[Update: Valve has confirmed that the message asking developers to stop offering game keys for Greenlight votes is legitimate.]
So you've got a game on Steam Greenlight, but it's not pulling in a lot of votes, and its progress up the ladder has stalled. What to do? One option is to offer a deal: free game keys in return for votes. Think that sounds sketchy? You're not the only one.
Valve posted a message yesterday saying the matter has been coming up with increasing frequency, to the point that it needs to be addressed. The message originally went up on a developers-only page, but a screen capture was posted on Twitter by the Steam Database.
"When you give away copies of your game in exchange for votes, you put us in a really uncomfortable position. We do not think these votes accurately reflect customer interest and it makes our job harder in deciding which games customers would actually buy and play on Steam," the message says.
"Additionally, when you give away copies of your game for votes, then every other developer on Greenlight thinks that is now the thing they need to do in order to get noticed," it continues. "We don't think that is healthy for the system or really what customers want."
It's no secret that Greenlight is a flawed process, as are just about any that rely on the internet voting. But Valve has the final say on which games are selected, and it warned that it will use that power to discourage the keys-for-votes practice.
"This is something we continue to take into account when evaluating titles to be Greenlit," the message concludes. "The result is that it may take significantly longer for your title to get Greenlit, as it is much more work for us to try and understand customer interest in a title that has collected some unknown number of votes in this manner."
We've reached out to Valve to confirm that the message is legitimate, but there's no question it addresses a legitimate concern: Flawed or not, Greenlight serves a purpose, and subverting that purpose by gaming the system (which, to be fair, you can hardly blame game designers for doing) does no one any good.