The Downside to the Dirt Cheap $100 Steam Direct Fee and Why We Still Want It Low
Today Valve announced that the fee for submitting to Steam Direct will be $100 per game. That’s right. For $100, anyone will be able to put a game on Steam.
This is a huge relief for many indie developers. Before this announcement, the only information we had was that the fee would be anywhere in the range of $100-$5,000. That is an incredible degree of uncertainty. Speaking as an indie dev who literally started this year, the $5,000 price tag per game would have been a huge kick in the teeth for us before we even got our feet wet. The announcement of the rock-bottom $100 fee is nothing short of amazing for us. However, a lot of people have major concerns.
Open the floodgates!
Hooray! Anyone with $100 can sell on Steam!... Oh, crap. ANYONE with $100 can sell on Steam! It’s no secret that for various reasons (cough, cough, Steam trading cards), absolute garbage games get through Greenlight. Now those developers will be able to flood Steam with their crappy, lazy, cash grab games. Valve has promised some major revamps to improve curation. If they can successfully weed out terrible games whilst showcasing the gems, Steam Direct will be awesome. For the sake of argument, let’s assume the curation system will be awful. We still want the low Steam Direct fee. Why?
Driving your own traffic to Greenlight sucks!
I’m not in the business of blaming Greenlight for Intrusion Protocol’s (which you can vote for now *wink* *wink*) slow Greenlight performance. I accept we made some missteps. We launched on a Friday evening. For the first few hours our branding image was dark and dull. We did not build a following ahead of time. You live, you learn.
My main gripe isn’t with the Greenlight platform itself. It’s the fact that driving your own traffic to your Greenlight page can be seemingly impossible for a little guy. There are a lot of barriers people don’t consider that make the conversion rate terrible. First of all, the person has to log into Steam. Think about the last time a website asked you to log into an account you weren’t already logged into. You probably just closed the tab and moved on with your day. Even worse, think of the last time a website asked you to login to an account you didn’t have. Forget about it. A lot of players who like and support your game may not have a Steam account. You may be thinking, “People without Steam wouldn’t buy the game anyway.” That brings me to my next point.
There is no immediate value to voting on Greenlight.
The only thing someone receives for clicking that “Yes” button is a possibility that in the future they may be able to buy a game. Is that enough motivation to go to a page, potentially create an account, log in, and click a button? I don’t think so. You may be able to get people to create an account to buy something, but not to cast a vote they feel is ultimately meaningless.
So, why do I think Steam Direct is better?
All of that crap I just talked about? You have to deal with that just to make your game available! Personally, I’d rather be adrift in a sea of terrible games than struggling to even get to the market. I think it’s much easier to drive traffic to a page when there is a potential immediate value to the visitor. Instead of receiving not-even-a-promise that they may be able to buy something they want down the road, the visitor can just buy the damn game. That is immediate value.
I’m positive I have close friends and family that have not voted for my Greenlight. (That’s right, I see my analytics, ya jerks.) But if that same link I’ve been showing them gave the option of just buying the game, they probably would. People want to feel like they’ve accomplished something with their time, and they don’t feel like a Greenlight vote gives them anything.
Even if Steam’s new curation efforts suck, I believe it will be so much easier to drive your own traffic to your page. Steam Direct moves the goalposts so getting to the market is painless. While it obviously tears down a barrier for game developers and sellers, it also tears down barriers for buyers, which seems a lot more important to me. To me, it looks like the benefits outweigh the costs for developers.
What are your thoughts on Valve’s announcement? Let us know in the comments.