The $100 Steam Direct Fee is Bad for Steam, and Bad for Gamers

ffronw

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The $100 Steam Direct Fee is Bad for Steam, and Bad for Gamers

Valve set the Steam Direct fee today, and it's not nearly high enough.

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EscapeGoat_v1legacy

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I don't know where I stand on this yet and while this article is an interesting viewpoint on it, I wouldn't say I'm entirely convinced yet. There's this one line that I'm really umming and ahhing over:

ffronw said:
If the fee was $1,000, or even better $2,500, then it would force companies to make sure that their games were ready for the market.
The issue I see there is the word "companies". It seems to me to be figuring the only developers who should have the right to purchase store space on Steam are professional developers and that I think is against part of Steam's ethos. I worry that saying things like "oh, just put your games on itch.io or Humble and make money there" creates this attitude of Steam as an old boy's club where you haven't got the right to be there if you can't pony up a thousand or two dollars.

There is a lot of shit on Steam - I am absolutely not denying that. I also agree that $100 is too low for Steam Direct though even that low figure will, I think, dissuade some (if not enough) hacks from shitting up random crap onto the store front - and make no mistake, I do think it will have some effect. It's easy to say that Greenlight was $100 and that didn't stop anything but Direct is $100 a pop which, if you're an asset flipper or dev who just flings game after game onto the storefront, suddenly you're racking up some major fees and you might well be unlikely to be recouping those losses.

Steam Direct, like Greenlight, is not aimed at established developers; it's aimed at people who are developing and require a community behind them to give their game a boost. By setting the entry fee very high and by saying to potential developers, "go sell your games somewhere else before you can prove you can come onto here", all you accomplish is moving the problem devs to a different storefront and the potentially great developers away from the biggest online storefront. By putting a too-high price barrier up, Steam pushes itself away from the indie market and that would be madness from a business sense. While the $100 barrier is too low, the $1000+ sounds way too high to me, particularly as I suspect you wouldn't have to go much higher than a few hundred bucks per game submission before you seriously start to weed out the asset flippers but a more serious developer who is confident their game could recoup say, $350 per submission or $500 or whatever could still have an avenue open to them.

ffronw said:
First, the company could invest in hiring some actual people whose job it is to curate the games going onto Steam. Obviously, they cannot be expected to play through every game that goes up, and you could exempt known good actors from this process, but it would reduce the number of unplayable games that make it to retail.
I do agree there should be testing on these submissions before they hit the market though I also can't see Valve bothering with that themselves; I guess they could make it a community-led thing which sounds more up Valve's laissez-faire street though it's hardly ideal (nor that professional).

ffronw said:
Quality would immediately get higher, because developers wouldn't be willing to take the chance that a buggy game wouldn't recoup the money they invested to get it on the store in the first place.
This is just a grumpy aside but if only they could somehow apply that mindset to the buggy AAA releases and shit PC ports slopped onto Steam by bigger devs.
 

Elvis Starburst

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Valve was apparently working closely with certain people (Like TotalBiscuit) to make sure Steam Direct was properly put together and better than before. Now it sounds like they didn't learn a fucking thing
 

Adam Jensen_v1legacy

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I don't have a problem with this. Mainly for three reasons:
1. Steam is a store;
2. I want everyone to get a chance to release their games;
3. I am not incompetent.
 

DoPo

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EscapeGoat said:
ffronw said:
First, the company could invest in hiring some actual people whose job it is to curate the games going onto Steam. Obviously, they cannot be expected to play through every game that goes up, and you could exempt known good actors from this process, but it would reduce the number of unplayable games that make it to retail.
I do agree there should be testing on these submissions before they hit the market though I also can't see Valve bothering with that themselves; I guess they could make it a community-led thing which sounds more up Valve's laissez-faire street though it's hardly ideal (nor that professional).
Well, there is already a community led thing - the Steam curators.

As for hiring people to sort things out...I can already see how people can criticise it: it's going to be biased. Doesn't matter if it's going to work or not and how much effort Valve put into it, the first reaction many would have is "Why bother doing this - they are obviously going to fail because it's not impartial". And if you don't believe me, look no further than this article itself - the news that the publishing fee is set to $100 is IMMEDIATELY followed by this which argues how it's bad for everybody involved - the store and the gamers.

Adam Jensen said:
I don't have a problem with this. Mainly for three reasons:
1. Steam is a store;
2. I want everyone to get a chance to release their games;
3. I am not incompetent.
I'm with you. I get that having a lot of games in one place makes it harder to find stuff but...I'd really much rather have lots of potential trash, than let a potentially good game not be on Steam. Yeah, some developers are bad people and produce shit games but wasn't that the case at all times anyway? I do remember the times before Steam and I do remember having some awful games in existence. You know what I also remember? Not being able to get good games even when I knew they existed. The store analogy in the article doesn't hold up for me because I do recall how long it took me to finally get a copy of Vampire the Masquerade - Bloodlines. I heard about it in 2003 and I was really excited, it was released in 2004 but I didn't get to play it until 2007. It just wasn't anywhere around me. Now it's my favourite game of all time.

So, if we were to use the store analogy, let's say you walk in and have all perfectly functioning games and they are all good. But you can't find stuff that you will also like because it's never going to be stocked. And indeed, that's how things were for me back in the day - if I wanted some big release, say, Command and Conquer: Red Alert 2 or something, I'd easily be able to find a copy, but some smaller stuff would be nigh impossible to track down. That's assuming I even knew it existed.

In this day and age, finding information about games is trivial. Heck, it takes me less than a minute looking at just the Steam store page for a game to determine whether a game looks bad or not. That's before even looking at the reviews that are right there. If it doesn't, I can spare another minute to look up more information, like the aforementioned reviews. So, let's say it takes 5 minutes to find if a game is going to be worth my time. Heck, let's double up - let's say it takes 10. Is that really that bad?

There is probably an argument to be made about game searching and recommendations. I feel that the tag system of Steam is a neat idea but a lot of things are hanging on it, which it cannot really support. Still, though, I'd class a better tag/search/recommendation system (or something new) a "nice to have" not a "must".
 

kimiyoribaka

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Valve already has people paid to check the games that get on greenlight. Valve made a point to show them to Jim Sterling and Totalbiscuit during that consulting session a while back. The problem is they're insufficient for the goal Valve is aiming for. That's exactly why Valve wants to try options that will make any fake games that still get through fade into nothing before making money.

Also, I'm genuinely confused about what the article is referring to about the store problems. The only time I've seen any of the games of the sort Jim Sterling is known for covering is while browsing games under $5, and even then they're generally preceded by more popular games and re-releases of dos games.

As it is, most of the games I've played that really annoyed me were games that were well reviewed by actual reviewers. I don't think curating will solve the problem of too many games, because even the wholly legitimate side of the games industry has gotten too big for that.
 

Jeremy Comans

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I disagree with the article whole cloth. If you actually sort through all the new games being released on Steam each week, the number that are the low-value asset-flip type games people moan about are actually a tiny percent of the games released.

I spend a bit of time searching for smaller titles, and it really isn't that hard to find many more good looking hidden indies than anyone could ever play. And I honestly can't even remember the last time I came across an asset-flip through the normal Discovery channels. I'd only see them if I went through the complete list of new games for the week.

The focus should continue to be on improving Discovery, Curators, and making sure people know how to use it properly. Not on keeping legitimate games off Steam by increasing the barrier to entry.

I feel like people like Ron have bought too much into the idea that Steam has been inundated by asset-flips and non-games, an idea perhaps popularised by folks like J. Sterling (who rightly does point out games that probably shouldn't be there). But the perceived scope of the problem doesn't at all line up with the facts if you go and look at what is being released.

And the "too many games" stance I think is a non-issue. It seems to suggest that there should only be as many good games as you have time to play. If you like a reasonable range of games, you can easily find, on Steam, more than enough to take up all your time. That is a good market for a consumer to find themselves in.
 

Tanis

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I've basically abandoned Steam at this point.
DRM is still DRM.

GOG or console is basically how I play my games now.
 

distortedreality

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Adam Jensen said:
I don't have a problem with this. Mainly for three reasons:
1. Steam is a store;
2. I want everyone to get a chance to release their games;
3. I am not incompetent.
This. I don't want inherently biased people making decisions on what is or isn't fit for public consumption. That sort of approach is just asking for trouble.

Giving increased flexibility to curators on the other hand is a good option, as this will give customers more ways to find what they're looking for.
 

Kurt91

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I think that one thing that could probably help fix Steam would be a decent blacklist system tied alongside the different tags.

For instance, let's say I'm a really squeamish person and I can't stand blood. I can blacklist the "Gore" tag, and now every single game with that tag essentially no longer exists as far as I can see on Steam.

Yeah, that seems standard, and is probably already a feature that I just haven't been bothered to look for. But I think it should be taken further. I'd love to be able to blacklist specific games and especially developers.

If I see an asset-flip game, I'm currently not interested, and I know that I will never be interested in the future, I blacklist that particular game. It never shows up on any list, whether it's on sale or not. If I not only find an asset-flip game, but I notice that those are the only things that the developer makes, I blacklist the developer entirely, and I never see another game by that developer ever again.

The only way that I would see blacklisted games would be if I were to use the search bar. If I were to specifically type in the name of a game that I want to find, even if it's from a developer that I blacklisted, I should be able to find it because I'm looking for it specifically.

I doubt that asset-flip developers would do well on Steam if everybody could just click a button and those asset-flip games essentially no longer exist.
 

Ugicywapih

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I've watched both Jim's and TB's vids on their trip to Valve and iirc they've mentioned Steam Direct is going to have a reduced fee. If memory serves, the idea is to reduce barrier of entry for devs while putting new systems in place, that allow for enhanced curation - for example instead of the current curator system, they supposedly have something called "Steam Explorers" or somesuch lined up, where community members could sign up to try new, potentially weird or buggy, games. They'd have to buy them, but they'd have some improved refundability (one game refunded per month, no questions asked for example - I'm guessing that only applies to explorers games bought on that month, again, iirc) and the program would include some rewards, possibly up to and including the ability to get an explorers game of choice for free every now and again for enough "points". I think they might've mentioned some other stuff too, but that in particular grabbed my attention. Either way, while I can't really say if it'll work out or not, incentivizing the playerbase to create a wide network of low-cost curators so as to develop more reliable scoring seems like a solid idea. Reduced fees are apparently just the first step in a bigger overhaul and while in and of themselves, they'd likely end up detrimental, they're just a part of the bigger picture and I for one am curious to see what it looks like in its entirety.
 

008Zulu_v1legacy

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Tanis said:
I've basically abandoned Steam at this point.
DRM is still DRM.

GOG or console is basically how I play my games now.
Consoles/games requiring an Always On connection is DRM. Games requiring a Day 1 download (Fallout 4 for example) is DRM. Console games have DRM, it's just a horse of a different colour.
 

The Rogue Wolf

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Gee, why just $2,500? Why not $25,000? Or $2.5 million? Let's make it so that only established AAA companies can get their games on Steam! That'll ensure that only quality games ever make it there!
 

Imre Csete

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Apart from *cough* "Youtube Influencers" *cough* complaining about shovelware, I honestly don't see why this is a relevant problem that affects a lot of us gamers.

Or there is a guy who puts a gun to your head and forces you to buy them, but I'm yet to encounter him maybe?
 

Chaosian

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No, $100 is too low- though there isn't a reasonable number that won't cut off too much healthy competition (though to be frank, I seriously question how good your indie game must be if you are so young or so hard out of luck that you don't have a budget of even $100).
The problem is that asset flipping, and making fake games, is a very profitable method of making games off the Steam Store - not for selling as products. These games sell in the thousands for sometimes just a few dozen Rubles because the cards they generate can be turned into gems.
Any other work Valve does to help eliminate fake games will be infinitely more helpful in eliminating the source of the problem.
 

Ugicywapih

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Perhaps my earlier post was a bit too much of a textwall, so allow me to reiterate in a more concise fashion:

a) Financial barriers of entry do not ensure quality. OTOH they do create an extra hurdle for budding devs who may have interesting creative ideas.

b) Steam is building a new system with Steam Direct, and we already know they're looking to build a community-based review system, a bit like curators, but more incentivized, more social and ideally, far more reliable and relevant.

c) assuming b) works, it will make the approach in a) obsolete. Thus, low barrier of entry on the marketplace makes perfect sense.

Steam is by its very nature a secondary DRM system and its market share, while no longer technically a monopoly, is still too big for it to be entirely healthy. There are good reasons to be wary of the service, but making sensible decisions in response to community input ain't it.
 

Ugicywapih

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008Zulu said:
So how will this prevent Repack Devs from flooding Steam?
The idea is, apparently, that asset flip devs thrive on a fairly small community that takes advantage of the card system for some gains I don't fully understand. IIRC (I hadn't watched the vids lately, go check them out if you'd like more info, and closer to the source) the idea is to nerf the trading card exploitability while basing visibility in the Steam Store largely on the Steam Explorers program scores. This would, in theory, starve the asset flippers who maintain a playerbase by gaming the system rather than creating valuable content while only exposing to shitty games the people who agree to that and keeping the average user's storefront nice and clean of shovelware while still letting people discover creative, inventive indie games. In theory. Also, there's more to that, like a rework of the tag system, reprioritizing what gets put in your discovery queue and so on and so forth.

As for links to the aforementioned vids, here [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DeEyCYv_QDI] they are [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L1OyenZvskc]

Edit: Also, a little food for thought: this company [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wargaming_(company)] started out as a small indie studio in Belarus, sometimes called Europe's last dictatorship and generally not regarded as a happy place, or for that matter a wealthy one. While upping financial barriers of entry for Steam games might help solve the issue of asset flips, especially coupled with other steps to undermine the flippers' business model, doing so would not only also create a significant hurdle for the first world western indie devs, it could also effectively lock small companies from developing countries out of Steam, diminishing creative input necessary for gaming as a medium to grow. The company I've used as an example has had its fair share of criticism, but it has also helped expand the market in new directions. If we're going to have a small indie studio with as much potential budding in a developing country three or five years from now, I don't want them to one day open up Steam, find out releasing the game would cost them half their yearly budget and back down because, while they may have a revolutionary idea that would sell tens or hundreds of millions of copies, they're too scared of the financial risk that could cripple their families' budgets.

Of course WG made do without Steam in its early days, but those with catchy ideas may not necessarily have the business acumen - or simply luck - to make it to big leagues without something that would boost their visibility and accessibility like Steam does.
 

Laughing Man

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b) Steam is building a new system with Steam Direct, and we already know they're looking to build a community-based review system, a bit like curators, but more incentivized, more social and ideally, far more reliable and relevant.
and what's to stop this system being abused? I would have to look into it but I am sure that their was a Steam group that given the right incentives would on mass help Greenlight crap. So what's to stop someone setting up a similar group the dev gives the members a bunch of free keys and then they turn up on mass to give the game a series of great reviews and in turn this bumps to the front page or trending page or whatever POS new system Valve is putting in place.

When Valve announced they were getting rid of Greenlight and replacing it with something else they really had an opportunity to finally wipe away the shit stain left by Greenlight and shock horror Valve have done what Valve does best, let someone else do the work for them (the community in this case, well in every case when it comes to anything to do with valve) while they sit back and take the money.

What Valve should have done is bumped the application amount to 1 maybe 2 thousand dollars. The game then gets submitted to valve directly who then use the cash to employee someone (like they fucking need the cash to do that) to QA the game. If the game is an assest flip or bugged or just isn't of a standard then Valve issues a report back to the developer with hints and tips on what could be done to improve the game. Part of the deal is that the developer can resubmit the game as many times as they wish provided they are making actual positive changes to it.

Firstly the entry price stops the quick draw assest flippers, second Valve are taking pride in their store front by not letting any old shite on to it and third it immediately shows which developers are willing to back up their work as the geniune ones will go away and come back with an improved game. Of course the whole thing hinges on Valve actually wanting to do some fucking work on improving things.

Oh well positive at least, Jim Sterlings not going to loose any potential new content with this change.
 

JUMBO PALACE

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Adam Jensen said:
I don't have a problem with this. Mainly for three reasons:
1. Steam is a store;
2. I want everyone to get a chance to release their games;
3. I am not incompetent.
Right? I don't see what the big deal is with there being a lot of games on Steam. I know what games are being released and I know what I'm interested in. I can't imagine there are that many people who go on Steam and just browse with no aim or direction only to get lost in the morass of visual novels.