Some edited highlights of the Greenlight chat (no “Where’s Half Life 3?” etc.. ) from Tom Tomaszewski. Worth a read through.
The good news is that Steam *are* moving towards being an open platform. This is great as it pretty much solves all of the issues with Greenlight. The downside is, that’s obviously a massive undertaking and not something anyone can rely on happening any time soon.
As suspected by many, the numbers passing through Greenlight are grim and the large vote numbers will be massively skewed by Mode 7/The Indie Stone and anyone else with an already existing fanbase to motivate so they’re not useful numbers to most people. The stats mentioned pretty much tally with my own experiences on there, only skewed higher from bundling and the odd burst when I get in a bit of a shouty mood over things.
So, upshot is, a minority of people who use Steam use Greenlight to help decide what gets on Steam. It seems fairly obvious to me that this would always be thus but there you go, it’s there anyway. And Valve are obviously bang on, you can’t make people vote so if anyone is wondering how to get 10,000 votes the answer is “find 10,000 people willing to vote for you”.
I feel fairly safe pointing out that most people will have infinitely better things to do than spend their time on Greenlight, scratching their armpits or putting the kettle on or anything other than voting on Greenlight and it seems the numbers back this up a tad. Obviously there’s a multitude of reasons for this including how Greenlight itself is laid out but I suspect it will never be anything but a minority interest as most people go to Steam to play games not to participate in the Eurovision Game Contest.
There’s no clearer way of putting this than this:
IF YOU ARE A DEVELOPER ON GREENLIGHT, YOU SIMPLY CANNOT RELY ON GREENLIGHT TO GET YOU THROUGH THE SYSTEM.
You are not paying for access to all the people on Steam, you are paying to sit in a queue with a lot of other games, all of which get looked over by only a minority of the Steam userbase.
Thankfully, Valve have been a lot clearer in recent times that Greenlight is only one data point of many, this isn’t something that’s a recent change and is something that’s been in place from the start but it’s good to have it reiterated clearly.
Valve are also looking for:
Performance on other platforms (including Crowdfunding).
Something that takes their fancy.
The same as they ever were. I would argue that every single one of these things is more important than Greenlight itself. I would also argue that they’re every bit as problematic for a lot of developers as Greenlight itself is, in some cases vastly more so.
I’ve talked about the problems with press in recent times and how the balance has shifted over the course of time since the second wave of indie started ploughing its way into the public consciousness.
There is another issue here that’s worth considering and I’ve mentioned this before also. There are developers for whom getting press, doing the press work, even when they have fucking superb games is an uphill struggle and something they’re uncomfortable with. With apologies to the honourable Mr Minter for using him as an example here but he’s the most famous person I can think of off the top of my head who absolutely hates having to deal with the marketing aspect of stuff. He fucking hates it. In some ways he’s incredibly lucky that he’s got the legacy and respect that a lot of journos and people will pick up the slack in part for him but still, it remains that he’s limited by what he’s comfortable with. And were his stuff on Greenlight, this would be a blocker.
There are many other developers who are in the same boat. For whom just make a good game doesn’t count because they’ve done that bit and in some cases made some of the best games of the past ten years in my not so humble opinion but the press and marketing parts of things are messy. They’re uncomfortable and they take away from the making fucking brilliant games bit. I’d sooner have them doing the latter personally.
But anyway, point is, not everyone is well equipped to deal with the press and it’s not the sort of thing you can just get over when it’s an integral part of who you are and part of what enables you to have such a laser focus on making brilliant work.
However, take away?
IF YOU DO HAVE GOOD PRESS, LIST IT ON YOUR GREENLIGHT PAGE.
Awards. I think the problems with this are fairly obvious. There’s a limited amount of awards out there for one thing, there’s a limited amount of developers interested in chasing awards. There’s a limited amount of developers with the financial ability to enter awards and attend awards also so this streamlines the pool massively.
For the vast majority of people, this is fairly off the list as remotely useful to them.
Personally, I don’t submit to awards for three reasons. I don’t make the kind of game that sits well in awards, I don’t generally have the money to pay entrance fees all over the shop and thirdly, even if I did my circumstances dictate that I can’t attend and I certainly can’t go running off minding a booth for a day or two or even afford the time to negotiate the details of someone else minding a booth for me. I have things in my life that have to take priority and they do. Obviously this isn’t for anyone else to solve, it can’t really be solved but there’s many developers each with their own reasons why entering awards ceremonies is not really a goer.
But anyway, practically, it seems that to date it’s only the IGF that results in an automatic Greenlight so don’t count on anywhere else being a magical pass to Greenlightdom.
I don’t think there’s much we can take away from this other than “if you have an award, it ups your chance of getting noticed” and I’d like to hope that’s already fundamentally obvious to most people and applies outside of Greenlight also.
Just for the record, a CERTIFIED VIRUS FREE from DOWNLOAD.COM is likely also not a considered award. (Showing my age there, right?). So OK then…
IF YOU HAVE AN AWARD, IT UPS YOUR CHANCE OF GETTING NOTICED
To wrap the final two up, I think it’s fairly sound advice in 2013 that if you can build for alternative platforms you absolutely should be building for alternative platforms. I have (with thanks to Jeff for his kind assistance) DRM up and running on OSX, iOS and Android right now and it all goes towards more people discovering, playing and enjoying the game across the board.
Valve will also be concerned with “was it a big player on another platform” which is where stuff like, I dunno, Fez or something comes into it. Not that Fez went through Greenlight but I’m just trying to pluck a famous-ish console game that came to PC out of my backside as an example here. Bear with me, alright?
However, mobile to PC devs also suffer from a larger and more difficult to deal with problem when it comes to Greenlight. It is not unusual to be informed that you are wholly unwelcome just because you’ve made a mobile game. In some ways, Greenlight is the last great battleground for this. This makes Greenlight a vastly more hostile place for many than it should be where games will and do get downvoted just for being a mobile game. It’s not just consigned to mobile games, there are lunatics who truly believe that flash games are also terrible things and all manner of other bizarre-o beliefs. When you factor in just how vocal these people are it’s uncomfortable even when there’s ten people telling you your game is a lovely thing indeed. It’s also uncomfortable because what the fuck does that actually have to do with whether something is a good game or not?
Two takeaways from this one then.
IF YOU CAN PORT TO OTHER PLATFORMS, PORT TO ALL THE PLATFORMS YOU CAN.
THERE’S A BUNCH OF NOBS OUT THERE WHO WILL HATE YOU FOR ARBITRARY REASONS. BE PREPARED AND DON’T LET THEM GRIND YOU DOWN. ESPECIALLY IF YOU’RE MOVING FROM ANYTHING PORTABLE
Which leaves us with make a game that takes Valve’s fancy which is pretty much JUST MAKE A GOOD GAME in any other form and yeah. OK. We’ll just leave that one right there.
So what to do then? Well, in a perfect world, Greenlight wouldn’t exist and there’d be a better system in its place. We don’t have that perfect world though so to a large degree we’re all left to deal with what we have.
What I would absolutely recommend is that if you are a dev, you think carefully before putting anything on Greenlight knowing how it works, knowing the things you will need to achieve in order to get Greenlit. I would urge caution in supporting Greenlight as a system on the vague off chance you might get picked up or to try and fight your way to the top. The chances of that happening are somewhere between slim to none and you’ll have pissed $100 down the drain on a gamble where the odds are currently stacked against you. Unless you can “do” a Mode7/Indie Stone/Dave Gilbert and fire over your fanbase or you’ve got something incredibly zeitgeist-y on your hands Greenlight will not serve you well.
As it stands, Greenlight is a pit where games go to get lost. There’s just too many good games getting lost in the system right now.
Valve have every intention of changing that and working towards it not being that but until they do, think carefully before you throw that $100 down as the time spent fretting over Greenlight and dealing with Greenlight is time you could probably spend better elsewhere. Like scratching your armpits or putting the kettle on.