Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

Greenlight and the $100 fee

It amazes me that valve have got grief for requiring indie devs to pay a $100 fee to list a game on greenlight. I agree with their stance 100% and here is why:

1) They had a crap-submissions and spam problem. This solves it immediately. Nobody will pay $100 to submit half life 3 or a joke app. That instantly raises the attractiveness of the greenlight site to both gamers and legit developers.

2) The money goes to charity, they clearly aren’t doing this for commercial gain.

3) This asks whether the developers are actually serious about getting some sales of their game. Games with clearly zero sales potential, or half-assed efforts, or games that are of extremely low quality will no longer clutter up the system.

I’ll be honest with you, a huge chunk of indie games suck. The vast vast majority of every indie developers first games suck. My first game pretty much sucked. In fact it took me about five or six games before I made anything I can honestly say should even be considered for sale on steam.

One of the big criticisms I’m hearing is that indie developers do not have $100. I really doubt that. We are always told that indie developers are passionate, hard working, keen, driven, motivated gaming enthusiasts who love what they do. And yet they can’t find $100 to make that dream come true?
Lets assume you are a penniless indie developer that used entirely open source software to make your game, used free artwork, did all the work yourself, and you still have a commercial quality game that will sit alongside braid, frozen synapse and gratuitous space battles. But somehow you don’t have $100, and no way of getting it… really?
I’d sell something. I’d sell my mobile phone, I’d sell my TV. If I had to, I’d sell my flipping sofa. If I really thought my game would be popular on steam and sell well. Or I’d get a loan for $100. Or set up a kickstarter for it, or I’d take casual work on a building site for a week, or whatever else I could.
If it was $1,000 or $10,0000, I’d agree it’s a tough payment to get together for some indies. But $100? Really?

9 thoughts on Greenlight and the $100 fee

  1. I have seen very few indie developer seriously objecting. As one comment said (not verbatim): if you can’t get 10 people to pony up $10 so you can pay the fee, you are in a pretty bad position already.

  2. Slow clap. It takes money to make money and I can only see this helping. First day I was so sick of looking at flash games, shareware, and games people just don’t own the rights to uploaded.

  3. What makes this fee a bit iffy for me is that you’re not paying $100 to have Valve look at your game – you’re paying $100 to have random people vote on your game with a chance of Valve looking at it if it reaches some critical mass of votes that we currently aren’t privvy to. Before, you’d just submit the game to Valve and (ideally) they’d look at it. Now, you have to pay $100, get a crapload of random people with all manner of ulterior motives and shitty taste in video games to vote on it, and then, maybe, Valve will look at it.

  4. Or look at it this way:
    for $100 (which goes to charity) you get exposure to gamers looking for new stuff which would cost you way more than that to reach using google adwords.

  5. Well, that’s debatable. Project ‘views’ has already dived considerably after the initial rush of excitement started wearing off. There’s no saying how few views a project will get in a month or a year. If you still get great views at that time, then, yeah, I guess it’s a good investment marketing-wise. But as a way to get on Steam, I’d much rather just pay $100 to submit a game directly to Steam – then I’ll at least know that they actually look at it. If the problem was that they were getting swamped with submissions the old way, why not just apply the $100 fee to that?

  6. That 100 bucks still counts as a tax deductable expense, so if you’re solvent – or going to be solvent within some years (5 in the UK? Or 7? Can’t remember what the time limit for claiming expenses/losses offset against a tax bill is off the top of my head) you’ll get it back.

    I’ve got to say I was “baffled” when Valve rolled it out in it’s initial form, obvious target for spammers/trolls or just kids who want Minecraft/HL3/BF19/CoD24/Halo73/etc but didn’t bother reading what the purpose of GreenLight was in the first place and thought it was a request service.

    And that downvote button should have been a “no thanks/not interested” from the start.

    At least they moved fast to rectify what you’d have expected were some pretty obvious weaknesses prior to launch.

  7. I couldn’t agree with you more Cliff! I was very surprised by the reaction that some people gave regarding the modest submission fee. I’ve also been vocal about it in a number of site discussions and forums. I’ve even made some recommendations to some of the people who have complained about not having enough to cover the fee. With a little extra work, spit, polish, dedication, and drive, there’s no reason why any developer serious about their work couldn’t afford the fee.

    As you said, it’s good business for gamers and good business for serious developers, and of course it will reduce unnecessary mess for Steam / Valve Employees.

    People may not realize it, but the last thing we need on a decent and well kept service such as Steam, is another mess like the one that Microsoft’s XBLIG (Xbox Live Indie Games) has created. The idea isn’t bad, but moderation in some form is necessary. Gamers don’t want to wade, neck-deep through garbage, before swimming in clear side of the pool.

    I’m glad Steam has remained innovative and implemented the fee. The fact that they’re giving all the Greenlight submission funds to Charity should resonate with the developers and gamers, and it should be evident that Steam just wants better organization and also what’s best for their distribution service and the customers that use it.

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