This past weekend Valve announced that they were ending the Steam Greenlight program and moving to an upfront-fee submission program called "Steam Direct." Instead of the current system, where developers pay a one-time $100 fee and the Steam community votes on which games should be allowed onto the store, developers will pay a $200–$5000 fee to directly place a game on the Steam Store.

Valve's logic is that Steam Greenlight's current voting system serves as a bottleneck for many high quality games attempting to get on the Steam Store. Steam Direct removes that bottleneck and allows as many well-made games onto the store as possible.

At a passing glance this logic is sound. Developers should now have less of a barrier to selling their games, and as a result, players will have access to more great games! But in practice, it may be far from the truth. Valve's new move will only benefit a few established indie game devs and limit accessibility regardless of game quality.

The determining factor of your game's placement on the Steam Store is no longer the quality of the game, but the quantity of your cash. Valve is making the statement that taking a financial risk is an accurate indicator of a game's quality, but anybody who has ever been disappointed in a AAA game knows this is patently false.

This fee, which at a bare minimum is double the cost of Steam Greenlight, will serve as a very real barrier to indie developers who make high quality games. Consider up-and-coming game developers in college who do not have the money to pay a $5000 fee, nor the time to raise capital. They may be turned away from the platform altogether and look for alternative options, such as itch.io. In an attempt to open the floodgate to better games, Valve might actually be impeding the indie scene it once so effectively nurtured.

Not only will the cost barrier deter financially struggling game developers, but the lack of a review process will affect the quality of submissions and potentially oversaturate the market with mediocre games.

In Valve's statement about Steam Direct, they have not laid out a specific approval process, but they appear to be leaning towards a very hands off approach. While Steam Greenlight most definitely had its flaws (buying support, long approval processes, etc.), it still functioned as Steam's immune system to a certain extent. With enough cash, it's now going to be easier than ever for shady developers to shitpost tech demos and hope one makes it big.

Steam needs a bottleneck to the content it puts on its marketplace, and Valve knows it. The problem is that this new sieve they've created doesn't separate good games from bad, but rather poor developers from wealthy ones.

Ironically, the system won't even benefit those that can pay the fees. Developers will also be losing the valuable community feedback Steam Greenlight provided and could thus be launching into a financially risky venture completely blind. In the current system, if your game doesn't get Greenlit, it's not the end of the world. You can always go back to the drawing board and rework your product. However, if you make a public release after paying a $4500 dollar fee only to discover that people hate your game, that game stays on the Steam Store, oversaturating the market and leaving the developers significantly poorer.

Valve has given up trying to curate its own product. It's opening its doors to any game in the name of making developers' lives easier, while digging deeper into those developers' pockets.