It’s that time of year when the ridiculous suggestion that Steam should charge people $lots to be on the store comes up again, or as we like to call it in the trade ‘a day ending in day’. The logic, and to be honest I’m loathe to call it that, is as per usual there are too many games and somehow these low quality games are taking up space or something from better games. And so, again, we see the suggestion of charging come up. Invariably it starts low and people raise it because the bar can never be too high, money is the difference between a serious and unserious developer. 100 quid? No, 200. Higher, higher. Why stop there? Seventy billion gazillion! That’ll show them.
Which is (I’m tired of being nice about this, I’m sorry) bullshit.
So a few things:
1. Valve already implement a nominal fee. It’s for putting games on Greenlight and it’s already a hefty barrier for a number of people. Aside from that, getting more slots on Steam is also at Valve’s discretion. The reason things are as they are right now is because Valve know there is not a too many games problem and it’s one of the sillier recurring themes in games. Did you see Doug Lombardi’s face a few years back when someone asked him were there too many games? It was the face of someone who’d been asked a really dumb question. He said ‘no’. Because durh.
2. It turns out that there is next to no correlation between having $lots and being able to be serious enough to make and release a good videogame anyway (though having money certainly helps buy things like more time and other skills in certain circumstances which can help make better games).
The only useful purpose the Greenlight fee serves is to reduce spam, not improve the quality of games on the service. You can see this with your own eyes. You can also see how this works on every other platform that charges a fee. The greenlight fee helps massively reduce the workload for anyone who has to shuffle through greenlight. See also why the fee goes to charity not into Valve’s pocket.
3. Suggesting that a game is culled if it fails to earn a specific amount helps nobody at all, ever. Plenty of excellent games I love have failed to make a substantial amount of money. I do not want them to disappear. I do not want opportunities removed from developers. I do not want people punished for not earning an arbitrary amount mainly because that’s fucking stupid and I can scarcely believe I’m even having to type this. Also, the amount of tremendous games that we’ve lost from the app store is approximately ‘too many’. This is something to lament, not encourage more of. I want to be able to tell everyone to go and buy Deflex but I can’t because it didn’t make enough money and isn’t cost effective for Yak to keep paying the fees. So we’ve lost an incredible game. This is rubbish. Why would anyone want this future?
4. The knock on effects of a financial barrier are now incredibly clear. It creates a void where unscrupulous publishers can thrive, picking at the inexperienced, unsure and too trusting folks. This contributes to making being in videogames an all round shittier place to be. I don’t know if anyone’s been around games lately but we have a lot of shit already.
Between 2006 and 2013 we put a lot of work into educating people against and reducing the avenues these folk could take to exploit people. This has gone to the wall and the problem, if you can call it that, of unscrupulous publishers and third parties taking advantage is more difficult to solve than ever now. I can guarantee that instituting a fee and/or an earn enough or off you fuck policy would be a field day for some very horrible people who are more than happy to embed themselves in games at the expense of other people’s livelihoods.
I do not want those people here.
5. See also the reviews market that sprung up around the app store. It’s horrible. Seriously, stuff has consequences. We don’t need more shit in videogames right now, we’ve got a gut full.
6. There is not a finite pool of money that we all pull from. The market is vast and wide and getting wider. We are not fighting for the same money except within our niches, even then, our niches exist and thrive whilst other people occupy them too. Yes, even with stuff that isn’t that good. That helps our work stand out. Also, sometimes not very good games have amazing ideas we can learn from. Or mistakes we can learn from. This is important. This is how we progress. Not everything has to be perfect, great, polished or whatever. Gems come from so many places. Also, people get more money to spend week to week or month to month that replaces the money they’ve already spent. This is how money kinda works. Sometimes.
7. We are not all in competition with each other. My work does not compete with the work of someone writing and selling My First Platform Game and nor does it compete with Assassin Of Football Duty 19. Most indies operate in relatively niche and underserved markets. I have nothing to fear from 300 games that cost 30p or something, not for eyeballs, not for money, not for quality. I have genuinely no clue as to why I should be worried about them, they’re in a different galaxy to what I work with.
8. If anyone is genuinely concerned that there are too many games and something needs to be done, they can stop making games and adding to it. It’s OK. Go do some knitting. They can always stop making it worse for someone else by throwing another game on the pile. Stop making games. That’s a slot someone else could have. If there’s too many, them making one more is totally not helping. Bye then.
But it’s never their game that’s the problem, is it?
9. The way visibility works on Steam now is fairly spectacular. It’s so far from perfect and there’s so much work to be done but it’s getting more difficult to fall between the cracks and make no money at all on there. This is amazing. I couldn’t have dreamed of this ten years ago.
As the amount of games goes up, so does the work involved in surfacing games but seriously, Valve are doing an incredible job of getting eyeballs on things now and keeping eyeballs off things folks maybe don’t give a toss about. It was only a few years back games would be dead in the water and finding a second, third or fourth chance at success would be somewhere between implausible and impossible. It seems ridiculous to make any moves to make this worse. This is in stark contrast to the app store where I’ve given up trying to find anything I want because Apple do little work to surface anything and the store is a bit shit. The number of games is the least of the app stores problems, seriously.
Also, look at the work Itch are doing, we’re getting there slowly. Things are getting better not worse. Just y’know, it’s always hard because selling games is hard. The issues we deal with change because we keep pushing and changing things so stuff happens and we have to constantly adapt to deal with the stuff that happens.
10. Who the fuck even decides there’s too many games anyway and what is that all about? There aren’t too many books, too many films, too many comics, too many songs, instrumentals, crochets, bacon baps or whatever. There are certainly more of just about every medium than I can ever hope to work through, appreciate, admire or kinda disregard because it’s not for me. This is fine.
It’s all fine. I don’t need to read every book, play every game. I don’t need people to write or sell fewer books so I can find the good books because that’s incomprehensibly idiotic. I don’t need Dan Brown to go away so I can appreciate MR James. I don’t need Chuck Tingle to stop selling their books so I can find a Taschen picture book of tin robots. Yes, I have a Taschen picture book of tin robots. I don’t know if this is better or worse than Chuck Tingle at all, especially given I haven’t pounded myself in the butt with it to check. Point is, it doesn’t matter that there’s lots of things made. That’s amazing, not awful.
In short: Fucking hell.
We’re doing amazing at the moment with stuff, we need to be better for more people, not ensuring the market stays sweet for a handful of developers and screw everyone else.
See you all again in three months when this comes up again, yeah? Like, hopefully not but I’ve stopped contemplating holding my breath just in case. I’m so tired of this particular brand of in games silliness now. So very tired.