There is no doubt popularity of Greenlight has been falling as gamers grow increasingly tired of plowing through many mediocre or prototypical products without a real incentive or reward. However, what surprised me, was the worrying rate at which the decline seems to be occuring.
We have recently launched greenlight for Karaski: What Goes Up... a single-player, open-ended action-adventure uncovering the secrets of passangers onboard a sabotaged, Slavic airship. Analyzing my own stats and looking at numerous postmortems of others, I noticed a worrying pattern.
The Steam stats, aside from showing YOUR visitors, also show the top 50 games' visitors. Looking at the current date vs. the ones from other games in July and March, we see the average amount of people browsing Greenlight as follow:
Which translates to an average 1963 decrease per month!
Granted it is just 3 data points so any conclusions must be taken with a grain of salt, but at this rate we are looking at only 1000 Greenlight visitors per month this coming Feb/March next year. Whoa!
Another odditiy - while total yes/no votes followed the decline, the Favorites and Followers actually increased in July, but fell back down again after. Perhaps excitment of summer months was responsible for that?
I'm not trying to be the harbinger of doom, and I genuinely think the intention behind Steam Greenlight is good, if the implementation severly flawed. I wouldn't be an indie dev today if it wasn't for my 1st game getting through the process, and I'm sure many others feel the same way. But it does not seem like the system is going to be up for much longer if things don't change dramatically.
There's been countless arguments for pros and cons of Greenlight as well as what needs to be fixed, so I don't want to get into the bigger debate. If we focus only on the declining number of visitors (rather than the system as a whole), it is clear people need a bigger incentive to play curators for games that perhaps, one day, maybe, sort of, will come out.
Valve has already implemented a pretty comprehensive marketplace full of badges, trading cargs, seasonal specials, and other little meta-rewards. If incentivising visitors is the goal, why not bring them into Greenlight? I could see providing more (tradable and craftable) badges and tradings cards for contributing to the voting process encouraging many players to go back to their queues.
Even better, why not for every 100 or 1000 votes the users got a promo code to obtain one of the voted on games for free or at a big discount? This creates a tangible feeling that voting on games can materialize in actual products in one's own library.
The obvious cavaet is that this would encourage people to milk the system, perhaps voting blindly just to earn rewards. However, if Valve wants to keep Greenlight around, then it's worth considering whether the influx of incentivized voters would be worth the potential swaying of farmers. To draw a parallel - many MMORPGs still struggle with this problem today and yet their economies have not collapsed.
I am leaving the question of what this all means and what will happen deliberately open-ended. The debate has raged since the very launch of Greenlight (and for good reasons!) and I do not wish to get into that quagmire here. Rather, this article is meant to bring home the reality of Greenlight's decline and provide some actual data when considering the next steps and future of publishing on Steam.