What Steam Greenlight Means for Developers

First and foremost, my apologies for being absent last Thursday. It was something of a busy week, the latter of which was spent fending off sickness (which I’m still not entirely certain I’ve conquered.) Regardless, I’m back, and with any luck, I can get back to posting regular content.

Today’s fare is going to be rather light, admittedly, but later in the week I’m going to discuss the ruling in the EU earlier this month about the resale of open data licenses (and what it says about the absurd copy protection we’re forced to suffer through.) Similarly, next week I’ll be discussing how the medium of gaming has grown up, and what still needs to be done if it’s to be taken seriously – I’ll be making references to some of my earlier articles here. So, there’s some good stuff on the way. Stay tuned, folks.

For now, let’s talk about Valve’s latest venture.

Believe it or not, running one of the most popular digital distribution platforms in the history of the Internet has a few downsides- not the least of which is the grotesque amount of manpower required to keep everything running smoothly. Given the high volume of games often released on Steam, their internal greenlight team was starting to feel the heat.

“There are titles that have tied up our internal greenlight group in the past, and we knew there had to be a better way,” states the Greenlight FAQ. It was with the awesome community that evolved around TF2 and the great success of the Steam Workshop that they found their answer, according to Business Director Jason Holtman, who spoke earlier at a Develop session.

If the content team hadn’t been involved in this activity , including things such as blogposts, it would have sucked. We had customer involvement too. Hey: why don’t you make propaganda posters. That would be fun. People went crazy. They created all this content that started to get consumed as part of the war update. It was the first inkling of what we’re thinking about now [with Greenlight]. Getting customers involved in the business.

So…yeah. Long story short, the Steam community now gets to decide which games release, and which ones don’t. Rather than a small, internal team, Valve’s putting the power into the hands of their community. In other words, you’re going to get to vote on and talk about titles that have yet to make it into the store. They’re basically placing quality control into the hands of their users.

Understandably, this is awesome for both developers and consumers.

What’s the Big Deal? 

More of this.

On the developer’s end, this means they’ll actually get to establish an active dialogue with their users right out the door. They can post concepts and ideas as easily as they can add finished projects, and get feedback on what they’re doing all throughout the development process. It’s basically allowing independent developers to gather themselves a fan-base, to establish customer loyalty, to make themselves known to the community before their project even sees the light of day.

And it’s not just for indie developers, either. You may recall that, some time ago, I spoke about Bioware’s response to the fan outcry about Mass Effect 3′s Ending. You may also recall that the term “games as conversation” came up- the idea that video games are, as a medium, less a form of static entertainment and more a sort of communique between developer and gamer, between creator and consumer. In today’s world of digital distribution and online content sales, they have themselves evolved into an active dialogue.

Greenlight feels like the natural next step in this evolution. It feels like an evolution of this idea, a step forward for game development. After all, if you’re creating a product for a specific audience, who better to critique it than people from that audience? If you’re looking to perform some quality assurance on a new title, who better to help you than somebody who might eventually play it?

At the end of the day, if the community that evolves around Greenlight is anything like the TF2 modding community, this means we’ll be seeing better games and more refined ideas hitting the marketplace. The approval process could well become less of a hurdle to step over and more a chance for a developer to improve their product before releasing it.

And that, my friends, is damned awesome.

I’ve rambled on enough. It’s way too bloody hot, I’m having a hell of a time focusing, and I suspect the fan on my laptop has begun to malfunction. That, and I can’t appear to brain.

I think I’m going to go bathe in a few buckets of ice.  I’ll see you folks on Thursday.

Image Credits: [Steam] [Edge] [European Coatings]

2 responses to “What Steam Greenlight Means for Developers

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