Very quick, I need sleep. This Greenlight by the way, not the one with the little man that tells you when to cross the road.
Initial reaction: Good stuff. Very good stuff. Potential to be everything that XBLIG shat its pants over – a fairly open platform for indies to get under a very large audience with some degree of ease and, unlike with XBLIG and Microsoft’s failure to keep good on their XBLIG>XBLA promises,the intention of providing a ladder upwards onto Steam-proper.
So, that’s great. More opportunities for indies to get under folks noses can never be a bad thing and if it results in the increased sales that Steam provides, very good indeed. So I like that element of things.
Some causes for concern though. If, as I’ve read, it’s a replacement to submissions not an extension of, that makes me uncomfortable for a number of reasons:
1. The obvious one. Why do indie games have to be the ones that go through a crowd sourced submissions process yet games with certain publishers have no such issues? Obviously, I don’t expect Valve to accept everything but it seems a curious solution. At least prior, it felt like even though you could be rejected for whatever reason or ignored for weeks on end that a game was a game regardless of origins. This creates an awkward underclass mentality, the sort that’s rife with console submissions that you have to be judged differently from games with publishers because…erm, you don’t have a publisher? Yes. Awkward.
Not having a publisher (in 2012) shouldn’t be seen as a handicap or a reason to relegate to being judged in the same way one would judge user generated content like a hat or something.
2. Moving the major elements of building a community over to Steam. To use an existing example, ModDB is a great platform for getting the word out, it’s also a massive, massive job in keeping it up to date, uploading pictures, videos, news posts etc… it’s an incredibly time consuming process if you want to do it effectively and you want to do it right. That’s time out that could have been spent on creating your own community in your own space or time neglecting your own community in your own space.
It’s one thing to rely on a service as a storefront, another entirely to build everything around it and another to feel compelled to do so because acceptance to a store depends on it. (Even though Steam is non-exclusive, there’s only so many hours in the day…)
3. Building and maintaining a community is a massive job. That’s time that could probably be better spent working on a game for most people.
4. And then there’s the fact that there’s a lot of incredibly brilliant developers out there, a fair few who could and would benefit from something like this that just aren’t very good at the PR or community building side of things. I’ve lost count of the amount of great games I’ve played that had I relied on screenshots alone or a video, I’d have ignored them or cried myself to sleep in disgust at. It’s a lot, anyway. Which is why some people either partner up with someone who’s good at this sort of thing or just pay someone else for it. It’s a skill in and of itself and it’s a bigger ask than it might sound at first glance.
5. There’s some games with a massive built in fan base where for whatever reason Steam submissions haven’t thrown a greenlight at (I’m thinking Vic’s (Cryptic Comet) stuff, Project Zomboid and a few others) that would benefit from this approach with little effort, they’re in the minority. It’s a noise amplified by having a loving and vocal fan base rather than the norm. For most people, again, it comes back to this being massively more uphill and time consuming. I’m not sure how people like Jonas Kyratzes would fit into this for example, excellent games but a smaller (but dedicated) fanbase, stuff which eludes mainstream success and where there’s little chance of the games being based around zombies or space marines or what have you. Unless it’s a whimsical zombie or a whimsical space marine or something. With a cat.
6. If just one person sends me a fucking email asking me to thumb up their Steam submission, I’m going to swear like you’ll never fucking believe. Which they will. So I’m going to be swearing one fuck of a lot about this given how many mails I get about crowdfunded projects a week.
Ok, maybe that wasn’t so quick. So in short: Good idea with good intentions that if played right could be an absolutely amazing thing but also potentially very awkward.