Will Getting Rid of the Greenlight Program Fix Steam?

Valve recently announced the decision to axe the Steam Greenlight program amid a sea of issues.

10 months ago by Morgan Shaver

Valve has experienced issues with Steam’s Greenlight program ever since its inception back in 2013. In fact, Gabe Newell claimed the goal was to “make Greenlight go away” as far back as 2014. After nearly 4 years trying to correct the problem, Valve announced they’ve decided to alter Steam Greenlight into a new program called Steam Direct.

Set to go live sometime later this spring, Steam Direct will change the approval process into one where developers submit their games directly to Valve. The change is seen by many as a major improvement over Steam Greenlight, which arguably made it a little too easy for individuals to add games Steam’s rapidly expanding storefront. This created issues where users were adding games that included stolen assets, did not work, and violated Valve's terms of service.

In addition to expediting the approval process, Steam’s Greenlight program became a profitable venture for Valve, with over 100 approved Greenlight games earning an estimated $1 million each. Unfortunately, it was difficult to provide quality control, making Greenlight a nuisance for both Valve as well as gamers.

While changes like a more coherent refund system, user reviews, and the addition of Steam Curators improved the Greenlight program, the influx of low-quality games continued to present a problem. In response, Valve is working to dramatically reduce the number of “problem games” through Steam Direct’s sign-up system, as detailed in a recent blog post.

The evolution of Steam Greenlight to Steam Direct makes it harder for “just anyone” to put their game on Steam. Rather than a process of user approvals, Steam Direct requires new developers to complete a set of digital paperwork, provide personal or company verification, as well as tax documents. Once these are provided, developers will need to pay a recoupable application fee for each new title they wish to distribute.

According to Valve, this is to “decrease the noise in the submission pipeline.” The fee has yet to be specified, though some sources suggest it could range between $100 to $5,000 per game. In comparison, the submission fee for Steam Greenlight is set at $100. That may sound steep, but we still believe it's an improvement for two reasons.

First, by providing a professional environment for developers, and by instating a process that feels more satisfying to be approved through, developers will be able to take pride in the fact their game is available on Steam. Second, Steam users won’t have to waste time and energy sifting through broken title after broken title.

In the past, we discussed why the lack of quality control in Steam’s Greenlight program needed to be corrected. The argument was that in order for Steam to grow, Valve needed to step up to the plate and do a little “Steam cleaning” so to speak. Now that Valve has addressed the troublesome Greenlight program, will Steam begin to improve? 

With Steam Direct, users may begin to trust Valve more knowing the company has their best interests at heart. While I can see the new system (especially its price) becoming an issue for small indie developers, I feel like the program can be expanded upon to provide ways to submit to Steam Direct with a lessened fee if you meet a certain set of criteria.

In the meantime, it’s nice to know Valve has begun to reign in control of the submission process. As a result, I feel we’ll start to see a cleaner, more cohesive Steam Store by the end of the year.

What are your thoughts on the new Steam Direct program? Let us know in the comments below.