Valve & SteamOS: Video Game Crowdfunding In Your Living Room

GreenlightGreenlight is essentially a crowdsourcing platform where any of Steam’s 75,000,000 active users can help to determine what games get launched on Steam, the Valve-owned video game marketplace. It’s step one in a game development funnel Valve has used to empower smaller developers and studios. Games are… well, green-lit on Greenlight, are often hyped and sold via Early Access and eventually make their way to the full Steam store.

Valve wants to kill Greenlight off.

This isn’t hugely controversial or surprising in and of itself. The revelation alludes to the future of Valve’s rapidly-growing and evolving video game ecosystem. Dave Cook explained why Steam may want to ditch Greenlight in a post to VG24/7 this week, emphasis ours…

I’ve spoken with a lot of indie game developers over the last 12 months who would really benefit from having their games on Steam. Most of them did already, and yes, some of them entered the industry using Greenlight. It is a useful launch-pad for projects and studios that would typically have doors slammed in their faces by the big publishers. If anything, it makes the route to market less rocky as long as the concept is worth voting for. By that logic, only the cream of Greenlight should pass the voting phase and become actual Steam products you can buy.

But the problem is not the fact that up-votes can be encouraged for games that perhaps aren’t all that deserving, but it’s a matter of saturation. As each round of successful Greenlight titles makes it to the store, we always report it. Here we have 50 new games joining Steam, another 100 titles, and here’s a further 40. It is refreshing to see these projects placed in front of gamers, away from the relatively closed nature of the console play-pen. This is undeniably a good thing.

valve_1So, Greenlight suffers from saturation. Steam needs a way to let their best publishers stand out while keeping the crowd involved, because the crowd’s input tells both Valve and game developers whether there is a market for a given title. They also need a way to make sure only the best games make it through the process…

The Greenlight concept is probably sticking around. Valve won’t discourage the type of feedback they’ve been able to garner in launching Greenlight. There is some speculation that the end result could be Steam storefronts for smaller publishers, for example.

So, where do the most legitimate of games market test and gain early funding now? Outside of Steam Early Access (which is pretty much a crowdfunding play itself) Kickstarter has certainly led the way for crowdfunded video games. Numerous Kickstarter projects have used Steam’s Early Access as the lure to draw backers into their campaigns, at times even before any example of the quality of the end product is available. GamesBeat community writer Reggie Carolipio explains the complex relationship between Kickstarter and Early Access…

So can Early Access and Kickstarter become the ultimate co-op experience? Kickstarter won’t be fading away anytime soon. It still offers a number of unique options that prospective developers can use to manage expectations via tiered donations and rewards, enabling them to get a head start on funding without sharing anything playable. Then, when they do have something they believe is good enough to share, Early Access might be another avenue they may choose to explore as an additional tool in aiding development — if they make the cut to be included on Steam, that is.

steamosValve has been hard at work on a Steam-powered operating system (appropriately dubbed SteamOS) for a long time now, and a public beta is available today. SteamOS-powered hardware – called Steam boxes – were everywhere during CES 2014. They’re being produced by a variety of manufacturers. A home user can even built his or her own.

Valve has also shown itself very willing to be innovative and take big risks to please their growing community of gamers. Weaving crowdfunding into the Steam experience – and, in turn, into the living room – could be incredibly powerful for game developers. It’s already there as a part of Early Access, but crowdfunding sites are left to mop up the ideation phase, the phase that Greenlight used to serve.

If Greenlight was reworked with a crowdfunding component built-in, it would be a hugely-disruptive niche crowdfunding play leveraging an environment with over 75 million registered users and counting. It could also solve a big ill of Greenlight. People are more careful with their money than with their upvotes.

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