By Nelson Schneider - 03/19/17 at 03:23 PM CT
Ever since Valve, the parent company of near-monopoly PC gaming hub, Steam, introduced their Steam Greenlight process a few years ago for adding games to their online storefront, the service has been increasingly flooded with submissions. While Gabe Newell seems to be in love with the idea of removing barriers between Steam and people who want to sell their products on Steam, the result has been less-than-spectacular for the PC gamers who use the service. It is well known that Steam’s library has ballooned over the past couple years, and that a significant portion of the new submissions are not the type of thing anyone would actually want to buy.
Last month, Valve announced that Greenlight was going away, to be replaced with a new process called Steam Direct sometime in Spring 2017. While Greenlight leveraged crowdsourcing to approve submissions, Direct aims to leverage recoupable application fees in the range of $100 to $5000 instead.
If the goal of removing Greenlight and replacing it with Direct is to cut down on the amount of “noise,” as Valve calls it, in the submission pipeline and increase the overall quality of new additions to Steam, I think the process is destined to fail.
We here at MeltedJoystick have become big fans of Steam over the last few years, but we also find the complete lack of quality control and overwhelming number of submissions a bit much to keep track of. While the typical console platform, even digital, might have a dozen new entries to keep track of per month, Steam gets that many new games PER DAY, making it impossible to keep a finger on the thready, sporadic pulse of the gaming zeitgeist, as we simply don’t have enough fingers. But Valve wants Steam to be the biggest, most open game store online, so the idea that Direct will do anything to cut-down submission numbers and improve quality control is probably mere wishful thinking.
The MJ Crew were thinking about how Steam could tease the brakes on the runaway minecart they’re currently riding, and came to a single conclusion that isn’t incompatible with the proposed ideals of Steam Direct. But it would require Valve to hire a new employee.
See, the problem with both Greenlight and Direct is that they are agnostic platforms. Crowdsourcing can be, and has been, manipulated, both by appealing to the Trollish nature of certain Internet communities, or using simple bribery to garner enough votes for an unworthy product. Likewise, Direct will likely make gaming the system even easier, as instead of paying bribes to a bunch of disparate Trolls to get the required votes, the developers and publishers of garbage games and asset flips can simply pay ONE bribe to a big Troll named GabeN. Hell, one ‘publisher,’ RawFury, has already volunteered to pay Direct fees for anyone who needs help with them.
The only solution to this problem is to hire an employee (or two) to act as a filter between Steam and the people who want to sell their products on Steam. Newell seems to think that this kind of filter is somehow bad – and it would be something of an unnecessary restriction if we lived in a perfect, ideological world where Communism works and Meritocracy ensures that goodness and skill are rewarded. But we don’t live in that kind of world, so we all need to take steps to mitigate the impact that Trolls and other buttholes have on the nice things that we like.
Here’s the solution to Steam’s woes:
1. Take that Steam Direct fee. Make it $1000.
2. Hire an employee (or two) with a demonstrated expertise in the history and quality of videogames. Don’t go to /v/ to look for candidates! This employee will be responsible for reviewing every submission to Direct as they come in, simply to ensure that each one is an original game and not simply an asset flip or unplayable blob of garbage code. The salary for this employee will be drawn directly from Direct submission fees.
3. Only allow submissions to recoup their fee IF they make it past the reviewer.
Now, I have a feeling that Valve wants to get people to pay them instead of crowdsourcing votes because… well, people will have to simply GIVE VALVE MONEY, and Valve loves that, but when running a business, sometimes it’s best to direct a new revenue stream at solving an existing problem, rather than adding a few more layers of gold plating to the CEO’s yacht. This new revenue stream from Steam Direct would easily fund a new non-programmer job at Valve and allow the company to get at least a tentative grip on the currently-uncontrolled firehose spewing raw sewage all over their good name and reputation.