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

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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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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.

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?


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.


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.

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.


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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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.

Andy McAdams
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Andy McAdams

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