Latest batch of 100 games marks progress, but Valve has loftier ambitions

Newell: Steam Greenlight not perfect

Valve’s Steam Greenlight approval process is a bottleneck now, but Gabe Newell says the future problem will be actually displaying all the content his company’s digital distribution service provides.

The community voting portal hit a milestone today, with Valve releasing 100 games okayed by users on Greenlight’s one-year anniversary.

This is definitely a sign of progress, but Newell has said before that Greenlight isn’t a perfect solution, and he said it again today in a chat with Gamasutra.

"The immediate goal was to give us more data in the selection process as we ramp up the tools needed to get us to our longer-term goal of improving the overall throughput of the system," said Newell.

"Before Greenlight, folks would send mail to us mail or fill out the posted submission form, hope that someone saw it and liked it, and waited in the dark for a reply. While it is not perfect, Greenlight helped us pull that process out of the dark and help with the selection process."

Though many rejoiced to see Valve opening up its submissions process, others have been less than thrilled with the fees and additional marketing work required to succeed in a Greenlight campaign.

Newell however, has been talking for some time about a future where Steam isn’t strictly managed by Valve, but an API that developers and users can tweak to make their own personalised storefront.

Long before that goal is achieved, the problem won’t be selection, it’ll be collecting all the content.

“Ultimately, we hope to increase our throughput so significantly that the conversation about selection becomes antiquated," explained Newell.

"Then we can debate our ability or inability to properly aggregate and display the increased volume of titles being offered."

For now though, Greenlight is what developers have to work with, and Newell acknowledges that it’s flawed, and not quite as transparent as could be hoped.

“Votes on Greenlight provide a useful point of data in gauging community interest, but we’re aware that votes alone may be an inexact form of gauging customer interest," he said.

"So we also try to incorporate additional information we have about factors such as press reviews, crowdfunding successes, performance on other similar platforms, and awards and contests to help form a more complete picture of community interest in each title."

That means that while the community definitely helps with selection, Valve still has to choose whether or not a project gets the green light – yet another bottleneck slowing the flow of content.

"Evolving our tools to allow us to publish more titles more frequently is the solution for the bottleneck," Newell concluded.

"We’re working on it, and the 100 was a big step towards the long-term goal. This latest batch is both a celebration and a stress test of our systems. Future batches may not be as large but, if everything goes smoothly, we should be able to continue increasing the throughput of games from Greenlight to the store."

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