The way independently-created games are making their way to Valve's Steam service is about to undergo a big change. According to a post on its official blog, Valve will be replacing Steam Greenlight with a new and very different service called Steam Direct, starting this spring.
Steam Greenlight debuted in the summer of 2012 and provided a pathway for independent developers to make their way onto the enormous Steam marketplace. The service allowed developers to submit their games for approval by the community. Users vote on the titles they like and in turn help Valve decide which games actually become available on Steam.
Steam Direct kicks the doors wide open on that idea. To put a game on Steam through the Direct initiative, no voting or popularity contests are required. Valve says in its post that developers will fill out a set of digital paperwork "similar to the process of applying for a bank account." Then they'll pay a "recoupable application fee" that Valve says hasn't been set but will be somewhere between $100 and $5,000, depending on the feedback the company gets from active and prospective developers.
Games are being added to Steam at a faster pace than ever. More games have been added to Steam overall in 2016 than in any other single year, accounting for 38% of all games currently on the service. It's already tough to dig through the piles of junk games to find good ones, even with Greenlight supposedly helping to filter them. If Valve sets the Steam Direct fee too low, it could make the problem even worse. On the other hand, setting the fee too high may push out developers with smaller budgets or in developing countries. Communities have also used Greenlight as an excuse and method to harass developers, and developers in turn have used game keys to bribe their way into pledges from gamers.
Valve is a game company beloved by many gamers, but its reputation for taking care of the services has suffered in recent years—digging around in places like the Steam subreddit reveals countless stories of disappointment by users and developers alike. Steam Direct has the potential to improve on the idea started by Greenlight, but Valve will need to devote time and energy to making it work rather than just putting up a kiosk in their already-cluttered store and hoping everything works out.