Improving Steam Greenlight: Valve meets indie game developers

This is going to be about an online gathering organized by Valve. You should probably skip this one if you’re not interested in the game development process or getting your game on Steam.

If, on the other hand, you are an game developer, you’d like to have your game on Steam and you missed the meeting- here is a summary of today’s chat with Valve employees.

What’s this all about?

Steam Greenlight

To begin with, I’ll just share the basic info all the Steam Greenlight developers probably got:

Hello Greenlight developers,

In the ongoing interest of growing and improving Greenlight, we’d like to make sure we’re addressing the questions, concerns, and suggestions of developers in Greenlight. We can’t meet up with all of you in person, so we’re going to host a live chat, right here in the Greenlight Developer group with any of you that wish to show up and ask questions.

When: May 7th at noon, Pacific time

How: Just log into the Steam client, come to the group and hit the, “Enter chat room” button on the right-hand side of the group page.

Who: I’ll be there, along with a few other Valve folks; someone from the dev team, someone from the business team, and a couple others from around the company.

Speaking for Crunching Koalas- we thought it might be a good idea to attend the chat as we really like both of our games: MouseCraft and WordTrap Dungeon to be published on Steam, when they are finished.

The discussion was pretty intense and chaotic, but some important news did show up.

Click here for the summary or go through all the answers Valve employees- Tom, Alden and Chet, gave us on the chat.

Filtered chat transcript

Intravenous Software: Many people I know don’t visit Greenlight pages because they forget it exists. Would it be possible to give it a more prominent position within Steam?

TomB [Valve]: We have a section about Greenlight on the main store page. As well, we do a Steam-wide IM before every Greenlight batch.

Intravenous Software: I understand that but it’s not enough. You have millions of members and  maybe 15k regular greenlight viewers. Something is wrong.

TomB [Valve]: We cannot force people to vote if they don’t want to. We’ve had roughly 2 million voters participate in Greenlight as well.

Intravenous Software: I’m not talking about votes, I’m talking about visitors. I know a number of Devs, and each get about 15k visitors in the first week. Then it falls off a cliff. That tells me you have 15k people who come look at Greenlight on a weekly basis, and about 5k who check it once a month. Considering you have millions of members, don’t you think those numbers are very low. Only games that get media attention get any more visitors than that.

Loadus(FIN): Gabe was talking about restructuring the whole GreenLight system so it wouldn’t be so much of a bottleneck, maybe even opening the steamworks – any news on this?

Alden [Valve]: Gabe has talked about where we see game distribution going in the future. But there’s a lot of unknowns and a bunch of work between here and there. Steam and Greenlight will evolve over time as we iterate and improve the system with your input.

Pyrodactyl – Arvind: In the chat we had earlier, i believe most of us agreed on the suggestions in this thread: , it would be great if you could take a look at these

TomB [Valve]: Thanks for that feedback. We are looking into some similar solutions, but don’t have any details at this time.

Celestial Games: How does some indie titles just get through to being sold without them going through Greenlight?

Alden [Valve]: Greenlight votes give us one source of data on games, but we also look at other external information as well such as critical success, performance on other platforms, etc. I mentioned a few of those in this post here:

TOP-Proto – Dominating Studios: Is there a possibility that us developers can get access to the API before being greenlit?

TomB [Valve]: This is something we are actively looking into.

Nyarlathothep: That’s excellent news, any sort of timeframe for that kind of thing?

TomB [Valve]: No timeframe yet.

dalberts1971: Does Steam have plans to expand its service to provide users access to F2P games monetized by virtual items? Steam could sell virtual currency to users and provide devs with an API for store integration, achievements, etc…a service similar but better than Kongregate perhaps?

Alden [Valve]: Steam and Greenlight already support Free-to-play games

Liman3D: I don’t think the community should have the final word for a title to be Greenlit. Obviously now games are Greenlit based on popularity instead of quality. Also some games that are even not begun in development or going to be greenlit after and year are getting greenlit based on a Trailer that has nothing to do with the game.

TomB [Valve]: They don’t have the final say, but provide an incredibly valuable data point. We still look at the games, gather as much information as possible about it, and make a call whether we want to Greenlight the game in the current batch. See: for a short description of what we look at.

Lacabra: You’ve said before that you’re currently Greenlighting the max number of games you have the resources to Greenlight. What’s behind this artificial shelf space scarcity?

strong>Alden [Valve]: It has less to do with shelf space and more to do with limitations on our tools and processes for publishing games through Steam. We’re working on improving these tools to allow for more games to get Greenlit, but it will take time.

TomB [Valve]: Unfortunately, we have limited resources at the moment, so we cannot ship every game that we want. We’re working towards having an open platform that Gabe has talked about, but we’re not there yet.

Space Bullet: With the number of visitors to Greenlight from within Steam dropping off, more and more people are now being referred to Greenlight from outside Steam, specifically to vote on a single game. Do you feel that the votes being cast are actually a good representation of the Steam userbase, or simply a representation of who has the best marketing or can pull off the best publicity stunt?

Alden [Valve]:Traffic in Greenlight has actually been pretty steady since after the big spike at launch.

WayForward: Last week, we saw a smaller batch of titles greenlit. Do you see this becoming the norm rather than the exception, and if so, what is your reasoning behind this?

Chet – Valve: We have decided to Greenlight a smaller batch this time, so we can move more quickly. There are lots of titles getting attention, so we are likely to continue Greenlighting titles in this quicker, but smaller batch fashion.

TomB [Valve]: See

AestheticGamer:Would it maybe be a good idea to be able to sort through Greenlight titles by genre? You can browse by recent and queue, but wouldn’t grenre make a lot of sense?

TomB [Valve]: Users can browse by genre under the Most Recent filter. They can click the checkboxes in the right-hand column.

Yin: Recently I got a publisher, and I have a contract with them where I can’t sell my game anywhere but their site for at least 3 months after it has came out (it’s still in dev.) .In this case, can I keep my game on Greenlight, and if it gets greenlit, move back the launch for 3 months? Or should I just cancel the greenlight and make it all over again when the game is complete? Thanks.

Alden [Valve]: If you get Greenlit, you can decide when you want to launch. If you need to push back a few months, that’s fine.

meyer_phillip: Can u relaunch a game in Greenlight if u have improved screenshots and trailers?

Alden [Valve]: You can absolutely repost if you want to.

Trunks: Is there any possibility of splitting the games section between “Games that are ready to go” and “Games that are in development” on greenlight?

TomB [Valve]: Thanks for the feedback. We’ll discuss internally and see what we can do.

Deltars: When picking titles to greenlight, are Valve looking at conversion rates or total vote counts? ie. Is the product being judged, or also the developers ability to market the title, build a community, offer the game for free to everyone who vote for it on Greenlight, etc. ?

Alden [Valve]: We reiterated in this blog post that we look at a bunch of different criteria. Greenlight votes are one point of valuable data

Trunks: If a game is already available on other platforms, would the sales figures of those be something Valve would look at for considering the greenlighting process?

TomB [Valve]: Yes, we look at a variety of factors, including success on other platforms. See

poe: How about being able to sell our games so they appear on steam but don’t put them in the store front, just have this get approved via the community. Then you can look at sales data to decide based on more info and players will get our game on steam ASAP.

Alden [Valve]: We’re working on something like this. There’s a lot of unknowns and a bunch of work to get there, so we’ll see the systems evolve over time as we iterate and make progress in that direction.

Styg: Does the existance of Early Access program influence the way you greenlight the games now in any way? That is, do you look for some amount of games that would fit into this program specifically for the purposes of promoting it (such as the games that are being successfully alpha-funded elsewhere) or is this a non-factor?

TomB [Valve]: Yes. We do look at games that aren’t “finished” now, but think would be successful on Steam.

Arges: The other factors have been brought up, but are Greenlight votes a *determining* one? Is there one can address Valve directly if one has a game with high Metacritic rating that has done well in other platforms?

Alden [Valve]: There’s no hard and fast rules. We try to look at as much data as we can and make informed decisions. The more we know about your games, the better decisions we can make.

Ben Kane: Regarding the “variety of other factors” that are taken into consideration: are there any plans to give developers the ability to reference these connected to Greenlight? Kickstarter projects show up on the profile now, but how can developers make Valve aware of awards/reviews/sales on platforms/etc?

Alden [Valve]: For now, you can post information on awards and other attributes in the description of your item in greenlight. That information is good for potential customers to know as well.

Epsi: Do you go and look back at every titles in the top50 before each batch? If a title has a improved by a huge margin in between batches, despite having been “dismissed” initially, will you notice that?

TomB [Valve]: Yes, we absolutely look at games again to see if they’ve gained more votes or there’s more data to make them “stand out.”

Wild_2012: I’m the founder of Wild Games Studio, our game “Day One : Garry’s Incident” is in the TOP 15 of Greenlight since January and you don’t choose our game? Is it possible that you never choose us?

TomB [Valve]: After every Greenlight, we look at the top games again, as well as others that “stand out.” If your game was not picked in the last batch, it doesn’t mean that we will never pick your game.

bogdan_galati09: You guys should Greenlit more games,not just a few,not everyone could go to game festivals.

Alden [Valve]: We would like to Greenlight more items, but can’t at this moment as a result of hard technical limits in how our tools and systems are currently set up. We’re really trying to do this, and we’re actively working on it, but it hard and is a lot of work.

Lacabra: Isn’t fixing the “hard technical limits” the most important thing for Valve to be doing right now? How many people are actively working on that?

Alden [Valve]:Yes, its important. We have a bunch of people working on it.

Nyarlathothep: Concept pages have links for lots of services like Facebook, twitter, youtube etc – but we don’t have a link just to a plain website, can we have one?

TomB [Valve]: We’re currently worried about the Concepts area being used for phishing, so that’s why that option isn’t available.

FireSlash: Currently concept pages are a bit more limited than normal greenlight app and game pages. When you post your item as a full entry links and images will work fine. We currently disable them specifically in concepts for abuse reasons, as there’s no gate to posting potentially malicious content.

Trunks: When I have questions, who is the best person to contact, and what is the best way to do that?

Alden [Valve]: Please use the discussion board in this group. We try to answer as many questions as we can there.

chubigans: Is it preferable to try and keep our current Greenlight page going even if it’s far away from the top 100, or should a new Greenlight page be made if new features have been added since launch?

Alden [Valve]: That decision is up to you. If you re-post, you do miss out on any fans you have that already favorited and followed your item. But if you do re-post, you can leave your existing page up for a while and post an announcement to your existing fans and ask that they vote for you again on your new page.

uakiki: Are you going to rotate all the entries equally in users queues? :) Thanks guys for the good work!

TomB [Valve]: This essentially happens, but not all users work through their entire queue.

Ultramoose: Thank you Valve. Do you have any staff coming down under for PAX Australia?

TomB [Valve]: There are no plans to go to PAX Australia at this time.

chubigans: Will Valve be at PAX Seattle?

TomB [Valve]: Yes.

Lacabra: Any plans to give PAX Indie Showcase games a free pass to Steam ala IGF winners?

TomB [Valve]: We’ll take that data into account for sure, but no guarantees of course.

c023-DeV: Why live chats when you can ask any time in the discussions here?

TomB [Valve]: Yes, please use the discussion areas. We did think the chat was useful to interact with you all in real-time, like we do with indies at various events around the world.

Hashbang Games: Could an incentive be offered to get users to vote more? Like give them points for yes votes, and those points can be earned towards discounts or purchases?

Alden [Valve]: It’s hard to do that without gathering a bunch of bad data in the process.

Swift Creek Games: Will Greenlight ever expose item stats to us based on equivalent genres? It appears, now, that my game is being compared to FPS/RPG type titles in the top 50, but we don’t write FPS games. I’d like to know how I compare against similar titles in my genre.

TomB [Valve]: Thanks for the feedback. We’ll take it under consideration.

Trunks: How do we inform you guys of our performance on other platforms?

TomB [Valve]: The best way would be to link to information in your description.

Trunks: You mean make it public? Seems weird to tell our potential customers that we’ve sold x number of copies of our game

TomB [Valve]: Sorry, I misunderstood your question. Please don’t post any information that you aren’t allowed to.


Few important news:

  • Valve is working on sharing the Steamworks API to the public, so the developers can prepare their games for being Greenlit.
  • There’s a possibility that games submitted to Greenlight will be divided into two categories: “Games that are ready to go” and “Games that are in development”
  • Some games will be Greenlit in smaller, more frequent batches.
  • So-called “Yes votes”, are not the only factor when Valve’s choosing games to be Greenlit.
  • Valve staff looks at a variety of factors when deciding which games to Greenlit, including success on other platforms, awards, reviews and size of the community. The best way to inform them about all of this is to write it in the game’s description.
  • Valve is thinking about implementing the “Demo Button” for games that are trying to get to Greenlight.

Also, some useless and pointless information:

  • You can take your Steam Greenlight page down and post it again. (Why on the earth someone would want to do that?)
  • Games that have been showcased at PAX Indie Showcase will not get “free Steam pass” ala IGF winners (Duh?!)
  • Steam’s chat is one of the worst ways to communicate (Couldn’t they do an Ask Me Anything on Reddit?)
  • Valve is going to attend PAX Seattle, but not PAX Australia(Ohhh no! I really wanted to go to Australia to meet them! What a shame!)
  • You don’t have to publish your game just after being Greenlit, you can decide when you want to launch. (obviously…)
  • There are already F2P games on Steam. (Uff, that’s a relief!)
  • Valve should Greenlit more games. (… I think I’m out of half-funny, ironic comments.)
  • Valve has limited resources at the moment.
  • Guys from Valve must be reeeally fun at parties, given the above robot-like, corporate tone.

Yeah… It was a good idea to gather for such a meeting and it’s definitely a step in the right direction, but the execution was really bad.

No hard feelings for guys at Valve, but the first official Valve Greenlight Chat was a complete waste of time.

PS. Leave a comment or ping us at our Facebook page or my personal Twitter if you agree or disagree. Thanks!


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