September 30th, 2012
Review of Valve’s new publishing approval system: Greenlight
Steam Greenlight is an option we’ve been considering to release our game onto but we’ve been unsure given that the cost of releasing (possibly) to the platform is in the same ballpark or what it would cost to (definitely) release our game on the mobile market. A market that has a far larger install base. From reviewing steam green light I don’t have any tips to other developers because one can only speak from experience, but I can speak as to how I see this platform to be a tool in achieving success in the market. From my analysis I’m quite confident with the platform as well as being hopeful. I do have one problem with it however.
Steam is a pc platform; for a new title that is still early in development, this a great thing. As it was, I was looking at developing predominately for the mobile space due to the fact that when it come to indie pc gaming, there wasn’t an approachable or visible pc market for an unknown developer, it seemed the only choice was mobile. This is in contrast to the lack of efficiencies in the development pipeline in generating code & content for said devices, and the expensive cost of tools to work around these inefficiencies. This appearance of an approachable pc distribution system was a gift that is going to make the development of the game for it’s first platform, now PC, to be far easier.
The interface the system uses for viewing and voting on games is perfect. I couldn’t imagine a better system to allow users to browse game marketing material and pick out what the want to see on the shelf. It’s the best games catalogue I’ve ever seen, I wish game review websites would catalogue their game reviews like this. Much better interface and it can only help sales.
I can’t view the statistics in greenlight to see how well it has community support; but it definitely has press support. Kotaku has a tag for it, it’s a thing now. It’s a marketable thing. Think about when you heard about chrome’s native api, or it’s webstore in the press. This is where Valve’s reputation in the games industry helps, and when it comes to Greenlight; well, it marketing terms: its new news.
For the few games that are in a ship ready state that have launched along with this service; from a marketing perspective this would be a great boon and at the time of writing this, there is one game released. I haven’t read any news as of yet about this; I expect to soon.
It’ll be interesting to see how the press supports the service after the novelty of it has worn off though. But that can be cured pretty easily with valve hosting & announcing greenlit batch sales from here to the end of the universe. They will need to have enough products available via the platform before then to keep it in the public mind though.
I’ve reviewed a fair number of games in the catalogue so far I will not be in a hurry to put our game up for consideration to it. It seems like it can be unforgiving in one hand, but a great marketing opportunity in the other hand. A lot, as valve has already stated, is left up to the developer.
The developer needs to control the message about their game, the message needs to be about the game and the game needs to be in a state where it is ready for prime time, the red carpet or the green light if you wanted to use that analogy. If you wait until you’re ready and communicate you message well enough, I imagine one would do well.
But from a lot of what I’ve seen in the catalogue, I’m imagining many failures and many let downs for a pretty significant number of the entries that have been added for consideration. I’m seeing many concepts without content and games that lack depth of mechanics.
This is where Valve need to educate the developers about how they can succeed on the steam platform, and hopefully we’ll see material like this sooner or later from them. And this leads me to the problem I’ve identified with the system.
What is this? I don’t even…
Reading some of what Valve discussed recently at ‘Fantastic Arcade’ I’m getting some mixed messages from them as to what exactly the service is and isn’t. In my mind this system is for games that are ready enough to be shown to the public and allow indies and hobbyists to get their little gem out to the public and it’s a fantastic marketing tool if the submission is executed well. On the other hand it seems Valve are trying to achieve what has been achieved on some community funding services as well, except sans-funding.
““In addition to that, the section for concepts and future projects – we really envision that being an area that you guys can use to talk to your fans early on,” added business developer Augusta Butlin. “So even though we may have an established relationship and, yes, we would more than likely take the game when it’s ready, we still think that being able to talk to your fans super early is going to be of value to you.””
Okay, so we have a submission portal for finished products sitting alongside a community engagement system. It’s nice that Valve tried to build these two systems, it’s not so nice it built them as one.
As a submission portal for indie games to get a chance in the spot light this system is the best thing I’ve ever seen and it gives me a heap of confidence.
As a kickstarter I have no confidence in it and it gives me the impression that something I perceive to be a beautiful feat of business and design merging as one is polluted with content that lacks content. This wouldn’t be a problem, people trying to do kickstarter on not kickstarter would be fine, if it wasn’t something that it seems valve thinks it can do. I don’t want to say explicitly it’s something valve can’t do and I don’t believe it affects developers in any way.
Developers who do the right thing with greenlight will succeed in getting onto the platform, I believe as much at least. But it’s not great for Valve or for Greenlight if the new brand they are creating isn’t associated as being better than the competition by the consumer; which is something I believe it can do.
At the end of the day
Valve have taken a risk being the first large gaming brand bringing this sort of system to the public. They are the first to do it where the system isn’t something that a new hardware platform depends upon. There have been open platforms before, but valves execution values a relationship with a developer that can only lead to success. But given that Valve’s greenlight service is a new new thing, it’s understandable if it’s incomplete or unsure of itself.
Knowing valve, they will probably work to improve it, this is the sort of thing Valve is very, very good at doing. I can’t think of anything, even the $100 fee, that would prevent me from seeking successful submission with our game when it’s in a presentable state.