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The Evolution of Steam

Steam’s primary goal, along with many gaming platforms, is to make the customers happy. This happiness stems from the content Steam offers in its store. But, over the years, Steam had used a rather inefficient method of determining what games should be displayed in store. Previously, Steam had been using Greenlight, a system in which developers and publishers had a “more direct publishing path” and ultimately give more to the gamers. Through Greenlight, numerous games and products, that would not have been seen in the chaotic Steam Store by itself, had a net profit of a million dollars. Although Greenlight provided a necessary stepping stone for Steam, it had fallen short of its goals. Two of the main issues that Steam itself has addressed are that new content is not as efficiently presented as it could be and recommendations for new games to gamers needed to be more accurate.

To answer these issues, Steam has revamped developer tools and introduced several features, including user reviews, discovery queues, and streamlined refunds. Steam has also been pushing for a better consumer-publisher relationship and want to make a more direct connection.  All of these features encourage the consumer to explore the variety of games that are on the Steam store. In fact, the average amount of content purchased for each individual had doubled. Steam had also released a “Discovery” update, which led to customers spending more time playing games.

Today, Steam has introduced “Steam Direct,” a “new direct sign-up system for developers to put their games on Steam.” Basically, developers just need to complete digital paperwork, verify their/ their company’s identity, and financial information. After paying a yet undetermined application fee between $100 and $5000 for the title they wish to distribute on Steam store. This fee is necessary as it would greatly decrease the traffic in Steam’s submission pipeline and ultimately allow more games to be released and out for the consumers to play. It would be much easier for publishers to connect with the consumer instead of gamers simply finding games that the Steam Store displays. But, Steam continues to push for the notion that the consumers are always first. Steam wants developers to treat gamers fairly by creating quality experiences at reasonable prices.

One of the main issues Greenlight had was that too many games were being made and overwhelmed the system. As a result, many of the games that were produced were ultimately ignored and never seen again. The games that were selected did not necessarily tend to everyone’s taste, so at any given moment, people were upset. Valve decided to change the format of the Steam store to an open market. This is where Steam Direct comes into play. Valve has converted the Steam store to an open market, comparable to the App Store of iOS and Google Play market. But, a key difference between the app stores for iOS and Google that Steam wants to implement is a system without featured content. This discourages smaller developers from even trying to create new, innovative games. They believe that they would never be able to make it beyond the small scope of the developmental stages. If Steam continues using featured content, Steam Direct would have a minimal effect and would be very similar to Greenlight.

Although Steam Direct promises an innovative solution to Steam’s main issue, it can lead to more problems if it is not executed properly. The main principle behind Steam Direct is giving back power to the community.  With a new algorithm, Valve is promising to showcase games tailored to the preference of the individual consumer. Creating an open-market would be the ideal decisions for both developers and consumers as the variety of genres and games would increase exponentially. The ability to explore different games and genres is what made Steam so attractive in the first place and Valve should focus on the user’s preference before the popularity of a specific title.

Featured Image via Valve

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