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Muddy Steam - Before and After Greenlight
by Jools Watsham on 04/17/13 04:01:00 pm   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

[Original Post]

When we decided to port our critically-acclaimed and award-winning title, Mutant Mudds, over to the PC I looked at the library of games available on Steam to get an idea of pricing and genres available. Based on the games that are available on Steam I expected that Mutant Mudds would not have a problem getting on Steam. Not because I think Mutant Mudds is oh-so deservedly so, but because the library of games available on Steam ranges greatly in genre and quality. It does not give the impression of any strict guidelines.

My development experience with Renegade Kid has primarily been with Nintendo platforms. When we submit a game to Nintendo they test the game to ensure it does not crash or have any major bugs that impede gameplay. If the game contains any issues in this regard Nintendo sends us a report that explains why the game was failed. We fix it and resubmit. Nintendo works with developers where needed to isolate issues and correct them.

Valve is a successful company that is reportedly in good financial shape. With this in mind I assumed they would have a robust team in place that provided a similar submission service as Nintendo. I was lucky enough to be introduced to a Steam team member via email thanks to a friend. The Steam team member sent me a friendly email with a link to the submission form and said they look forward to checking out a playable build of Mutant Mudds.

I filled out the form and uploaded a playable PC build of Mutant Mudds with the hope of opening up a dialog about the game to see what features they would like to see supported on Steam, such as achievements, etc. I received an email from Steam about 10 days after submitting:

Thank you for submitting "Mutant Mudds" for potential Steam distribution. We have taken a look at the information provided and determined that Steam is not a good fit for distribution. It is our company policy not to provide specific feedback on a submission but we would like you to consider Steam distribution for your future products.

I was shocked. Like most developers, I never truly know whether one of my games is good or not, but due to the high review scores and fan reaction we received for Mutant Mudds on the 3DS I assumed the game was at least above average and at least on-par with the quality and genre of games currently found on Steam. Steam’s rejection of Mutant Mudds made no sense to me. And, to boot, their policy is not to provide feedback. That’s helpful.

Soon after this, news of Steam Greenlight was heating up and offered potential for Mutant Mudds on Steam – and possibly offered an explanation for Mutant Mudds’ rejection. Did the Steam team want to include it as a relatively ‘well-known’ title in their new Greenlight system? Maybe. Many folks tweeted me saying as much, and I wanted to believe them. I felt fortunate that the Steam team wanted to include Mutant Mudds with the launch of Steam Greenlight. That was awesome.

And then, it quickly seemed as though the games that were being received well on Greenlight were either first-person games, contained zombies, and/or were supported by a built-in PC community or a unique publicity angle. Mutant Mudds could not find its audience. Greenlight is, after all, a popularity contest. Some seem put-out by calling it this. There is nothing wrong with it being a popularity contest. Isn’t that the point of asking a community of thousands to vote? It is what it is. But, now do I need to launch a dedicated PR campaign to get my game(s) noticed and accepted on Steam? I respect and commend those teams that have had their games greenlit. Nicely done, ladies and gents!

Mutant Mudds sits at #82 on the Greenlight list right now. It has hovered around there for some time now. It was at around #40 or so at one point. About 30,000 folks have voted either yes or no for Mutant Mudds to be included on Steam, with a 54% / 46% split in favor of yes. Yep, those numbers pretty much sum up what the Greenlight community thinks of Mutant Mudds: polarized. At this rate I can’t see how Mudds will ever be deemed suitable for a Steam release.

It is puzzling though. How can a game that has been accepted with open arms on one platform be shut out on another? It is truly a fascinating case study. The 3DS audience is more-than-likely very different than the Steam audience, which is one factor for sure. I suppose Steam’s original rejection of Mutant Mudds is somewhat justified now that the community itself has also not accepted the game. Perhaps this means that a game like Mutant Mudds is not suitable for Steam. But, hang on... there are games like VVVVV, Offspring Fling!, Capsized, Beep, Braid, Serious Sam Double D, Super Meat Boy, and even Commander Keen available on Steam right now.

How is Mutant Mudds not a good fit for distribution? I wish I knew. I briefly chatted with a Valve employee at PAX East, who asked for feedback on the Greenlight process. I was not expecting to be chatting about Greenlight at that moment, so I had nothing to offer. Perhaps I should have told them that it is my “policy not to provide specific feedback”, but that would have been rude, right?

***

Please cast your vote for Mutant Mudds on Steam Greenlight here.

Only you can make it happen.

Thanks so much.


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Comments


Curtis Turner - IceIYIaN
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You should check out http://www.Desura.com/ The people who made http://www.ModDB.com/

There's quite a few now, but all I use is Steam and Desura/ModDB.

Jools Watsham
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Thanks Curtis. Mutant Mudds is available on Desura, GOG, and Gamersgate.

Apparently, all of those outlets - combined - represent only a fraction of the active audience on Steam today.

Lars Doucet
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I can corroborate that fact. Desura and Impulse *combined* were only 0.3% of our overall revenue:
http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/186940/

GOG was orders of magnitudes better, but still dwarfed by Steam, like everything else.

Mutant Mudds is a pretty sweet game, I really hope it makes it through. Greenlight seems like a broken system.

Jools Watsham
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Thanks Lars.

Joe McGinn
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Greenlight is the worst idea ever to come out of Valve. Anti-innovation because it's a crowd-popularity contest; people generally only vote for things they recognize. And completely unnecessary. Developers don't need a creative filter. Get out of their way and let them publish the games they want.

Surely with iOS and Android success it's obvious at this point that the age of creative game concept approvals is over?

Christiaan Moleman
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I think it's possible the 3D aspect is perceived as the hook which, as most people don't have 3D screens, makes it appear less suited to PC compared to the 3DS version... I voted yes, but hesitated for this reason.

Also I think a lot of people misinterpret the voting percentages. "No thanks" for most people doesn't mean "I actively dislike this" or "this is bad and should not be on Steam"... instead I believe most - and the wording encourages this - use it as "This is not for me". So someone who isn't into platformers might vote no on your game even if they think it looks solid and deserves to get Greenlit, because the button asks specifically "Would YOU buy this?" not "Do you think other people would buy this?"

Jools Watsham
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Thank you for your feedback, Christiaan. Yes, I can see how the lack of 3D could discourage some people. This is unfortunate. We designed the game to work effectively in 2D for those who choose to turn their 3D off, which many seem to do.

Apparently, the NO votes do not count against a games' standing on Greenlight.

J Z
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Correct, the "No" vote is misleading. If you log in there and there is a queue of games for you to vote on you only get 3 options. "Yes I would Buy" "No thanks" "Ask me later". And you cannot get to the next game in the queue without specifying one of those three options.

I was also bothered by this, there is no way to really "abstain" or to say "yea its ok, maybe I would buy this depending on the price".

James Yee
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I'll third this one as I often click "No" as the game isn't for me. For instance I SUUUUCK at Platformers and RTSes so I always vote those down. Not because the game is good or bad, but because they're bad for me. :)

Sven Myhre
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@Christiaan: I agree with you. I have voted down dozens of games that I think are good games - but since the question is if *I* will purchase this game, the answer is no.

WHY could not rather Steam check my steam account and see that I have bought lots of strategy and sim games and a few indy games - and only present me with games in those categories?

Then the Greenlight process would automatically ensure each game was judged by its RELEVANT AUDIENCE - people who would know and who would care how a game really compared to the competition...?

Christiaan Moleman
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There is an option in "Customize your queue" to select which genres you want to see but since a lot of devs seem to over- or mislabel their games in order to get more views this is not entirely effective, especially given that there is no negative "NOT this genre" filter.

Automatic queue filtering based on your Steam library could be interesting.

Tim Holland
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I think you may find the purpose of the "Yes" and "No" votes may be the following:
- The "Yes" votes gauge how much interest there is in purchasing the product and how actively purchased the product will be.
- The "No" vote is, more than likely, a tool to instead gauge the target audience of the game in order to predict the major target audience of the game more accurately rather than solely basing it around genre.

Quoting Jools, "Apparently, the NO votes do not count against a games' standing on Greenlight." I think reinforces the concerns when matched with reasoning as to why it exists rather than leaving people saying "well if that is not the case, why does it exist... I don't believe you.".
Hopefully this helps developers to look at the "Yes" and "No" votes and the Greenlight system in a less negative light. As someone has already stated, don't look at 54% / 46% as being polarized, you have 54% percent of the active Greenlight community saying they want to buy your game, that is still very impressive; no game truly reaches 100% of all audiences so close to 100% should not be an expected outcome for any game.

E Zachary Knight
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I still need to play the game. I bought it on GOG over the holidays but have yet to play it. Too many games in my backlog and some just don't make it.

Do you have a Linux port? Perhaps having that would help you on Steam as the Linux library is still relatively small and adding it to the potential Linux library could give it a Greenlight boost. Just a thought on my part.

Jools Watsham
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Thank you for buying the game on GOG! Much appreciated. We do not currently have plans to support Linux. It is a chicken and egg situation really. If Steam and/or Humble Bundle wanted the game we would then be able to justify the extra time and cost of supporting Linux.

sean lindskog
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The linux port of my game should be released any day now. I'm doing it mostly because I love linux rather than because I think it'll help with greenlight much. Although if it did, I'd be very pleased. E Zachary - out of curiousity, why do you think a linux port would give a greenlight boost? Outside of Steam Linux and the HiBs, is there much of an audience for linux games?

E Zachary Knight
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Sean,

With Linux pulling 15-20% of Humble Bundle Sales, I would say there is a strong demand for Linux versions of most games. Why I think this could help with Greenlight is that the current Linux library of Steam games is pretty much limited to Humble Bundle games that most Linux users would have. So the prospect of bringing in more Linux games that they do not have could give a boost in Greenlight if the developer promoted it as such.

My comments seem kind of rambling there. I hope that helps. But let me try to rephrase that anyway.

Basically, the majority of Steam Linux titles are games featured in the Humble Bundles. A large number of Steam Linux users already own them from Humble Bundles. The Prospect of non-Humble Bundle Linux games would make Linux Users happy and supportive of those games' developers. That support could translate to higher Greenlight scores.

sean lindskog
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Gotcha. Thanks for your thoughts.

It is true that I have got a number of supportive linux posters in my greenlight comments, since I've announced linux was in active development. Perhaps an actual release will bump up that support.

Glen M
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It is my belief that there are several different gamer communities out there, that amount of gamers today mean that a game that is a hit on one platform may not translate well to another audience. I will check out your Greenlight tonight, thanks for sharing your experience.

What is the experience like for submitting a game to GOG?

Jools Watsham
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Yes, I agree. Just because Mutant Mudds was received well on the 3DS does not automatically mean that a different audience will enjoy it. However, I believe that should be left to the audience's buying decision and not impede a games' availability on a service. That's just me, though. :)

Getting Mutant Mudds on GOG took a little work, but we got it on there without too much trouble. They do have a review process, so it was not an automatic shoe-in.

Benjamin Quintero
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Greenlight is great place to go if you are ever feeling good about your game and want to feel bad. There are plenty of people to tell you how much you suck as a person and how you need to leave their walled garden before they get bigger stones to throw at you. Its an awesome experience...

Aaron San Filippo
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I think a more balanced view is that Greenlight is a great way to get an unbiased picture of what potential Steam customers will think of your game and its presentation. Our game had mostly negative comments initially - and we kept improving the look, refining the features during ongoing development.

Now our yes/no votes are split roughly at 50%, which is on par with the top 100.

Don't dismiss the value of critical feedback.

Benjamin Quintero
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Has your game made it onto Steam?

Aaron San Filippo
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I'm not sure how that's relevant to my comment, but no. I said that Greenlight is a great way to get unbiased critical feedback, and I stand by it. I don't believe Greenlight is working in general - but that doesn't mean it doesn't have value for developers.

Aaron San Filippo
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Thanks for the article - we're in a similar situation. Our game, Race the Sun, has been successfully Kickstartered, but we are nowhere close to being greenlit.

I would encourage you to not take the 54%/46% split as meaning that the community is polarized - rather, that's the percentage of people who've seen your game who have said they would buy it - that's pretty fantastic actually!

Also, I'd love to know how you got the actual ranking stat. Is that something that unlocks once you're in the top 100?

James Yee
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Congrats on Race the Sun Aaron! I hope you get it onto Steam as it was an interesting project. Unfortunately I didn't discover your project until you were in the last days of the campaign and hence unavailable for interview. I look forward to the final release though. :)

Thomas Konkol
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Hi Jools,

We feel your pain. Imminent Games also got the same exact rejection letter when we first submitted our game "Drip Drip" to Steam (way before Greenlight). Now that it is out, Drip Drip is getting about the same response on Greenlight as it seems Mutant Mudds is. Even though the press seems to love our game, mostly getting between 80 and 90 review scores, we got many negative comments from the Steam community. And they can be brutal. But it sure does feel good when people up vote it and say they hope it makes it to Steam. Ours is about 50/50 for the good and bad on Greenlight. At this point we are just waiting for Greenlight to die and the store fronts to go up (if that is still happening). Good luck with Mutant Mudds, and keep plugging away at it.

James Yee
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Do you think the storefronts will help?

I really would like some more "control" on what I see at Greenlight type set-up. Like seeing no RTS or Platformers as I hate voting them down as they're not for me. :|

Kujel Selsuru
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If valve really cared about their fellow developers they'd add a filter option so your feed doesn't come up with genres you don't like or only comes up with genres you do like. Sadly valve doesn't give a damn about anyone but gabe :(

Josh Fairhurst
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We're struggling with Greenlight as well with Saturday Morning RPG and are at a point where we just don't feel like we'll ever be able to make it on the platform. The first day of Greenlight we got close to 8,000 "yes" votes, this was with us periodically showing up on the front page - after three days we got pushed to the last page of games and have never surfaced again. Over the next 160 odd days we've only accumulated 1,000 additional "yes" votes.

The audience for Saturday Morning RPG exists and I think we'd sell well on Steam - I just don't think our audience is the kind that spends time filtering through games on Greenlight. We're primarily targeted at 25 - 35 year old gamers - I fall in that range and when I sit down to game, I sit down to game, not to vote for stuff on Greenlight. I'm making an assumption here, but I think most gamers in that age range don't have the ample free time required to sift through Greenlight. I'd like to see a breakdown of what kind of users are actually using Greenlight. What age are they on average? What are their genre preferences? I truly don't think Greenlight's userbase is representative of the entire Steam userbase.

Also, in order to hit the top 10, you currently need roughly 40,000 "yes" votes. That's a number that will be insanely hard for niche games to hit - especially if they don't have any kind of name recognition.

Aaron San Filippo
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Hey, I played this at PAX! It was a great game, and another great example of of Greenlight is totally failing when it comes to great niche products.

James Yee
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Wait? Is that the same Saturday Morning RPG that is on iOS? If so I didn't even know you guys were coming to PC where I could actually play it! :)

Michael Prideaux
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From what I'v seen of Mutant Mudds It seems like a game I would enjoy. I have just yet to come across a situation where I would have bought it.
I can understand instantly how the game would have been appreciated on other platforms, however from what I have seen from Greenlight the community seems generally more hostile towards 2D platformers. I believe Mutant Mudds to be a good game but from what I have seen from the videos on Greenlight it could have caused voters to shrug it off as just another platformer.
I assume that many of Greenlight users are quick judges since they have such a large catalog of games to go through, so striking visuals or at least baiting the users interest to watch more are the second priority next to getting popular people to try pull votes for you.

Edit: I would also add that flash games are very common platforms so many PC gamers could possibly be desensitized or more negative to platformers.

Michael Joseph
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good point.

If you need Steam to be successful then your game will have problems getting on it. But if your game does not need Steam, it WILL get on Steam.

Michael Prideaux
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I wouldn't agree to that myself, for instance multiplayer focused games that aren't free 2 play (like Lead and Gold, Shattered Horizon, and maybe the more recent Ravaged)focused I would take a guess at most of them failing with out Steam. Steam supports many of these Multiplayer games with it's free weekends which catch there massive users bases eye frequently.

Michael Joseph
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Interesting choices. I looked at Lead and Gold, Ravaged and Shattered Horizon and for the most part these games have near AAA production values and do a good job of standing out from the crowd of indie stuff trying to make it onto Steam these days. Irrespective of how fun the (largely unoriginal) gameplay is, the visuals and polish they exhibit scream "play me!" to all the teenaged boys.

Frankly I cannot imagine these games not _easily_ getting accepted to Steam. And that same sexy exterior that gets them on Steam I think also allows them to succeed (albeit not as easily) without Steam.

In any case, I'm not declaring any immutable law. I only looked at Mutant Mudds briefly and at first glance it looks like an adequate and competently crafted Super Mario Bros style platformer. But "adequate" is almost a four letter word.

Why is Steam not accepting more games that are merely adequate is maybe the question Jools should be asking?

p.s. Earlier I did miss the bit in Mudds where the player is able to jump into the background of the world and play there as well. That is a novel element that makes it more than "merely adequate" in my book.

John Robertson
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I'm not a developer myself, but I was excited when greenlight came out. I'm disappointed that it's turned into another channel for devs to swim upstream in a vain attempt to reach Steam. Clearly, Valve has an unprecedented market force in the digital distribution age and should adapt accordingly. I'm only on the periphery of the industry, but your perspective is insightful and mirrors concerns I've heard elsewhere.

Anyhow, I bought Mutant Mudds awhile back on Desura and have loved it. I would be remiss if I didn't take the opportunity to tell you so directly.

Thomas Happ
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So, Steam is impossible to get onto. Nintendo will put your game in their store but not pay you unless you make a certain number of sales. Microsoft has lost interest in indies (at least those that don't have the backing of a publisher to go on XBLA). I wonder how are things looking on the Sony side . . .

Christian Nutt
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Threshold for Nintendo no longer exists:

http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/189180/Nintendos_indies_guy_te
lls_you_how_to_get_your_games_approved.php

Thomas Happ
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How did I miss the news about the threshold? Time to become a licensed developer?

James Yee
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Don't forget even Gabe says that Greenlight isn't working out how they wanted it to. Hence the previously mentioned storefront hopes.

Ivo Goncalves
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Steam is impossible to get onto? Maybe if you have a game that no one wants to BUY. Have you considered this? When niche strategy games like Eador can get to Steam via Greenlight while a generic, barebone platformer can't that is saying something and, believe me, it's that democracy works most of the time.

sean lindskog
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I'm in the greenlight race too with my game, Salvation Prophecy. It's a very different type of game (3D sci-fi action RPG), but beyond that there are a number of similarities:
- released just prior to the launch of greenlight
- has a very similar split of yes/no votes
- was in the process of steam submission when greenlight launched (I never got a formal acceptance or rejection, and I guess they abandoned the submission when greenlight launched)

Salvation Prophecy is closer - I've hit a high-water mark of rank 17, and that's where the game stands currently. But each cycle, I keep getting passed by games which often have these sudden huge trajectories upwards in the rankings. (The private dev stats show you graphs of the #20, #15, #10, and #5 game.)

Agreed with Josh, 40k-45k yes votes seems about right for breaking the top 10.

Looking at games which get greenlit, many of them have either thriving communities, strong launch hype, or successful crowdfunding campaigns to push views to their greenlight page. So pushing traffic to your greenlight page seems key. Of course, that can be hard to do with already released games. Everyone on greenlight likely gets a similar number of people who just browse through the games and vote. To rise to the top, you need an extra push.

Publicizing your game, and building a community has always been important. And most indie devs (myself included) are bad at this. Before greenlight, I would have said that making a great game was more important than publicity. Now, with greenlight guarding the gate for the major PC distribution channel, I think the opposite - publicity is now the #1 factor in the financial success of your game.

James Yee
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This your game? http://www.salvationprophecy.com/

I'm trying to figure out what it is. It kinda is my thing but not sure. Kinda hard to figure out from my quick look at work. Will have to explore more when I get home. :)

sean lindskog
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Yep, that's it.
I don't want to hijack this thread to talk about how my game plays, but if you have any questions, just drop by the forums James.

tony oakden
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"Publicizing your game, and building a community has always been important." This is just not true. In fact it's only been in the last five to ten years that the onus has shifted onto the developer to publicise and support their products before a publisher or distributor will even touch it. Prior to that publishers did all that work and left the devs to concentrate on making great games. This industry has turned to s**t :(

Ivo Goncalves
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Haha, "this industry has turned to s**t"? We are under an indie renaissance allowing all sorts of games but because you have to get your hands dirty and do some non-gaming development work, you call it turning "into s**t"? No publisher would ever touch your game back then unless you were already known, and they certainly won't touch it now. A publisher does not part with their money unless there's a guarantee they will see a large return ASAP.

Guess what? If you agree with any of this drivel of an "article" no publisher would give you the time of the day.

sean lindskog
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One odd thing about greenlight - this round they greenlit18 games. But my game only rose 9 ranks. So they obviously aren't just taking the games at the top of the list. In fact, only half were (9 of 18). Does anyone understand how Greenlight picks their games? I would have much rather rose 18 ranks than 9.

E Zachary Knight
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I believe Valve tried to make it clear that they weren't just going to Greenlight the top games. Greenlight was meant to help them find games they might not have heard of or weren't sure of the market potential of. So while they have been grabbing a lot of top vote getters, they are looking at other rankings.

Xavier Sythe
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@Jools Watsham From experience, Linux-compatible Greenlight games that are, quite frankly, barely mediocre, are significantly more likely to be approved by Valve than non-Linux games.
As well, the Humble Bundle team will NOT reach out to you, you'll need to contact them.

Thomas Happ
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Hmm, this could be a relatively low cost way to get Greenlit provided your game can be ported to Linux . . . it will depend a lot on the language/libraries used.

Aaron San Filippo
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I wouldn't count on it. Our game has announced Linux support, it's on the page. It doesn't give you a free pass.

Ivo Goncalves
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Your game, Aaron San Filippo, also looks targeted at mobile, touch-screen devices, not the PC platform. Is it a wonder why it's not rocking the charts? Have you considered that maybe your expectations are rather high and that you should either keep working on ways to get people interested in your game or simply give up? A game like yours requires a lot of effort put into showing why it's a worthy addition to the PC line. Competition is huge and if you want to stand out you have to work your soul into it, not complaining that Greenlight doesn't work.

Dave Reed
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Sadly, a lot of the more active Greenlight voters seem to behave quite idiotically. They'll auto-downvote anything that's been on a mobile platform, as they believe that makes a game 'not Steam-worthy'. But they'll upvote zombies, voxels, memes, and game concepts for which development has barely started...

With such a tiny percentage of Greenlight games being greenlit, and probably more indie titles still bypassing greenlight than struggling through it, I find the system quite insulting to developers. It's a real shame that the PC, with Valve's near-monopoly on game distribution, has now become one of the most indie-hostile platforms out there. There's something quite wrong when you can get a game out on a Nintendo platform, but are kept locked outside of Steam's tightly locked gates.

Christiaan Moleman
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I don't think Greenlight users object to something being on other platforms so much as they object to lazy ports. They want a PC (or Mac/Linux) version that has been made with care and will downvote* anything less.

There are some obvious red flags that you want to avoid:

It's a really bad idea to use the same trailer for PC as you use for iOS/Android... If you can't even be bothered to make a PC-specific trailer this does not bode well for how much effort you are putting into porting.

Cover image thumbnails that look like iPhone icons are unwise also, because the initial reaction is likely to be "Oh, shovelware", justified or not.

It's also worth noting that most bite-sized games on PC are freeware...

* putting aside the fact that a downvote isn't really a downvote etc etc

Bruno Xavier
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I agree with Christiaan here. My profile there is one with most voting actions, I've been voting games almost every day there since day one.
I am glad I could help with my vote all the greenlit games and, when I vote 'no' is simply because I don't want to play it, not mean I think it should not get onto Steam. Ad I think most ppl vote just that way too.

At other side of the moon, I have a concept page there too. It drives not even close traffic as for the real race there. My project has just entered production and all I have there are a few screenshots. Game is sitting now at 93% positive votes and 4-5 stars rating.
No video, just a bunch of screens and description, so I don't think they do blind vote... Voters really actually WILL read all descriptions and check what others are saying about it and also will investigate about you and your project.
And most of the time if the game is a port or LOOK like a mobile game they'll vote no.

But I desagree about the iOS thumbs, I did it just cause I like the round borders. Once they see the page they know it has nothing to do with a mobile game.

Jeremy Reaban
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I think part of the thing is that retro themed platformers are to indie games what the FPSes are to AAA games. There are just so many of them.

Reinhard Pollice
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Yeah, you are right. The system brings strange games on Steam and a lot of good games dont see a Steam release because of that.
But I understand Valves reasoning. They simply cannot deal with everybody. And a new account means a lot of work for them. So the alternative is to skip greenlight and go with established accounts. There are fair folks out there that dont offer traditional and unfair royalty models.

Justin LeGrande
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This is ridiculous, how can Mutant Mudds not be greenlighted yet? I'm going to go vote Yes for it on Steam right now. I've only played the demo on the 3DS, but I enjoyed it thoroughly several times.

It might be having trouble because the gameplay experience does lend itself better to the 3DS than to a monitor... but that doesn't stop MM from being a nice throwback in time anyways!

Ivo Goncalves
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If you haven't even bothered to buy the game on the system it was specifically designed for, why would you or anyone else buy it for a system that has a million of other, better platformers? Are we all forgetting that the new Giana Sisters game was greenlit rather quickly? Why? Because people know it's a much better game than what Mutant Mudds ever aspired to be.

Rachel Presser
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Oh, the wrathful futility of Greenlight. I could rant about it ALL day. It would be a rant longer than The Iliad combined with the Internal Revenue Code. In large print. But I digress.

The old way of doing things on Steam had its downsides, we got emails just like the one you got for why they wouldn't accept Al Emmo and the Lost Dutchman's Mine. You'd often get a vague non-answer for why they didn't want your game-- apparently things like strong Metacritic scores and favorable reviews across the board didn't matter.

Then enter Greenlight. It sounds nice in theory-- the fans decide what they play and see on Steam, right? In practice it's like nailing Jello to a wall.

The downvote feature is just pointless. If someone isn't interested in a game, logic would dictate they wouldn't vote on it. But for some reason you can not only downvote, but there's an "Ask Me Later" button. Again, what's the point of that?!

Like Dave Reed said above, the most active Greenlight voters also tend to vote for only a few types of games/subject matter. Thinking of the indie games that got their breakout *because* of the viral exposure received via Steam like Analogue: A Hate Story and The Binding of Isaac? I'm more than willing to bet those games and many other titles that managed to slip through the cracks in the old days, would be languishing in Greenlight like many other great games.

And what about the incomplete games whose Kickstarters failed...mine got almost 200% of its goal (six figure range, too) and yet we're still basically told our game's not good enough??

And most of all, a majority of indies are small teams. We typically don't have dedicated marketing people trying to rally votes 24/7 and get more exposure to the game. We're spread so thin as it is-- yes, devs must pimp out their games, it's all part of the rules. But the extent to which you need to do it in Greenlight is just ridiculous. Then you get the votes and for what? More games to show up and bury yours so you're back to square one. It's just plain horrendous for discoverability and I am BEGGING da G man to make it a Red Light!

Trust me, you're not alone in this!

James Yee
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Do you think the proposed Storefronts ideas where lots of us will be able to curate our stores will help?

For instance I don't do platformers or RTS but I'd say that up front so if you were following my store you wouldn't see those games and hence hopefully vote up more games you wouldn't have seen otherwise?

Also Which Kickstarter did you do? (I do try to keep up with them all as it is what my blog is about. :) )

Rachel Presser
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That would be Mage's Initiation: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2112639455/mages-initiation-a
-classic-sierra-style-adventure

It was a long and awesome thrill ride that was a HUGE learning experience for my entire team.

There's some other Kickstarter successes that were Greenlit, like Asylum and the Leisure Suit Larry remake. But I find it very odd that Death Inc and Interstellar Marines both had failed Kickstarters yet got Greenlit. Mage's Initiation was relatively close to their final numbers too-- over 3,000 backers and $125K-- big difference was our campaign ended in successful funding.

Don't get me wrong, I have nothing but well wishes for those devs and I hope they get to make the games they set out to make-- but I gotta be honest, it feels like a huge slap in the face to see that. We have the funds to make our game now! Almost twice what we asked for better yet, so we can now ensure Mage's Initiation to is going to knock your proverbial socks off Up To Eleven, and our team is comfortably fed with enough money for our kick-ass merchandising. So...to see games that made less than half their Kickstarter goals, not receive any funding in the process, then get Greenlit? While a near 200%-er languishes at 35% of the necessary votes needed just to get into the Top 100. Once again, all due respect to those devs, but it boggles my mind. Is it because our backers just didn't vote while theirs did? After all, we had roughly the same amount as those campaigns I mentioned; including on even keel with Asylum who also succeeded! Or are/were there too many submissions ahead of us so we keep getting crushed in that race to the Top 100? We may never know.

The storefront API option has some excellent points which I'd hope would resolve these issues, providing that the same security and convenience are kept in check; and that customers don't get the plug pulled on them if the storefront goes defunct or what have you. And yes, catering to a genre, subject matter type, etc. would be a great way to expose games to the right audiences (like an adventure-only storefront for instance.)

Steam needs SOME curation-- mobile market type anarchy isn't the answer, but while the old way of doing things was frustrating for devs all around? You could get in through the backdoor if you were lucky (or an IGF or BAFTA winner.) Greenlight may have had good intentions, but was horrifically executed.

James Yee
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Ah hah! I knew that game looked familiar! I have a half-completed interview with you guys for the Kickstarter Conversations blog! Looks like multiple members of your team were going to answer but only Daniel actually filed anything out. Good to see you doubled your goal! :)

That said yeah, WTH is up with Greenlight when a project like yours don't get Greenlit but failed KSers do?!?

Rachel Presser
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Ah yes, my bad! I thought your name looked familiar :) Then again, we were getting kinda bombarded with interviews at the time, and I was basically running around like a madwoman trying to keep order haha.

Indeed, Greenlight makes absolutely no sense and the Kickstarter aspect just boggles the mind. Taking Asylum for instance (which BTW, is going to be an awesome game!) they got 12 more backers than we did, and their Kickstarter was also a success. Did 12 extra votes make the difference for getting in? I hear from other devs that other things are supposed to factor in, like the amount of favorites and how active your comment section is. According to the Mage's Initiation Greenlight stats, we've been languishing there for 61 days and have 10% of the average followers of the Top 50 and more no votes than yes votes. (And this is in spite of many adventure games both new and old already being prominently available on Steam.) That's...encouraging.

This is why there needs to be an adventure shop on Steam! There's so much that could be done for the genre if we could just freakin use it.

James Yee
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*Chuckles*

No worries, I know exactly what Kickstarters go through. In fact I'll be starting one myself soon. :)

That said I do hope the stores help. I'd love to see an adventure game store and a "Roguelike" store and the like. More Genre and taste specific like a Sci-fi or fantasy theme as well. :)

Bruno Xavier
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I can't see why you think kickstarter should dictate who is greenlit.
Interstellar Marines are building community for the last 7 years or so.

Rachel Presser
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Perhaps their community was more active in Greenlight voting than the adventure community, which Himalaya/AGDI has rallied for over a decade?

Kickstarter results shouldn't dictate the system, but given how many Kickstarted games got Greenlit or are sitting in the queue: wouldn't a successful campaign mean higher likelihood of a finished game that will make Steam money if that's what Valve is concerned with?

Bruno Xavier
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I think Inters.Marine won't ever be released, they lost most of their team members, there are only the 2 founders still working on it. Maybe their community did an last effort to greenlit the game as desperate move to help them get the team back and release the game finally after so many years waiting.

And, about Valve's concerns, I really don't think their interests with Greenlight are about money.
Greenlight came to life simply because they had to stop wasting time and resources on games submissions. It is not the 'real business' on Steam you know. Valve pretty much see it all as a charity move helping feed a little the dreams of small devs, just to have them feel better about themselves.

Bob Johnson
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Interesting stuff. Strange to hear Valve talk about open platforms and knock companies like Apple and consoles for their "closed" platforms and yet one can't get their game on Steam and can on other platforms.

Kujel Selsuru
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Gabe Newel is actually a big hipocrite, which is only one of the problems I have with the guy, and steam is a monopoly on PC making it just as closed a platform as consoles for game developers :(

Dane MacMahon
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I'm a PC only gamer and looked at Mutant Mudds but voted no. My reasons were that I'm mostly into FPS, RPG and strategy games, which I think is typical of PC gamers. I do have some indie platformers that remind me of my early NES days, but usually I never end up playing them, which directly resulted in me telling myself not to buy any more.

I do think there is a large and growing audience for these types of games on PC though, and I do hope you break through eventually. The fact Valve sells Offspring Fling! but not your game is a little strange.

Michael Joseph
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Free 2D Platformer Game Idea:

You're avatar is say... Billy. Billy has nothing to do today. But Billy's brother has come home from a trip to Gonzola and has a bright idea. He decides today he's going to follow you (Billy) around and make you topple turtles and walking mushrooms (or whatever). Billy doesn't want to but his looming, towering big brother demands it. I don't know how it plays out. Billy is toppling all these turtles and mushrooms and the big brother is always there with him.. watching... threatening... "making" him do these awful things in the peaceful land of Kroopala.

Anyway kind of puts a different slant on the notion of killing baddies in a typical platformer to save a princess\the world. And maybe some novel mechanics can be created revolving around defying the ever persistent watcher/enforcer/driver character.

Subject matter is probably too dark. lol. But hey, there was the Binding of Isaac! Maybe someone can come up with a clever way to portray this sort of big brother bullying / pressure in a way that is not too depressing and dark and in the process inspire some younger persons to follow their own bright guiding lights.

p.s. you've probably guessed what incited this particular idea.

Andrej Levenski
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Same problem with my game Gas Guzzlers: Combat Carnage: http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=93045414
Current stats:
#92 Of 1,200 (lowest rank 70)
Total Unique visitors: 34,018 In 232 days on Greenlight.
'Yes' Votes 15,589 (54% of total). Good percent of yes votes but low visitor count.
The system obviously does not work well.

Rachel Presser
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If it makes you feel any better, Mage's Initiation sits at 35% of the way to the Top 100, and we also have 35% 'yes' votes (a little over 5,000 of them.) Feels weird and insulting to see considering we got over 3,000 people who pledged their hard-earned money to see our game get finished and with a significant level of gloss added, and we successfully received that dough no less.

Apparently Greenlighters hate adventure games, despite 4 prominent ones getting Greenlit that I am aware of, not to mention the entire Daedalic catalog up there for sale and they don't have to suffer the indignity of putting trousers on an elephant, I mean, submitting a game through this godawful service...

Kujel Selsuru
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Based on what I've seen steam greenlight is a complete failure, too many good games that have done well on other platforms can't seem to get through greenlight.

I was skeptical of greenlight when it was first announced and sadly valve disappointed me yet again :(

Justin Sawchuk
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Greenlight is basically a popularity contest, look at the yogcast game they didnt even release the game yet it and it got greenlight (I think it was one the first to get greenlight).

Nick McKergow
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Pretty depressing turn of events. Seems to mirror what happens in other user-moderated portals. Things that are new or unique struggle to gain popularity and are pushed aside in favor of content that satisfies trends. Shovel Knight (a game I would say is similar in audience) was barely accepted by greenlight, despite having a legion of kickstarter contributors voting yes on it. I have a feeling that it would be in a similar situation to Mutant Mudds without those voters.


I'm eager for the Wii U port of MM, as I don't own a 3ds but have been wanting to try it out.

Ivo Goncalves
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Shovel Knight was greenlit in less than one month. What the hell are you talking about?

Matthew Annal
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Nitrome have had a pretty similar experience with our retro platformer 'Flightless'. We've been hovering between #70 and #80 for months and it doesn't seem we will ever make it. Thing is we have over 800 comments that are almost entirely positive and there's a demo so this is based on people trying the game. We have a decent fan audience so we thought we would stand a good chance but this is for flash games so I guess a lot of them may not actually buy games so couldn't vote.

Andrew Lance
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Some observations and thoughts. No offense intended to any parties.

Every individual posting in this discussion is firmly convinced that their game deserves to be Greenlit. This is a good thing- one should have confidence in the work they are doing. However, every game creator on Steam Greenlight feels the same way. It bears remembering that being on Steam is not an inalienable human right. A game being sufficiently good does not contractually obligate Valve to add the game, and I think sentiments that Valve has somehow "wronged" someone by not putting them on Steam is a bit baffling. It is Valve's party so to speak and they can invite who they want. They can be as selective or open as they deem fit. (Though given being on Steam is often the difference between financial success or failure, this is decision that carries a lot of weight.)

This doesn't mean that the current implementation of Greenlight is good, nor is this meant to dismiss the issues here. Valve themselves have talked about a future state where they are no longer the gatekeepers. Steam is the only portal many folks look to for games, and if the PC audience at large is missing out on great games that Valve is letting slip through the cracks, fixing problems with the system helps everyone. Valve gets more money, game creators get more money, consumers get more good games. Win, win, and win.

The sticky wicket here is this: the current success of smaller games on Steam does not necessarily scale as more games are added. Being a new release on Steam or being a daily deal guarantees sales. What happens when instead of a game or two each day, there are fifty? If you are the only indie platformer released in the month of May, you can expect some decent sales I wager. What if instead of one there are twenty? I have to imagine that will have an impact.

I think the perception (not ill-founded) is that getting on Steam is hitting pay dirt and guarantees a certain financial success. However, it is quite possible that that easier getting onto steam becomes, the less true this will be. It is interesting food for thought.

Rachel Presser
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Andrew, you make some excellent and valid points. Yes, at the end of the day Valve is free to do what they want. But here's what I think is the beef with Valve: what is with the utter lack of logic in the decision-making?

Thinking of the first round of games that got Greenlit, they included many unfinished games and free mods. Ie, stuff that can't make Steam any money right away and in the case of the latter-- *at all*. Why would they pick those over finished games that could be making them money?

And not just finished games. Finished FUNCTIONAL games. Himalaya/AGDI's games are virtually bug-free. Yet how come I keep ending up with these glitchy messes in my Steam library? Ones containing glaring bugs yet that were too big even for the toad in my profile picture! It's an insult. An insult, I tell you.

Then letting unfinished games get Greenlit seemed to be okay by the crowd, as many more both with and without Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaigns went on to get Greenlit. I mentioned in my comments above that two games had failed Kickstarters yet they got Greenlit. The Mage's Initiation Kickstarter got around the same numbers as theirs, yet we didn't get Greenlit-- big difference is that our campaign ended in successful funding; meaning that we have more likelihood to have a finished game than the ones whose campaigns failed. Ie, a much bigger chance to make Steam money in the near future.

Steam needs some curation. But it has to be better than this godawful system that makes going to the DMV look like a day at frigging Astroland, or the old way of making distribution decisions which I can only compare to that episode of South Park where the manatees push balls around in a tank to write Family Guy episodes. I think the storefront solution, providing customers still have security and convenience, would probably be the most diplomatic way about this.

Menashe Kestenbaum
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I think there's one fundamental reason contributing to Mudds not receiving an enthusiastic welcome on Steam - the Steam community may feel they weren't the first choice for the game. Mudds already had had a good run on other platforms by the time it came to Steam. Maybe the excitement for it had already died down.

Haven Luckenbill
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"Unique publicity angle" isn't some throwaway cheap thing. Don't brush that aside like that. "Unique publicity angle" means there's something special about the game. They have some aspect that they do particularly well or in an interesting way. Really, that's the most important part of a game. You can't really get by without it.

Your game has it, too. It's the three planes. I'm sure you know that. On the 3DS, with a 3D display, that mechanic was really interesting, and made for a fun game! But you can't just take a game whose core mechanic relies on 3D... remove the 3D... and expect it to perform just as well.

Greg Quinn
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Nope, Greenlight is a failed democracy.
Our game gets about 20 views a day now on Greenlight.

The only way to really get voted on now is to drive a large existing customer base to vote for your game, or do some serious marketing.

New games get a little more exposure, but to the average indie still trying to get on, there is minimal exposure.
Steam should put some featured random Greenlight games in the daily feature window, to give some more exposure.

Haven Luckenbill
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Greenlight is not a PR campaign and you can't treat it as such. You still have to market and promote your game; people won't just find it on their own. That's just reality. It's the same as Kickstarter.

Dave Toulouse
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What I noticed from a lot of the comments on Greenlight is that a lot of players are seeing this system as some kind of "reward" they give devs while I highly doubt it was Valve's goal.

Take casual games for example, a category available on Steam. What you see in the Greenlight comments for these games is very often "oh not yet another mobile game, do not deserve to be on Steam". Well by these standards I doubt Bejeweled, Angry Birds, Cut the rope and other similar games would have make it to Steam. I can see how these games might not be the top sellers on Steam but yet they are there because there's still a market for these game and still money to be made. Not every single game on Steam can be top sellers but they can still pay for the work they require to manage.

So what Greenlight creates is a bottleneck controlled by a minority of players who are only preventing players who might be interested to buy rejected games (average game gets about 100,000 Greenlight views for about 4 millions concurrent users http://store.steampowered.com/stats). The interesting yes/no votes would be from the crowd who usually buy these games. Not the hardcore FPS enthusiasts who think puzzle games are an atrocity.

For full disclosure yes I do have a game on Greenlight and yes it's a puzzle RPG. But even by forgetting about my own involvement there are still nice games out there that would bring something nice to Steam's offer but that will never make it because of this.

Erin OConnor
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I guess you missed this article:

http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/186168/

Thomas Steinke
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Great article, I had a very similar one I was going to post myself. I LOVED steam/Valve until I started having to deal with them in this capacity. I wonder if they realize how much bad blood they are building with the development community that is waiting in line to support them.

Alexander Dergay
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Good observations about Greenlight, but consider this. Before Greenlight the submission process was even worse - you send Steam a build and then you receive an answer without explanations - Yes or No. And there is nothing you can do about it. Now, with Greenlight while it's not easy to get votes, it's still a more transparent process. You don't get enough votes - make sure to promote your game more, this work is like a training you need to promote your game when it's released. For example, Kickstarter funded projects seem to do reasonably well on Greenlight. So, if you are an indie studio and game is not finished yet, consider first going to Kickstarter, get funding to finish your game and then go to Greenlight. That's what we did with our game, Legends of Eisenwald, which is doing reasonably well at the moment (we are in top 10 with 45k yes votes at the moment). Being in top 10 is no guarantee to be greenlit by the way, so we still are making an effort to promote our game.

Overall, yes, Greenlight is not a perfect system, and Gabe Newell admitted it in the interview, but it's a lot better than it was before. I don't think Greenlight will stay the way it is right now, but I still see it as a step in the right direction.

Dave Wishnowski
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Our game, Pro Wrestling X: Uprising, has had an almost identical experience on Greenlight. We were ready to go on Greenlight launch day and the traffic was so fantastic (and votes so positive!) that we were ready to uncork the champagne. We were the top game in our category (Sports) and the comment section was lit up like crazy. Literally couldn't keep up with the great comments. But as soon as the gold rush of visibility was over and Greenlight became flooded, our traffic and vote count tanked. At one point we were nipping at the Top 100 list but now it languishes in purgatory despite social media campaigning. I fully accept the popularity contest, not complaining, but what sucks is reading comments like, "Wow! I just stumbled on this and it looks so cool! Voted YES!" Because you just KNOW that if the entire Steam community could just be alerted to your game you would get enough votes to succeed. And how do you reach the entire Steam community without a front page listing? Million dollar question, maybe literally.


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