to release at the end of August. Wait no hype?