Valve's Greenlight pay-wall defeats the purpose

OPINION: Like with DRM, punishing everyone to subdue the worst offenders is not a credible solution, writes Rob Crossley

It's entirely understandable that Valve wants to add a further screening process to its Greenlight service. It needs to. But charging developers $100 for each submission is a clumsy solution which undermines the purpose of the service itself.


There is clearly a noise problem with Greenlight. The service gives any game concept the chance to amass enough community votes and be okayed for release on Steam. It's a positive and promising democratic system but, since launching at the end of August, it has become awash with spam and bad Half-Life jokes.

Initially Valve's idea was to let the community regulate itself: A hope that people will be so enthused by fantastic ideas that the junk will naturally filter down. This hasn't worked.

While promising titles such as Project Zomboid have already begun to show the true potential of Greenlight, much of the hubbub has focused on games that have been expunged by Valve. Games like 'Seduce Me', which tasks players with staying indoors and chatting up a promiscuous virtual lady, along with the meme-treading 'GabeN Land' and its many variants.

Valve, a company which prides itself on removing pointless tasks from daily duties, suddenly has one of its (likely multi-talented) employees burdened by endless moderation tasks.

So the fooling around is over. To make a bad Half Life 3 joke on Greenlight it'll now cost you $100 for the punch-line.

The trade-off is that good ideas will now cost this much too. And this is precisely why the pay-wall is being criticised in development circles.

I know of many talented indie developers who live on less than the minimum wage. It's not uncommon. I'm sure they can muster the $100 for a chance on Greenlight, but success is far from guaranteed. It begs the question: can an indie developer really afford a $100 lottery ticket?

Talented people will give up on Greenlight, which is the opposite of what the service was established for. The $100 pay-wall (of which all proceeds go to charity) will dissuade the less affluent developers who have promising ideas.

Valve seems to have been unusually reckless in its decision. It has opted for an easy fix which only addresses one element (spam) of a complex equation.

Punishing everyone to subdue the worst offenders. What does that remind you of? Valve may have spoken out against DRM in the past; but the company needs to remind itself of why.