Open letter criticizes the Steam Greenlight process, Valve responds

Ian Birnbaum at

Going by his Twitter handle, poe, the developer of puzzle game Six Sided Sanctuarynotes that only 66 games have been greenlit in the last year. With the huge range of quality indie games out there, this low number helps poe raises a lot of valid points. Which developers have to go through the Greenlight process? Which do not? Who decides? When is a game “popular enough” on Greenlight to graduate to the big leagues? Valve knows the answer to these questions, but no one else does.

An excellent example of this is the debacle that was The War Z a.k.a. Infestation: Survivor Stories. Though Steam’s stated policy is that developers who have never published through Steam before will always go through Greenlight, there was no Greenlight campaign for The War Z. The game is an utter mess, but supposedly Greenlight exists to help maintain quality standards. Why the inconsistency?

Valve, for its part, did respond to poe’s comments. In a post on the Steam community forums, programmer Tom Bui wrote, “We realize that we are failing in this regard [greenlighting a low volume of games] and we are working to fix it. We’ve made some progress, but we aren’t where we want to be yet.”

“Until we can ship everything we want, Greenlight is serving the purpose of helping us prioritize what we ship,” Bui continues. “It is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination and has a bunch of downsides.”

Whatever Steam’s failings, we should be thankful that the PC is an open platform, and competitors like Green Man Gaming, Origin and Good Old Games are free to compete by allowing customers access to more and more indie games. I think it’s likely that Steam will eventually get their submission process sorted out. If Steam isn’t capable of fixing itself, though, we’re free to shop elsewhere.

Thanks to IndieStatik for the tip on this.