Posted by Rampant Coyote on February 28, 2013
So Steam’s Greenlight was a failure.
That may be a pretty harsh thing to say. For many developers and fans, Greenlight was pretty awesome. But as Valve founder Gabe Newell explained recently, “[Steam] should stop being a dictator and move towards much more participatory, peer-based methods of sanctioning player behavior. Greenlight is a bad example of an election process. We came to the conclusion pretty quickly that we could just do away with Greenlight completely, because it was a bottleneck rather than a way for people to communicate choice.”
By the sounds of it, it’s becoming more of a platform than a portal. The really funny part is that until Greenlight happened, that’s how many if not most Steam users assumed it worked. “Why don’t you just release your game on Steam?” gamers would ask endlessly, infuriating the developer who’d been turned down on Steam for reasons unknown.
And so they’ll be opening things up. A lot. Instead of user Greenlight pages, there’ll be user storefronts on Steam. This definitely scales things a bit. Will Steam become the Amazon of downloadable PC software? The “Apple Store” for all desktops & laptops? It’s clear that if Steam doesn’t move on it NOW, Microsoft is going to take over on the Windows side (but my personal opinion is that, with the direction Windows 8 is taking, Windows is taking a big step in its long, slow decline).
We’ll see. In the meantime, here are some industry experts looking into their own crystal balls to see what the future might hold:
As for me, I don’t know enough details to make an accurate prediction. But I can throw out some speculation and pull guesses out of the air like anyone else.
If any game – sold through any means – can be “Steam Enabled,” and if Steam provides a way that any game could be sold on Steam if it passes minimum requirements (not be a malware vehicle, etc.) and featured on user stores… in other words, if it abdicates not only dictatorship over curation but also over monetization – then there’s not going to be anything stopping its dominance in the marketplace. Big time.
It’s that latter part that’s going to be a trick – the monetization. If they lock that up – and all games on Steam must be sold through Steam (which is actually a departure from how things run now – I play a lot of Steam-enabled games that I purchased elsewhere) – then they are going to be leaving themselves open to lots of competition. But if don’t pull a Microsoft (or, admittedly, an Apple) here and leave Steam as an “open platform” – I think just about everybody who isn’t a direct competitor will be making their games available through the Steam store anyway, just not exclusively. Most most indies I talk to who are on Steam tell me that Steam sales almost always represent the majority of their PC sales (maybe not a majority of their revenue, but definitely the bulk of their sales), so it’s not like Steam would be losing a lot of money with that approach. In a sense, they’d be saying, “Sure, sell what you can on your own and through other portals, and it’ll still be a full-fledged Steam game. We’re cool with that. And when you are done, please consider letting use help you sell your game to the remaining 80% of the market that you missed”
It’d be a win-win. They are the “good guys,” and there’s zero reasons for anybody to NOT be on Steam.
Now “discovery” is another issue. But this is an issue that every indie worth the label is intimately familiar with. For indie developers, and long-time indie game fans, this is pretty much part and parcel with the whole indie experience. It’s nothing new. It’s so NOT new, in fact, that it predates indie gaming, gaming, modern technology, and just about anything else – it’s been a part of the free-market experience since day one. In fact, the only way to avoid this problem is to create giant, powerful gatekeepers that are extremely difficult to successfully bypass. That’s an aberration, and (eventually) doomed to failure. That’s what the whole “indie” movement has always been about!
It’s only too many customers (and, sadly, gaming journalists) who were shocked to discover that there were far more games out there than were being marketed by TV commercials and pop-up ads on major websites.
So really, if Steam does it right, it will likely be a game-changer. It’ll be a great thing for indie gaming. It may not so great for some indies who have enjoyed something of a protected status in the past, but I doubt they’ll be hurt much by it, either.
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