For One Indie Dev, Steam Greenlight Turns Red
“We review Greenlight votes, reviews, and a variety of factors in the Greenlight process,” Valve Marketing Director Doug Lombardi wrote in an email to Game Front. “However our message to indies regarding publishers is do it for your own reasons, but do not split your royalties with a publisher expecting an automatic ‘Yes’ on Greenlight.”
That stance makes some degree of sense; it’s likely Valve doesn’t want Greenlight to become a platform through which publishers find smaller games they can prey on.
“Valve has a stance that makes sense under very specific circumstances,” Maulbeck said. “Yes, it prevents predatory publishers from preying on Greenlight devs and basically stealing their money. But it also prevents devs who dont have time to run a big flashy greenlight campaign from signing a mutually beneficial deal with a great publisher like Adult Swim. I hate how Valve feels they have to hold the hand of indies, like they’re the protector of us from the big scary publishers. Indie devs are grown men and women who don’t need Valve to make these decisions for us.”
The worst part of the situation for Code Avarice is that, without the exposure and sales that come with Steam, the developer might not make enough money from this game to fund its next one and still survive. As Pfenning put it in an interview with YouTube Let’s Play video maker Green9090, the worry for him is that, if working on games full-time doesn’t allow him to support his family, he’ll have to go back to doing other jobs, potentially leaving games behind altogether.
But the situation seems as though it might get better. The video with Green garnered some support for Paranautical Activity, and Code Avarice is putting its effort into its Greenlight campaign in the meantime.
“We’re a far ways away from where we need to be, but this is a really good start,” Maulbeck said. “We’ve got some ideas on how we can continue the momentum. I’m cautiously optimistic.”
Those ideas include a Kickstarter campaign that could help grow interest in Paranautical Activity, and if it was successful enough, might allow Maulbeck and Pfenning to stop worrying about Steam altogether for the game and begin work on their next title.
But even if the worst-case scenario comes true — not enough Kickstarter support, not enough Greenlight support, and Paranautical Activity can’t get the attention (and sales) Code Avarice hopes for — Maulbeck doesn’t seem to think it’ll be the end of the team’s game-making efforts.
“If the Greenlight fails, and we don’t make any money with Kickstarter, then we just finish the game, take whatever sales we can get on the platforms we can get on, and move onto the next game,” he said. “And try to learn from our mistakes.”
But Maulbeck still thinks Code Avarice will have to work to get on Steam, in some form or another, whether with Paranautical Activity or its next game.
“It’s hard not to shoot for steam. They’ve got such a monopoly on the market. If it was financially viable for us to boycott steam, we’d do it. We really don’t have much of a choice. We have to choose between dealing with a broken system and going bankrupt.
“We definitely wouldn’t be putting up a Greenlight until we were sure we needed it,” he said.