Steam Greenlight is a Broken Mess - VGChartz
Steam Greenlight is a Broken Mess

Steam Greenlight is a Broken Mess - Article

by Taneli Palola , posted on 30 July 2016 / 4,230 Views

Steam Greenlight was an excellent idea in theory. Make it possible for even the smallest of games to get on Steam via a community voting system, thereby allowing consumers to directly influence which games make it onto Steam and which don't. A sound concept. Too bad, then, that it just doesn’t work in practice. Greenlight has been around for almost four years now, and in all of that time Valve has done little to nothing to actually make it the service it was supposed to be.


There are three main reasons for this. Firstly, because simply trusting people to only vote for the genuinely good games is a little bit too optimistic. Secondly, the voting system is wide open to abuse - to use an extreme example you can simply buy votes for your game. And thirdly, a complete lack of quality control on Valve's part. Combine the three and you get some absolutely atrocious, trite games making it through to the Steam store.

That's not to say that good games haven't made it onto Steam via Greenlight. The problem is that too many genuinely good and interesting titles get lost in the shuffle when a huge portion of the games you see on Greenlight at any given time look like a teenager's attempt at programming something remotely functional.


Let's delve a little deeper into some of the reasons why Greenlight isn't achieving its supposed goal in its current state. As I mentioned earlier, giving users the power to decide which games make it through the system is a well-intentioned idea, but it relies on the notion that everyone who does vote on Greenlight is primarily interested in getting good games approved for the Steam store. I probably don't need to tell you that this isn't exactly the case.

For every game that deserves to get onto Steam via the Greenlight process, you're likely to see a handful of meme-filled 'video games' that, at best, completely rip off other, better games, or at worst use stolen assets. Why? Because in an age of meme proliferation and 'meme magic', it's far more likely that a game will make it through the Greenlight process if it contains, or pays homage to, currently trending memes, regardless of whether or not the game itself has merit.


In addition, numerous groups within Steam have popped up whose sole function is to vote games through Greenlight in exchange for money, free games, or other services. This has resulted in a large number of so-called developers banding together to get their games onto Steam via this method. There is even a self-proclaimed publisher on Steam whose sole purpose is to get games through the Greenlight process by offering positive votes in exchange for cash.

This is allowed to happen because Valve doesn't enforce any kind of oversight on the games that get through Greenlight. The lack of centralised quality control has enabled a vicious circle that harms the credibility of the entire Greenlight service and could ultimately be its undoing.


What's even more tragic is that when Greenlight was first introduced Valve did actually have a quality control procedure - one that all games had to go through and pass once voted through Steam Greenlight. Unfortunately it was heavily criticised for being far too slow a process and Valve abandoned the idea of quality control altogether. The results of that decision are now readily apparent to anyone who spends even a few minutes on Steam Greenlight.

A quick browse of Steam Greenlight will throw up rip-offs of popular titles like Five Nights at Freddie’s, Goat Simulator, Day-Z, Minecraft, and so on. Most of games being imitated here are smaller scale, low budget titles that exploded in popularity almost out of nowhere, but the original titles required effort to make and were often genuinely original. The same is certainly not true of the imitators. The worst offenders of all are the 'games' that are nothing more than asset packs bought from the Unity engine store and placed directly onto Greenlight.


Like many others who originally used Greenlight to find and support interesting new titles, I no longer have any interest in wading through the endless stream of awful games to actually find the gems and have stopped using it almost entirely. The only time I go onto Greenlight nowadays is if someone specifically recommends a game that's on it - I'll check out and vote on that particular game but that's the extent of my involvement with Greenlight now.

I still believe that Steam Greenlight was and is an excellent concept - it has the potential to bring attention to a lot of great games that would otherwise be overlooked in favour of higher profile releases, and indie game designers who have been rebuffed by publishers. But the execution is lacking and it feels almost abandoned by its creator. Until Valve begins to take quality control seriously then Greenlight is going to remain a wasteland of asset flips, rip-offs, and memes disguised as video games. Greenlight isn't beyond saving yet, but it requires drastic reform.

Do you agree? What's your opinion on Steam Greenlight? Let us know in the comments, and as always thanks for reading.

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DanCarreras (on 30 July 2016)

It definitely has one too many flaws, but thanks to Greenlight, my own game will be on Steam by the end of the year; something that wouldn't have happened in the past unless I had a publisher. I hope they come up with a better solution soon though, it always sucked seeing illegitimate copy-cat games come out in droves whilst mine was ignored.

Darashiva (on 30 July 2016)

Yeah, I agree that Greenlight gives a lot of opportunities to developers who otherwise wouldn't be able to get their game published. I really just wish the system that it now uses wouldn't be so easily exploited.

  • +2
Slimebeast (on 31 July 2016)

DanCarreras, what's your game?

  • +1
DanCarreras (on 05 August 2016)

Slimebeast: http://www.twixelgame.com :)

  • 0
ktay95 (on 31 July 2016)

Harsh words coming from somebody on VGChartz :P

Machina (on 01 August 2016)

Not something he can do anything about though.

  • 0
think-man (on 30 July 2016)

Seeing 100's of rpg maker games on steam really turned me off the service if im being honest.

Proxy-Pie (on 30 July 2016)

That's not to say RPG maker is bad, a lot of those people just don't use it too well. I think Undertale was made with GM, no?

  • +1
maxleresistant (on 01 August 2016)

Steam is so full of shovelwares, indie games that nobody should ever buy, I don't even want to look at the store anymore.

Zoombael (on 01 August 2016)

I wouldnt even call it a good idea in theory. It was foreseeable for anyone with a little insight from 10 miles away.

toot1231 (on 30 July 2016)

Such a good idea though sad that losers take advantage of it.

Nuvendil (on 30 July 2016)

2014 called. They want their article back :P I kid, but this has been a long running problem that Jim Sterling has covered extensively. More recently, he did a video on the GoG program GiD. Or Games in Development and how it is FAR superior to Valve's handsoff, lazy approach.

Darashiva (on 30 July 2016)

I agree, but the fact that it has been a problem for such as long time makes it even worse as far as I'm concerned. Jim Sterling has been bringing these issues up for years, yet most of the problems have remained. It just seems like Valve doesn't really care about fixing Greenlight.

  • -1
Zkuq (on 31 July 2016)

Isn't Games in Development more comparable to Early Access instead of Greenlight?

  • 0
Nuvendil (on 31 July 2016)

Ah yes, true enough. However, those things go so hand in hand and the lack of involvement from Valve and general problems are so near identical I believe my point still stands.

  • 0
Chazore (on 30 July 2016)

It's not as good as it used to be but without it we wouldn't get those diamond in the rough type games. I just hope that Valve at some point revamp GL to a point where it;s not so easy to exploit.

Dyllyo (on 30 July 2016)

No shit. How long has Jim Sterling been bitching about this? Of course it is a good idea, and I fully support these kinds of things, like crowdfunding, but sadly, there will always be assholes out there that try and take advantage of people.