Valve's new Steam revenue splits favour big-budget games, and indie devs aren't happy

Audio player loading…

Valve has changed the way it shares revenue with developers on Steam—and it's good news for games that make a lot of money. Currently, revenue for Steam games is split 70/30 between the developer and Valve. But from now on, Valve will only take a 25% cut of any earnings over and above $10 million, and only 20% of earnings beyond $50 million. The first $10 million will still be split 70/30, and the change will impact any revenue earned after October 1 this year. 

In a Steam post (opens in new tab), Valve said the change will help "developers of big games", which will in turn benefit the entirety of Steam because of the "positive network effects" those developers generate. But some indie developers don't see it that way, and have branded the move a "slap in the face (opens in new tab)" to smaller companies that will never reach the $10 million threshold.

Wandersong (opens in new tab) developer Greg Lobanov encouraged players to stop buying indie games on Steam, and said the move would harm "niche, experimental games" like his.

See more
See more

Brian Buckley, developer of roguelike Caves of Qud (opens in new tab), said on Twitter (opens in new tab) that "tiny studios doing interesting things on razor-thin budgets" are now effectively "paying for the next Fallout 76", while Simon Roth, developer of space colony sim Maia (opens in new tab), said (opens in new tab) the move sends the "wrong message" to indie developers. 

Rami Ismail (opens in new tab), of Nuclear Throne developer Vlambeer (opens in new tab), said Valve was effectively subsidising large developers with the "broken dreams" of smaller companies, and questioned whether Steam was now "undesirable (opens in new tab)" for AAA developers.

See more

However, some indie devs were far less critical. Kevin Simmons, a designer at West of Loathing (opens in new tab) developer Asymmetric, said on Twitter (opens in new tab) that Valve needed to hang onto the "AAA audience", and that losing them would cost all developers money because fewer people would be buying games on Steam.

Freya Holmér, co-founder of Budget Cuts developer Neat Corporation, agreed "to some extent" that the change was a "blatant middle finger to smaller developers (opens in new tab)", but argued that Valve taking less money from Steam games was still a "positive step". 

See more
See more

If you're interested in the relationship between Valve and indie developers, I asked smaller studios whether it was worth cutting out Steam and selling direct to players earlier this year, which generated interesting discussion on, among other topics, revenue shares. Check it out here (opens in new tab).

What do you think of Valve's new policy?

Samuel Horti is a long-time freelance writer for PC Gamer based in the UK, who loves RPGs and making long lists of games he'll never have time to play. He's now a full-time reporter covering health at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. When he does have time for games you may find him on the floor, struggling under the weight of his Steam backlog.