Steam Greenlight's $100 entry-fee: indie devs respond

Indie devs seem to be divided over the recently announced Steam Greenlight $100 entry-fee. The idea's well-intentioned: it's to stop fakes, trolls and overenthusiastic members of the community filling the crowd-promotion service with games that aren't theirs to develop. But others say such a figure is too much for struggling indies to afford and a dangerous gamble on a service which promises the submitting dev nothing solid in return.

Is the fee a good idea? A necessary evil? Will it crush aspirations or filter out the dross? We asked a number of indies and Steam hopefuls what they thought.

Chris Delay, Introversion (Darwinia)

“I think the $100 fee is a thoroughly sensible idea. Greenlight has already been flooded by a ton of fake entries, which completely drown out the developers genuinely trying to use the system. By setting this fee they will put a stop to that. I don't think any serious indie developers will consider $100 unaffordable – it's certainly a worthwhile investment for the chance to be listed on Steam. However this fee will be enough to stop pranksters filling up the listings with Half-Life 3.”

Chris “Lemmy” Simpson, The Indie Stone (Project Zomboid)

“To be honest since we're doing well on Greenlight, and would be able to afford the $100 ourselves should we have to pay it, it's difficult to be completely objective on the subject. I will say that the fee move was predicted and even championed by numerous Steam users and indie devs because of the ridiculous amount of spam and joke games that were very quickly eroding user faith in Greenlight and risking the future of the entire system. I certainly don't disagree with it in concept.

“On the other hand $100 does seem pretty steep, and the worry is that perhaps misguided young hopefuls (think round one of X-Factor) who are destined to get shot down by the community will stump up money they can't really afford for the privilege.

“I'm still of the belief that you need to foster a community prior to Greenlight to have success on there, and think we'd likely be bottom of the pile if we hadn't already done that. So I don't really think it'll crush any indie dreams that wouldn't have been crushed by the old system anyway. It frustrates me when a lot of devs say there is no money to be made outside Steam.

“While obviously there is a clear chasm of difference between being on Steam or not, when we're talking about $100, if you're not capable of drumming up support to that figure via a donate button then maybe your game isn't at the stage of development it should be on Greenlight in the first place. I just wouldn't like to see some naive but enthusiastic ten-year-old kid getting his money off his granddad to pay the fee and get it up there, to be torn apart.”

Jonatan “Cactus” Söderström, Dennaton (Hotline Miami)

“I think the fee is good, although I think it could be lowered so that developers who aren't in a good financial situation can still afford to submit their games. I'm a little bit surprised that people are upset by it, though. If they believe they have a game that is good enough to be on Steam, they should be able to figure out a way to pay the submission fee. Pre-orders or sales should be able to generate that much outside of Steam if you think you have a legitimate chance of getting your game approved through a process which resembles a popularity contest.

“Overall, I don't really like the idea of Greenlight, I may be a bit pessimistic now, but to me it seems it will only serve to streamline indie games into marketable products and rob them of any kind of unique personality. I really hope that developers won't focus too much attention on what traits proves most successful in helping you pass the Greenlight screening when designing their own games. Then again, I like Valve and have some faith in that they know what they're doing with the whole thing, and I have no idea what the final steps of the Greenlight process might be like. Maybe something great will come out of it?”

Eskil Steenberg, Quel Solaar (Love)

“My main problem with Steam is that I like to be able to update my game several times a day and any kind of friction in doing that is bad for me. Indie game development is becoming more and more a lottery where it's all about getting noticed by buying yourself into contests - and now Steam. For someone like me who'd rather spend my resources on making a better game it's a worrying trend.”

Dave Johnston, Smudged Cat Games (The Adventures of Shuggy)

“I think $100 is far too much. The whole point was to prevent spam appearing on the system - $10 would achieve that. $100 is enough that I feel it could put off legitimate developers with a great game that just don't have enough money. Indie developers are generally pretty strapped for cash so this could affect quite a number of people. I agree that something needs to be done about junk appearing on the system but this seems like a knee-jerk reaction that hasn't been thought out clearly.”

The Adventures of Shuggy

Mark Burvill, Aardman Digital (Home Sheep Home 2)

“I was a bit disappointed with Greenlight at first as it looked as though they hadn't given a lot of thought to a few things such as the discoverability issue. Plus, I thought the downvote button encouraged negativity and trolling a bit too much.

“However, I'm encouraged by the changes Steam have made today, in particular the fact that they've changed the labelling on the voting buttons to make it a bit clearer what your vote actually means.

“As for the $100 charge, I can understand how some people are a bit upset about it, but I don't think it's that big a deal. I think people who are serious about their game are unlikely to think twice about paying the fee, and it should discourage some of the more pointless clutter. It looks like Steam are committed to getting it right so hopefully we'll see some further changes over the next few weeks.”

Evan Greenwood, Free Lives (Broforce)

“We fortunately missed the $100 fee for Greenlight. So I can't comment from a position of having paid such a fee. But I feel that's quite reasonable. Steam are certainly doing it because there has been quite a bit of noise in Greenlight due to people posting fake games.

“An Apple developer license costs $100 as well. Submission into the IGF costs $95 dollars. I think if you believe in your game and intend seriously working on it $100 that goes to charity is a non-issue. We expect to be spending so much more money than that anyway. And Greenlight has been really, really beneficial to us already. It would have well-earned a $100 fee already in marketing, even though we haven't nearly been Greenlit yet.

“I think the only people it may affect negatively are those who have a really cool idea and no money to spend on it. If they got Greenlight they'd be able to better pursue getting funding. But then again that is what Kickstarter is for.

“I feel the pros of charging the money far outweigh the cons. If people had used Greenlight responsibly from the start this wouldn't have happened, but sadly people can be dicks. I really don't like legitimate developers being charged that money, but I'll be glad that the scammers are kept out.”