Leaderboard: Is Steam Direct’s developer fee too high?

Back in February, Valve announced that it would be sunsetting Steam Greenlight and replacing it with a new platform called Steam Direct, which would require fees from developers in order to “decrease the noise in the submission pipeline.” At the time, fees from $100-$5000 were floated by the company, causing significant consternation among game developers concerned that indies, students, and developing countries would be shut out of the program.

Last week, Valve posted an update on the program, announcing that it will be sticking with the $100 fee and working on other ways to fix the submission process — namely, with an expanded curator system that continues to offload de facto vetting work onto volunteers.

“We’ve decided we’re going to aim for the lowest barrier to developers as possible, with a $100 recoupable publishing fee per game, while at the same time work on features designed to help the Store algorithm become better at helping you sift through games. We’re going to look for specific places where human eyes can be injected into the Store algorithm, to ensure that it is working as intended, and to ensure it doesn’t miss something interesting. We’re also going to closely monitor the kinds of game submissions we’re receiving […] to reduce the financial incentives for bad actors to game the store algorithm.”

Reaction to the fee has been mostly relief or indifference, since $100 is at the bottom of the proposed range, but it’s not yet clear whether it’ll actually keep out the exploiters that create all the noise in the first place. What do you think of the fee and the plan? Is Steam Direct’s developer fee too high?

Is Steam Direct's developer fee too high?

  • $100 is just right (31%, 86 Votes)
  • $100 is too low (53%, 148 Votes)
  • $100 is too high (6%, 18 Votes)
  • No opinion / don't care (10%, 29 Votes)

Total Voters: 281

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36 Comments on "Leaderboard: Is Steam Direct’s developer fee too high?"

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Woetoo
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Woetoo

Personally, I’d prefer the fee to be higher, but with an sizeable portion repaid to the developer for hitting specific milestones.

Something like the $250 per game.
With maybe $25 paid back to the developer for sales exceeding 2,000 units sold.
and/or $25 for accumulated hours played by all players exceeding 4,000 hours.
and/or $25 for hitting “x” number of positive reviews by confirmed purchasers.
and/or $25 for getting to 3 months after release with under 15% refunds.

Then $5 for each 2,000 additional sold, $5 for each extra 4,000 hours total, etc, etc.

Up to a total of $150 potential repayment.
Perhaps vary the fee and the size of each milestone according to the initial price of the game.
Sure, some milestones could be “gamed” or bypassed – but the whole point would be that not all of them could be, all of the time.

So a good developer, with a solid game, who has enough faith in their product to find $250 up front, still only ends up paying $100 per game and so is encouraged to publish more games. Not all developers would be expected under my fictitious system to get back down to $100, but those that didn’t would be because their game failed to deliver some aspect that any half decent product would normally be expected to provide.

I see the logic of the “we’re introducing other systems that will make some of the current crap be lost in the search algorithm and make trading cards less exploitable”. But $100 hasn’t stopped the torrential sluice gate that was Green Light, with some sizeable publishers just dumping their whole back catalogue onto the platform – because why the hell wouldn’t they? Plus it’s not one of the other… it’s okay to introduce multiple ways to make bad games less profitable to bad developers/publishers.

Obviously I’m just pulling numbers from the air. It could be 5,000 units sold, or $10 initially or $50. But ultimately Green Light was $100 and was so bad, even Valve actually DID something about it. Introducing a new scheme, with a new name, with the same flawed approaches to gate-keeping their store front, but then saying “oh, it’ll be okay we’re introducing other automated processes that will fix it” seems to kind have missed the point. Since if just introducing those new processes and/or tweaking the search algorithm is the REAL fix, they didn’t need ditch Green Light.

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Lord Zorvan

Sorry, but $100 is way too fucking low. I don’t care if you’re a basement dweller pumping out the latest NES-looking crap or AAA. If you can’t show any faith in your game with putting some of your own money on the line, then why should I?

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thirtymil

Steam really needs better search tools if the platform is going to continue to be flooded with vast numbers of games of questionable quality. Relying on user tags to be able to find what you’re actually interested in is unreliable most of the time.

Then there’s the thing where it keeps recommending survival games to me and when I click on ‘why’, it says ‘because they’re popular’. Fantastic.

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RinNowaru

Money should not be a barrier. 100$ is fine. People seem to forget that developers need to provide documentation and prove that they are in fact a legit developer before they are allowed to publish through Steam Direct.

I hope Valve take this part serious barrier

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Tobasco da Gama

Half the time I comment on Steam stuff, I just end up linking to Jim Sterling videos. I won’t do that this time, but only because the video’s content is super easy to summarise:

There’s basically no such thing as a big enough fee to keep people from submitting shitty games to Steam. The folks who are just trying to cash in on trading cards will probably see a dent in their margins as a result of this — the previous fee was $100/year, this one is $100/game) — but not enough to stop them entirely without other changes to trading cards. (Which I think are forthcoming but haven’t been announced yet.) However, delusional assholes who think they’re god’s gift to gaming for dumping a bunch of asset flips on Steam will not be hindered much.

The bright side of this is that $100/game isn’t that much of a burden to legitimate indie devs either, unless they’re tremendously prolific.

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David Goodman

$100 won’t stop anyone who was abusing the system before. Not at all – it’s a trivial cost. Trading card mills will ignore it.

If you’re not going to make a meaningful gesture in this area, then don’t bother making one – just focus on improving the curation system and that. Not this token fee nonsense. It’s symbolic, and unfortunately, it’s symbolic of Valve’s unwillingness to clean the garbage in their house because they can still milk a few more dollars out of it.

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Connor

I would say that it’s too low, but with Valve’s algorithm promising to bury any asset flips into a hell of obscurity, I’m fine with these people wasting their money in the hopes of a quick profit and seeing nothing in return.

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Darthbawl

I’ve seen multiple videos saying the fee feels a little low. But some ask that if it is feeling low, what would feel about right? That opens up more debate.

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Serrenity

I oscillated between just right and too low. On one hand, just about fee will act as a deterrent for the worst of the worst, so its good there. But there are Smart-asses (get it?!) that will pay the $100 and still produce shit. But if you jack up to $500, well that’s something a lot of people legitimately can’t afford and we’d likely miss out on some really great stuff.

In the end, the $100 fee is just about as good a place to start as any, and I’m sure they’ll skew it up or down depending on how things go.

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Schlag Sweetleaf

$

TOO DAMN LOW.jpg
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Jack Pipsam

I think it’s okay, the problem with the system wasn’t the price, it was the total and blatant lack of moderation and filtering by Steam themselves, they clearly didn’t check the games before approving them.

The approval system was the problem, not the price. I can’t help but think putting it higher would only hurt struggling indies, trust me, a lot of one-person devs aren’t not rich.

I was doing a Game Development course before I dropped out and those who finished barely could find a job, those who are making indie games are doing so by working other jobs in phone centres and factories in order to keep the lights on.

Even if they make a great game, they wouldn’t be able to necessarily folk over more than $100 to put it onto a approval system.

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Tobasco da Gama

Yup. Curation has always been and will always be the only real solution to the problems that the submission fee is trying to solve.

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Armsbend

Way too low. Raising the fee would do a lot towards keeping the absolute crap off of the platform.

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Hirku

I think it’s just right, and I’m genuinely relieved they went with the low end. Of course, I’m speaking less as a consumer and more as a no-budget amateur who still hopes to get his bargain-bin junk on Steam someday. ; )

miol
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miol

Steam should have tiers in the first place!
Just like you find trashy games in discount bins, where your distant uncle always looks for your next trashy birthday gift! ;P

And they should introduce a quality checklist!
The more of those you can check off, the cheaper your curation fee gets!
Bethesda Games Studios would set some records there! XD

Of course, the fees should also be based on the countries’ GDP, since $100 can be a month’s salary or even more in different countries, as mentioned by the article!

im.jpg
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MesaSage

.

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Veldan

It’s too low, I’m afraid it will do nothing. Anyone can get together $100 to dump their garbage on steam. I would have put it at $1000.

Like @Arktouros (are these @ tags working?) I’ve pretty much given up trying to find games on Steam, because it’s too hard (or too lenghty a process) to find the few good games in the mountains of garbage. Review scores help, but don’t fix the problem. I’ve already purchased a few games with “overwhelmingly positive” that I ended up refunding after 20 minutes of play.

I’m more succesful googling for stuff like “top 10 games” and searching those articles for interesting Steam games. I found Inside and Transistor that way. Great games, those.

luxundae
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luxundae

Seems fine to me. No harm is making the barrier low. Most purchases I make are still coming from recommendations and reviews, but I’d at least like the option of browsing a wide universe if I’m on vacation or something…

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Jeff

I am assuming that the games they want to stop where making more than $100 or they wouldn’t of bothered. So I can’t see this doing much.

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Arktouros

I’ve pretty much stopped browsing Steam for games these days because of the sheer volume of trash that’s on that platform. I mean just a casual glance through new/upcoming titles and it’s 100 different variations of some strategy game, anime game, anime strategy game, etc etc etc.

IMO they should make it so the first $5000 of your product is held by Steam and if you break past the $5000 in sales on a game then you get the normal cut/deal (or really whatever number based on game performance).

Alternatively what I’d like to see is a “Indie Game” part to Steam that’s sectioned off/cordoned off from the normal Steam and if it does well enough in the Indie Game area it could be showcased in the normal Steam area. But right now it’s just awful.

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Arnold Hendrick

Excellent suggestions, Arktouros. Let’s hope Steam adopts them soon, rather than flailing around with overly simplistic answers to a complicated problem.

Nathaniel Downes
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Nathaniel Downes

The sales are not how these scammers are making their money.

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Modrain

$5000 was ridiculously high, but $100 is ridiculously low. For comparison, that’s the same entry price than a developer license to publish on Apple’s App Store, which is not known to be a sanctuary of qualitative software.

Considering that Steam takes 30% of your revenues on each sale, if you’re ready to give up such an amount of money, then $100 is most likely nothing.

semugh
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semugh

you need to pay apple 100 USD per year for dev license.
google only asks for 25 USD and that’s for life.
steam’s 100 USD per game might be ok. We will see.

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Schmidt.Capela

If I understood it correctly, the Steam fee being recoupable means that if you sell enough copies of the game (I’m guessing about $350 worth of sales) you get what you paid back.

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BalsBigBrother

/ shrugs I just play games and don’t really care one way or another.

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Arnold Hendrick

Steam is the main way people shop for and find PC games, from AAA products to Indie efforts. When developers put years of work and worth millions of dollars of time into a product, it’s discouraging to see it buried amid piles of trash. Who wants to sell a product in a trashy store?

Similarly, as a player, when I search through Steam games, I want to find good deals on great games. I don’t want to sort through hundreds of scam products supported by piles of robo-generated thumb-up reviews.

Anyone who has finished building a good product should be willing to pay $500 to $1,000 for placement on Steam. Even a modest Indie effort that reaches the finish line should be able to manage that. If an Indie group literally has no money at all, if the product is playable and of potential interest to Steam games, a kickstarter campaign should easily generate $500 or $1,000.

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Schmidt.Capela

supported by piles of robo-generated thumb-up reviews

That specific kind of fraud is way more difficult to pull off nowadays, as reviews from players given free copies aren’t counted in the game’s score anymore.

Cyclone Jack
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Cyclone Jack

Yeah, $500-1000 is what I would have put it at.

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Cypher

They should look at the early access program too… still so much scrap that seems to be perpetually in ea! Clearly they don’t have the funds to complete the game without the income from ea and should be removed! Or failing that, milestones or gtfo!

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Greaterdivinity

If they’re going to take this idiotic approach, it’s far too low.

I still hate Valve moving towards a completely hands-off approach. There’s already too much shovelware clogging up Steam that makings finding good/interesting games a challenge, and this isn’t going to do anything to address the issues in the slightest.

I’m all for low barriers for entry leading to more open marketplaces. But there still needs to be a certain level of curation and quality control involved, and that’s simply not happening right now.

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Cypher

Agreed, $100 (£77!) Is not a deterrent even for students and developing countries! Neck I used to spend that at The Works on student night’s… many moons ago when the same amount was worth a lot more!

camren_rooke
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camren_rooke

Considering that some of the crap that has been dumped onto Steam lately is clearly the work of someone high school coding project, this will hopefully dissuade some of the shysters from thinking,”Hey! I can make cool bank with trading cards off a ‘game’ that took me all of an hour to make.”

It won’t stop all of them but its at least a little bit of a sieve to filter out some of the garbage.

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Tanek

I think their changes to the trading card system (a game has to reach a certain “confidence” level or something before the cards will be offered) is more likely to have an effect on the crap games that were just out to make quick money off.

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Tobasco da Gama

Agreed. Most of the “games” cluttering up Steam Greenlight are just pre-fabbed kits off the Unity asset store with a new name and maybe, if you’re lucky, a custom logo.

You’re not supposed to play them, you’re supposed to idle in them until all your cards have dropped.

Fixing the card drops will do a lot more to stop the parade of crap than any fee can.

camren_rooke
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camren_rooke

Here’s hoping. I got the impression that the real money was coming from the trading card scam so any change would be a good one.

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