Valve’s Steam Greenlight launched last week, allowing members of their popular gaming platform and community to vote on games they would like to see appear in the Steam Marketplace. Already, Valve is doing the “good guy” move and making positive changes to the system to reduce the number of sub-par submissions and make relevant games easier to find and vote on.
- Problem: Too many bogus submissions. It’s all too easy for a jokester of a user to submit a game that’s an obvious knockoff, smutty, or fake; the only thing the submissions process requires is a few screenshots, a short video, and descriptor text.
- Solution: Valve implemented a feature in which to submit a game to Greenlight for the first time, a user must make a $100 donation to the charity Child’s Play as a show of good faith and seriousness. This is a one-time payment; any later games can be submitted freely with no additional charges.
- Reaction: If the Greenlight forums are to be believed, the reaction is positive. Many users only found out about the update when they logged on and saw that the “trash” submissions were mysteriously and conspicuously absent. The general agreement is that while a $100 charge is a little steep (and may want to be reduced in the future), it’s not that much for an aspiring developer willing to take a risk. The fact that the money goes to charity, and not into Valve’s pockets, is another point in the company’s favor. Plus, the fee means Steam’s moderators can spend less time monitoring Greenlight. Fine by me; better they pay attention to games that are already released than try to corral the “someday” titles anyway.
Change #2: Collections
- Problem: Almost immediately, so many games flooded the marketplace that it became very difficult to rate them all. Search features were confusing and hit-or-miss at best, so it became difficult to find new games to rate, or locate ones that had been previously rated.
- Solution: The implementation of the “collections” feature, in which a user can make a playlist of sorts filled with games of a similar genre, theme, or other common thread. This list then appears on the Greenlight page, making it easy to find the “Indie Horror Bundle”, for instance, and vote on all the games therein.
- Reaction: Great idea. Curation is always an issue in systems like this, so once again the solution is to let the crowd do it for you. Friends will be able to look at the lists of other friends, which makes it easier to gain more support for games you’ve rated highly. Plus, it’s an extra angle to game discovery; you can either browse the homepage at your leisure, or check out the lists for a more linear experience.
Moving Forward: More Work to Be Done
This is an excellent start for Greenlight, especially considering how young the platform is. But there is still more to be done to make this the ultimate platform for gaming democracy. Small changes will be made to the fee, I’m sure; the ability to give to a charity besides Child’s Play will likely come sooner than later.
Additionally, there is a lot of confusion about the rating system. Users are hesitant to press the “disapprove” button, even though it’s been stated many times by Valve that only positive votes affect whether a game gets released. Users also want the ability to pass up on a game without removing it from their rating queue. For example, if a game looked intriguing but didn’t quite have the polish to earn the user’s vote yet. I feel that Valve would be wise to add a three-point rating system, with options for “I would buy this,” “We’ll see / Maybe later,” and “Not for me, next!”
At any rate, Valve once again pushed the gaming industry forward and shows us what a company can do when their primary focus is on the people who use their service. Hats off to them, and I hope that we see some truly incredible work come out of their platform in the next few months.