The Bellevue video gaming giant says it will replace the user voting system that determined which games were listed on its Steam marketplace with a more direct, curated process overseen by Valve employees.
Valve is shutting down Greenlight, the program in the video game company’s digital storefront that let users vote on which games they want to see produced.
It is slated to be replaced in coming months by a more tightly controlled vetting and submission system overseen by Valve employees.
The Bellevue company, maker of video game franchises including “Half Life,” “Dota,” and “Counter Strike,” wields enormous influence in the personal computer gaming market through its Steam storefront, the most popular online sales platform for PC games.
Since 2012, Greenlight has been the pipeline that new game developers had to enter to get onto those digital store shelves.
It was an experiment in video-game democracy.
Prospective game publishers, after paying a $100 fee, could list screenshots, development updates and other content for prospective video-game titles. Steam users voted on what they would like to play, and Valve would weigh that feedback in selecting which new publishers would get the green light to list their games on the marketplace.
Greenlight helped Valve deploy its users to help keep up with the rapid growth of independent game studios in the last few years.
The program also was the target of criticism that the thresholds for a game’s approval were opaque, and that the system was prone to manipulation. Meanwhile, a flood of half-built games, scams, or attempts at malware found their way onto Steam’s marketplace.
The new rules for submission to Steam are aimed at addressing those concerns, Valve employees said at a news event Thursday.
Greenlight “ended up creating this workflow for developers that introduced a bunch of uncertainty into the process” of publishing a game, said Alden Kroll, a Valve employee who works on Steam. “We realized that developers need some kind of transparent, predictable path.”
That new path, coming later this spring, is called Steam Direct.
Individuals or companies interested in submitting a game will be required to submit digital paperwork confirming their identity. After that, each new game application submitted will require a fee — which can be recouped after a game starts selling.
How expensive that step will be is still under discussion, Valve says. Publishers the company has consulted have suggested a range of figures, from $100 to $5,000.
Valve’s employees will review submitted titles. As long as they function as advertised, and don’t violate legal restrictions or local bars on pornography or types of content, the aim is to approve the titles.
Employees this week said they were reluctant to play tastemaker and weigh in on the quality of a game.
Tom Giardino, who works with game developers at Valve, said 16 million new customers bought games on Steam in the last year.
The platform had 125 million active accounts two years ago when Valve most recently released total user figures. The company’s preferred metric, concurrent users, this week showed daily peaks of more than 12 million people logged into the platform at the same time.
“There’s just no way that a team of 10 people in Bellevue, Washington, is going to make the right choices for all of those customers,” he said.