Steam Greenlight is a Broken Mess - ArticleTaneli 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.