|Greenlight needs a dollar, dollar, a dollar is what it needs|
|Posted: 06.09.2012 10:06 by Marco Fiori||Comments: 1|
And Valve proclaimed, "let there be Greenlight," and thus the crowdsourcing, quality-control indie hybrid was born. And the people rejoiced as life was good. But on the third day, Satan manifested itself in the form of Internet trolls which left Greenlight struggling for relevance.
And Valve then thought, "screw this," and unleashed today's community backlash with an oddly timed (remember, Greenlight only launched five days ago) implementation of a developer pay-wall. Knee jerk reaction? Clever quality control method? Hubris by Gabe and the gang?
Those were the questions flying around the web yesterday. Suddenly the previously untouchable company found itself at the whims of the Internet. Often positioned as the saviour of PC gaming and protector of all things digital, Valve shouldn’t have the ability to commit any wrong. Well, not since the original Half-Life 2 online registration saga of 2004.
So, what's really causing all the fuss? As is always the case, money. $100 to be exact - a deliciously round figure that's begun to signify more than its actual monetary value. A class war was fuming. Kickstarter crowdsourcing campaigns to get games croudsourced were threatening with a meta whirlwind of fury. Future Greenlight venture capitalists were rubbing their hands together at the prospect of equity in trade for supplying developers the big one oh oh.
However, in reality it's not the money that seems to be the issue, but rather what it represents (though some will argue otherwise). Valve could charge twenty bucks and it'd still have the same effect. Would it? Is twenty dollars an acceptable amount of invest in your own idea, but not one hundred?
By choosing to implement a pay-to-submit system, Valve has suddenly made things complicated. It’s no longer a system for all prospective developers. Instead it’s a privileged circle jerk of indie goodness, or at least that’s what some are claiming. Money omits quality rather than helping create it, no?
Show Me The Money
You see, independent developers are just that - independent. They're undeniably always short on money – it’s the lifestyle they choose for their craft. Or at least it is until they strike it rich with their first game. They’re also often lacking in business experience so toe the breadline as close as they can. They rarely market their games effectively. Ironically if they did, they’d have a huge one-up on the majority of projects on Greenlight due to the established user-base at their disposal.
Then again, they’re indie for that very reason – fight the Man, leave the corporate muscle at the door. Yet, they’re now pushing (or questioning at least) for the opportunity to get in bed with the Man – a large gaming publisher.
Traditionally all that’s kept indie developers afloat is their creative power and time. They don’t have three figures to splash on a pipedream.
Even if they pay this privilege to, they still have to successfully market their game to convince voters to give them enough thumbs ups for publishing. The feared scenario is they pay, but end up in a graveyard of rejected titles with one hundred dollars out of pocket.
Letting Off Steam
Well, partly. For many, Steam offers an amazing sales possibility; others, it's merely a route to market. Level headed commentators have noted that this is Valve’s ecosystem and therefore, its terms and conditions. If you don’t like it, don’t submit. There’s nothing forcing you. Why shouldn’t Valve charge – every other managed content service does.
Valve isn’t a charity. Except in this case, it is. The money paid goes to Penny Arcade’s Child’s Play charity. For Valve to be in the wrong is actually a flawed argument. As a business, its aim is to make money, but as it proves here and with so many other endeavours, it has chosen the unconventional responsive and respectful route.
The key point here is that moderation and marketing are two different things entirely. Keeping Greenlight relevant is one thing and most likely an issue a pay-wall won’t solve.
Providing quality to an educated audience is another battle.
One of the critical issues people keep forgetting is that Greenlight isn’t time limited. If you want to market through the service, you can save up. If you can’t put together $100 for a project you want to succeed, you shouldn’t be chasing a commoditised marketplace. Businesses, and with Greenlight charging that’s what its games will become, cannot grow, sell or succeed without investment.
If you don’t value your own game at $100 for a chance at 40 million users, you should stay truly independent. After all with modern social media, sharing a game is possible without Steam. Sure it’s harder, but it is possible.
Unleashing The Valves
Nowadays people want to succeed quickly with minimal investment, work or effort. Greenlight proposes a massive shakeup of the system, but even with an amazing opportunity like it available at a ridiculously low price (in the grand scheme of marketing), people still can’t grasp the fundamentals behind it.
Crowd funding is, after all, about mutual trust. As , freelance videogames journalist, says, “I’ve backed crowd funding projects for more than $100 and it’s usually good etiquette in the scene to show you’ve backed other people’s projects before asking people to back yours.” This is essentially what Valve are doing – asking you to bestow a monetary gesture to be worthy of judgement.
However, doesn’t agree. The indie developer argues, “It’s a viable method for making it a major platform, but it’s unproven and guarantees nothing. A $100 expense turns it into a competition in a sense. Is that really what they had in mind when it launched. Not to mention the fact that some indies can’t afford it, and that’s despite the generosity of other indies offering to supply the cash. It feels as though generous folks might be missing the point. It’s the principle of the asking price, not the solution to it.”
, freelance journalist for RPS and Eurogamer, is equally conflicted, choosing to look at the issue from a moderation point of view, “I don’t see how $100 is going to change much anyway. Internet trolls are already proven to throw money at their own stupidity. But my issue again is that a $100 fee is a brute-force solution when Valve should really be refining or gating the process in other ways. The real point is that $100 doesn’t have anything to do with the value of a submitted idea, so it shouldn’t be used as a gate.”
He raises a good point, especially as he states that there are only 622 games currently available on Greenlight. Why doesn’t Valve just moderate the system and invest its own money?
Marketing executive approaches from a more business orientated perspective stating, “The people claiming that the fee is extreme seem short-sighted. If your game can’t make $100 being sold via your website or another platform, how will it be more effective on Steam, with thousands of games on there already? Greenlight seems to give an opportunity to developers who possibly wouldn’t have access to getting on Steam any other way.”
Whatever the future of Greenlight, Valve will be courting controversy for the foreseeable future. Moving away from a fee will be an embarrassing U-Turn. It could also re-instigate issues of quality-control that the fee may have been solved (only time will tell if this is the case). Going ahead and keeping the fee could equally harm the project and make independent developers look elsewhere for exposure.
For those with the money to market, it offers a lucrative, exciting possibility. Only time will tell what the outcome is, but it will be the paying developers who will decide the fate of Greenlight, no-one else.