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On the Paranautical Fiasco and Valve's Greenlight

I wrote this comment to reply to a nice piece Nick put together at Gamesbrief entitled Is Steam Unfair to Indies?

I see two basic problems here: Valve did not inform applicants to Greenlight that once applying they were locked into that process. This is a failure on Valve's part, and it's not clear that their chosen response is the best way of dealing with this failure.

Secondly, Greenlight is Valve's bottomless chum bucket, it's their way of palming off their originally undertaken responsibility to curate their content because they finally realised that they couldn't curate the volume of content this implied. Greenlight is a reasonable response to that problem, however much I dislike it, but Valve can't then pretend that Greenlight is anything other than a last resort.

To suggest - without warning - that their last resort option is mandatory when undertaken borders on hypocrisy. The official message, after all, is that 'you are welcome on Steam with a publisher (under certain conditions) and if you don't have one, you must pursue the last resort'. If the last resort leads to a publisher, there is no prima facie reason that this should not suffice as adequate gatekeeping. After all, Greenlight's purpose is to see if a game is worth publishing- and Valve have already set having a publisher as one valid test of this!

The only reason this would be not so would be if Valve had clearly and specifically said that once you go through the gate of doom you may only return if you pass our trial-by-geek. They did not do this. And now they're closing the stable door after the horse has bolted. That's bad business practice right there, even if Valve's reason for acting are sound. Ethics is not just about how you act, but about how you communicate about your intentions.


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