Is $100 too steep for indie devs for a chance at Steam Greenlight?
Steam Greenlight is the latest addition to the Steam platform that lets users up-vote games they think they’ll be willing to pay for. Over the short course of time that Greenlight has been available, there have been many ripoffs, spoofs and just plain nonsense showing up. Half-Life 3? Really?
In an effort to curb the onslaught of rubbish, Steam has implemented a new rule that requires any submitters to make a one-time donation of $100 to the Penny-Arcade-created charity Child’s Play. This puts Greenlight right alongside other one-time fee distribution models like the App Store and Xbox Live Indie Games. What does this mean for aspiring indie developers? Probably time to scrounge up some spare change.
For anyone new to the game, whenever a price tag is attached to literally anything online, especially when it was once free (even if it was only a couple of days), there is a huge uproar, and this is no different. Perhaps the blow would not have been so bad had Steam done this out of the gate, but then again we always knew Greenlight was going to change pretty rapidly at first.
I actually don’t have a problem with the fee, or donation, or whatever you want to call it, they needed this from the start. Steam Greenlight lets you submit any portfolio of images and video, so when you think about it there’s a huge potential for something like that to get abused. I think the only thing holding back just a ridiculous amount of abuse is the fact that people love Steam to death (can you imagine this being on Origin??). Its the fact that the fee doesn’t guarantee you any sort of exposure that’s a little bizarre and sort of bothers me.
For $100 on the App Store you get your app on the marketplace guaranteed. It may not be a featured app and it may not be popular, but when somebody searches for your game in particular you can bet they’ll be able to find it hosted there by Apple. But with Greenlight you are making a donation to Child’s Play for a chance to get considered by the public as a potentially awesome game. I just see a big disconnect there.
$100 isn’t a whole lot at the end of the day. As many are pointing out: its still a pretty paltry sum compared to professional studios who spend millions on games. Odds are that if you believe in your product you’ll find that cash somehow. One of my favorite indie devs, Dejobaan Games, promised to select an indie game dev they liked and front the cash! (Although on second thought that’s like having a Greenlight for Greenlight! Greenception!)
I’ll go on record to say that I’m uncomfortable with the decision, if only because of the nature of Greenlight. After all, I fully expect most of the crap on Greenlight that happens to rock the gaming buzzword of the week to get tons of votes and those hidden gems to remain hidden. Its a popularity contest, so requiring $100 donation isn’t going to make that part of Greenlight any different. If you’re a tower defense-zombie-shooter-MOBA clone then you has all the votes, but if you’re a game about being an Octupus and prending to be a human around other humans, then I think you’re gonna have a harder time.