Valve has announced it will be replacing its Steam Greenlight service with a new distribution system known as Steam Direct this spring. Steam Direct will completely replace Steam Greenlight, but Valve has said it will still allow Greenlight titles to be added up to two weeks before Steam Direct goes live.
Under the new system, developers will no longer need to obtain a certain level of community interest before their game gets published. Instead, they'll simply need to fill out "a set of digital paperwork, personal or company verification, and tax documents similar to the process of applying for a bank account," Valve explained in a news post.
"Once set up, developers will pay a recoupable application fee for each new title they wish to distribute, which is intended to decrease the noise in the submission pipeline."
However, with Valve also proposing to introduce a publishing fee, the service could end up being more harmful to smaller developers in the long run.
"While we have invested heavily in our content pipeline and personalized store, we're still debating the publishing fee for Steam Direct. We talked to several developers and studios about an appropriate fee, and they gave us a range of responses from as low as $100 to as high as $5,000. There are pros and cons at either end of the spectrum, so we'd like to gather more feedback before settling on a number."
Steam Direct is the next evolution of Valve's Steam Greenlight service. "After the launch of Steam Greenlight, we realized that it was a useful stepping stone for moving to a more direct distribution system, but it still left us short of that goal," Valve said.
"Along the way, it helped us lower the barrier to publishing for many developers while delivering many great new games to Steam. There are now over 100 Greenlight titles that have made at least $1m each, and many of those would likely not have been published in the old, heavily curated Steam store.
"Greenlight also exposed two key problems we still needed to address: improving the entire pipeline for bringing new content to Steam and finding more ways to connect customers with the types of content they wanted."
To help solve these problems, Valve says it overhauled its developer publishing tools in Steamworks, on top of introducing features such as user reviews, discovery queues, user tags and Steam Curator lists. Indeed, Valve notes that average playtime has been steadily increasing ever since it introduced its first Discovery update, and the number of purchases by individual customers has doubled.
Now Valve wants to build on these updates by implementing Steam Direct, the next stage in its ever-evolving distribution system. With the service set to launch sometime this spring, we'll be keeping a close eye on how it affects sales and purchases, as well as how it affects developers trying to get their games on the new platform.