The Greenlight Issue

Maybe they just don't like your game.

I think the concept of Steam's Greenlight service is an interesting proposition. You get independent developer a chance to showcase their work to a big audience who uses their force in numbers to either help their game reach the serivce it may otherwise not have, or not reach that service. With such a big audience as Steam has, one would figure that there is probably some parts of that audience that can find something worth cheering for in that section.

And people have been doing that and we've seen several games come out of Greenlight that may or may not have seen the light of day otherwise. So looking at the concept like that, it's easy to feel good about community driven effort to get some smaller games on there.

But some smaller games have it harder in their reception on Greenlight than others. Or maybe that's just what we've been told by a few of the game developers and industry press that like to champion a different type of experience over the tried and true. Over the last few weeks I've been thinking about this issue, especially after the Bombin' the A.M. episodes with David S Gallant creator of I Get This Call Every Day and recently Zoe Quinn, creator of Depression Quest. In both cases there was discussion on the resistance on Greenlight from it's user base to the concept of such games. Saying they had nothing to do there, for various reasons.

One hypothesis that was brought up was the idea that people feared that their games might have to be less visible or less likely to appear if other, and in their non-games, were to appear on the platform. And the notion was brushed off as saying tripple A titles will be around and people don't have to worry about their Call of Duty (as a side note; bringing up COD as some form of generalization for a group of people's taste in games is getting a bit tired).

Some people commenting on those games and voting for those games not to be included probably do fear a future where there are games they don't understand or find fun. But I highly doubt they're the majority. My hypothesis is that the majority of people simply don't like (or don't think they would like) some of these games. For someone that likes niche games, that seems strange, why not experience all the potential things the medium can offer? Why not be inclusive?

But most people don't go to games for those things, they don't see game's media as that form of entertainment. And maybe you could ask something like; "even if they don't like it, why can't others have it?" But that's also not really what Greenlight is asking, is it?

Any time you enter a Greenlight page you're asked; "Would you buy this game if it was available on Steam?" That is a business question that inquire on possible sale. If you're not thinking that you might buy it, why would you help get that game through? And if you don't vote no, chances are percentage wise the games you vote yes on might be scored comparably lower. So your best bet is to vote no on the games that does not interest you, while voting yes for the games that do interest you in the hopes that the games you want to play actually appear on the platform you're on.

Maybe it's not tripple A Call of Duty players that goes around harassing independent developers passion projects for the fear of not getting a new Call of Duty, maybe the independent passion project is a bit too niche for the person voting. And that's totally ok. I believe there's room for games like I Get This Call Every Day and Depression Quest on Steam (and I will continue to happily vote for them), and I want to live in the world where they're given a chance to grow. But there's no way to brute force them if the market isn't ready for it and you can't blame the market for not taking a liking to your creation.

That's sort of the down side of being on the fringes, not everyone will want to follow you down the rabbit hole.

9 Comments
9 Comments
Posted by Kidavenger

Greenlight would have been better if there was some minimum bar you had to meet to even get on it; my main issue was that there was so much absolute garbage on there that it was a waste of time even browsing it after awhile.

Making it into a popularity contest vs something that would judge the actual quality of the games was a big mistake also, if Greenlight had been a bunch of demo's and Steam tracked downloads and maybe had a survey at the end of the demo through the steam overlay, that probably would have give more accurate potential future purchase information for the players and Steam.

Posted by TowerSixteen

I posted a thread about this article a little while ago. Valve recently announced at it's steam-conference-thing that they're looking to discontinue Greenlight, probably for some of the reasons you mentioned. Dunno whats to come next.

Posted by Pezen

@kidavenger: I think that'll be an issue with any overly open platform though, the issue comes with how you handle curation of that flood. I suppose the follow up question would be on what criteria that bar would be set on. At some point, the bar becomes higher than the need for the concept in and of itself. I do think you're on to something with the demo aspect. Sure, not all games are easily done as a demo possibly, but that would also give someone with a bit of doubt a taste of what they might purcahse. It's part of why I can totally understand why some people will instantly down vote I Get This Call Every Day, because the art looks like garbage and for some, that's enough of a turnoff.

@towersixteen: Thanks for the link, that's interesting. If Rami Ismail's guess about Steam becoming more self-publish driven and relying on users to recommend stuff to each other, that just basically turns it into the appstore. Which isn't necessarily a good idea since unless you know what you're looking for there, it's impossible to find something. Granted, they have staff picks and such, but who's to say that's the best stuff. Talking about Vlambeer's Rami, I heard about Ridiculous Fishing long before it was highlighted on the appstore. But most people probably won't be as in the loop as people like us on this site.

Edited by TowerSixteen

@pezen said:

@kidavenger: I think that'll be an issue with any overly open platform though, the issue comes with how you handle curation of that flood. I suppose the follow up question would be on what criteria that bar would be set on. At some point, the bar becomes higher than the need for the concept in and of itself. I do think you're on to something with the demo aspect. Sure, not all games are easily done as a demo possibly, but that would also give someone with a bit of doubt a taste of what they might purcahse. It's part of why I can totally understand why some people will instantly down vote I Get This Call Every Day, because the art looks like garbage and for some, that's enough of a turnoff.

@towersixteen: Thanks for the link, that's interesting. If Rami Ismail's guess about Steam becoming more self-publish driven and relying on users to recommend stuff to each other, that just basically turns it into the appstore. Which isn't necessarily a good idea since unless you know what you're looking for there, it's impossible to find something. Granted, they have staff picks and such, but who's to say that's the best stuff. Talking about Vlambeer's Rami, I heard about Ridiculous Fishing long before it was highlighted on the appstore. But most people probably won't be as in the loop as people like us on this site.

Steam's not been perfect, but I've always thought they've been pretty decent about giving storefront time to a large variety of games. Particularly, I suspect, if your willing to offer a sale on your game for a few days. I'm not worried about it yet, mostly because there's so little info to go on at this point that prediction mostly amounts to guessing.

Posted by crithon

hmmmmm, the problem is that Valve really wants to push steam as a social network. And the whole steam design runs poor even on a web browser.

Then the developers treat greenlight more as a place to get attention and support, hence why you keep seeing Shadows of the Eternals pop up on anything. Because right now I'm looking at Pandora Purge of Pride, and they are saying "hey try out our demo on desura." So again, Steam is now facebook for gamers, fallow this so you can get spammed for junk email on a game's development.

Actually the biggest tell I knew Greenlight wasn't working was really Octodad and Contrast with the help of Sony to help finish development of those games.

Posted by Random45

Greenlight would have been better if there was some minimum bar you had to meet to even get on it; my main issue was that there was so much absolute garbage on there that it was a waste of time even browsing it after awhile.

Making it into a popularity contest vs something that would judge the actual quality of the games was a big mistake also, if Greenlight had been a bunch of demo's and Steam tracked downloads and maybe had a survey at the end of the demo through the steam overlay, that probably would have give more accurate potential future purchase information for the players and Steam.

I agree with this. There's so much garbage on Greenlight that you really have to put in quite a bit of effort to find a gem in there. I DO like the idea though, but it needs to be executed in a different way.

Posted by Soapy86

It's almost like these indie devs think they're entitled to have their games on Steam or something. Look, I'm sorry your game didn't pass through Greenlight, but when you democratize things and willingly engage in that process and allow people to vote on whether or not they want to play your game, you can't fucking whine about it when you don't get your desired result.

Or I guess as we've seen many times, you CAN whine about it.

Apparently.

My solution? I think some of these 2edgy4u indie developers should band together and make their own digital distribution service so they can allow and promote whatever they want on there instead of trying to force it on an audience that doesn't really seem to care. Obviously there had to be sizable audience for this stuff, right? There seems to be a ton of it out there.

Edited by MattyFTM

I think lots of people tend to be down on Greenlight, but I tend to take a more positive outlook. Yes, Greenlight is flawed. It's far from perfect and some games continue to have serious issues getting through greenlight due to the userbase.

BUT, Greenlight has provided a launching pad for literally hundreds of games to get on Steam that would have likely never made it through the old approval process. That is a huge success. Yes, the system for getting games on Steam still needs improvement. Maybe that means refining Greenlight, maybe it means developing a new system. I don't know. But Greenlight is a huge step forward from the previous approval process.

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Posted by Pezen

@soapy86: I don't necessarily think they're actually forcing it on an audience on Steam though, the choice is still a choice. I just find the excuses as to why their game might not appeal to the general Steam user base is a little ridiculous. Instead of looking at the reasons and making peace with the fact that some people may not like their creation, they project some form of more easily distilled reason that doesn't come back to themselves on those individuals. It's lack of self-reflection.

I am sure there are places out there, but so far, Steam is high profile and lends a bit of credibility. As an indie developer, I am sure you would want to reach the biggest audience possible.

@mattyftm: But that's part of my question, why does the reason have to lie with the users of greenlight? Aside from users partially wielding the sword of power, isn't it up to a developer to create a product that the users of that store would want to buy? If their game is too narrow, it's not due to the user base, it's due to their game.

Then again, sometimes people simply don't know what they want until they give it a shot.

In a perfect world, I would be listening to folk metal on main stream radio stations, independent passion projects would get the praise and audience they deserve and I would have seen Serbian Film in the theater. But that's just not realistic. Niche products are put by the wayside. And at some point you have to ask yourself if you want to be artistically pure or commercially viable. Few people have the luxury of being both.

But I agree that Greenlight has been a source of some pretty great titles that probably wouldn't have seen the light of day otherwise, and I hope whatever Valve is doing in the future to replace Greenlight will further expand on the possibilities of narrower titles being available for more people.