While many have hailed Valve's Greenlight as an overwhelmingly positive influence on the industry - getting indie games more recognition and giving them a better platform to sell from - there are some potential negatives to it that are worth discussing.
First up, is the fact that inclusion in the platform is based on the numbers of votes. Now this might seem like a good thing and usually democracy is, but all you have to do is look at the current political system to see what letting the people decide everything leads to: pandering to the masses. We already have a gaming industry that for its AAA titles regurgitates sequels upon sequels and copies trends from other successful games – this could lead to the same thing happening in the indie sector. Hell, we already talked about how ridiculous the number of zombie games we have is, but they keep on coming. While the eventually accepted games might be what the people want, giving them the ultimate control could lead to developers building games that will get them the most votes. This could stifle innovation, something the indie scene usually has in abundance.
But let's give developers the benefit of the doubt. Maybe the indie scene isn't as full of sheep as the AAA sphere. Let's say that they do continue putting out new and fresh titles, innovative and interesting. New features, new ways of playing – perhaps controversial titles that make the gamer question things about themselves.
Even then though, the public might not let them through the Steam gates.
We've already seen the outcry that occurred when a game with sex in it appeared on Greenlight. While you'd be hard pushed to find that sort of title on Steam at the moment, this quick reaction to something that's a little out of the norm is what Greenlight should be pushing, not dissuading. And yet here we are, with a small vocal minority of Steam users able to block the title from ever appearing on the platform.
Maybe Valve would have let it through if it had creative control. Maybe it wouldn't, but we do know what happened with gamer control.
This segways into another issue that encapsulates the above two: Valve really knows games. Name me a Valve game in the past nearly two decades that has sucked? Now I know the reason Valve created Greenlight is because it doesn't have time to give the thumbs up or down to every pitch it gets, but part of me wishes there was some sort of middle ground. Perhaps every once in a while Valve could look through the big list of submitted games and pick five that it thinks are the most promising, regardless of votes.
That way it can still give its approval to promising titles without the need for those developers to pander to gamers.
Another problem with Greenlight is that it could be contributing to the demise of middle ground developers. AAA titles will be around forever, in the same way that blockbuster movies will be, and Greenlight has continued to help the meteoric rise of the small bedroom developer, but what about the middle ground guys?
These are the ones with maybe half a million in development funds. Quarter million. They are a small team, not just one or two guys. Their game might have made it to Steam very quickly had the traditional model been used, but with Greenlight it has to sit among the thousands of zombie slayer titles and concept games that will never see completion, just to get itself accepted.
This is how the creator of Incredipede feels. He believed Valve might have accepted the game on its own merit, but instead it will need to launch without Steam support, get a following and then get onto Steam much later once the fans have voted it up.
The final issue I want to bring up, is style over substance. You might have the best game in the world in terms of play, but if you can't present it in a way that captures the attention of the millions of jaded Steam users who have played reams of games, you aren't going anywhere. Conversely, you could have a horrificly bad game, but be a wiz at making trailers and screenshots, and you'll get yourself voted up.
This part of my argument is already happening. While some of them have early alpha builds, 90 per cent of the games currently approved by Greenlight haven't been added to Steam, simply because they're not finished. That means most of the people that voted them up haven't played anything – they've simply watched a couple of trailers.
Of course you could say this is just par for the course for an indie developer – you need to be able to market yourself. And that's true, but it doesn't mean that Greenlight is a system that highlights good games, it means it's one that highlights the best looking games- which as we know is not what makes a game awesome.
So guys, where do you stand on Greenlight? Maybe I'm well off base here, but I don't think the voting platform should be the one gateway onto Steam for those below the AAA standard.
Give us your thoughts below.