Valve has finally posted the details of its Steam Direct publishing fee, a barrier of sorts to prevent certain developers from loading the store with throwaway titles, often even made in less than a day. After Valve threw out the figure of $100-$5,000 as a recoupable fee, a lot of folks were obviously worried it would be near the higher end of the scale. Internal, Valve estimated around $500 was the sensible option, but after listening to the community this figure has been brought down to the minimum of $100.
“Our internal thinking beforehand had us hovering around the $500 mark, but the community conversation really challenged us to justify why the fee wasn't as low as possible, and to think about what we could do to make a low fee work,” says Valve.
According to Valve, $100 is both the lowest barrier to developers it could possibly achieve, while also being high enough to hopefully filter out what it deems to be ‘fake games’. These are games which are made in a matter of hours, and only need to shift a handful of copies in their lifetime to make them worthwhile. Up until Valve changed its Trading Card rules, these fake games were also used by some rogue devs to farm trading cards using bot accounts, turning the cards for profit.
The end result of this is that there’ll be fewer filler games on Steam, and it’ll also make it easier for Valve to curate the storefront and have more human eyes ensuring it’s working correctly, rather than relying on algorithms.
Speaking of curation, this is an area which is also going to get an overhaul in upcoming Steam updates. Steam Curators now have additional tools at their disposal to aid in your decision on whether to pick up a game, including, for example, integrating a YouTube review of the game from your favourite YouTuber directly into the game’s Steam store page.
Curators will also be able to make custom lists of games as well, rather than just a single, monolithic catalogue of recommended games. Examples given by Valve include the best games from a particular developer or publisher, a weekly games club, or, my favourite, a list tracking the evolution of a particular form of game design.
Lastly, Valve is working on a system for Curators to get hold of review copies ahead of time through Steam, as well as open up avenues for publishers and indies to get their game out to tastemakers. “It's often hard for Curators to get the attention of developers who build the specific kinds of games that a Curator covers, and it can be similarly hard for a smaller developer to find the Curators who would be interested. So we're building a system that will make that a painless process for everyone involved, which means that you should see more useful curations coming out of the Curators who like to explore newer titles.
“At the same time, we're making it easier for players to use Curators to help them browse the Store. Since they're an opt-in feature, we've decided to give Curators more visibility throughout the Store as a whole, so if you're following a Curator, you'll see their thoughts in new places, and with higher prominence.”
All in all these sound like some really positive moves from Valve at making the overflowing Steam Store work for users. It’s difficult to argue there are too many games, but it’s certainly become more difficult to find the games you are actually interested in. These changes should filter out the fraff, as well as provide more focused advice from Steam Curators. The proof, as always, will be in the pudding, so we’ll have to see if $100 is enough to deter game makers out to make a quick buck with a throwaway asset flip.
Do you think a $100 charge to publish on Steam is enough to stem the tide of ‘fake games’? And will Valve be able to make a success of the rarely used Steam Curator system? Let us know!