There are no less than eight major platforms available to an independent developer looking to release his/her game to the world. That covers fours mobile devices (Apple, Kindle, Android, and Windows phone), three personal computing operating systems (Windows, Mac, and Linux), and one console (Xbox 360). Across those platforms, there are at least as many options for releasing one’s game to the public, and the number just increased by one thanks to the Steam Greenlight program. Unlike so many of those development/release options, however, Greenlight is doing things a bit differently.
Greenlight's a great initiative, but as it is for the moment, it should be renamed and subtitled for little/unknown indie developers to: 'The Coliseum' - throw your game to the lions and get it published if it survives.
- Anonymous Indie Game Developer
What Is it and How Does it Work for a Developer
Let’s first look at what Valve says Steam Greenlight is:
Steam Greenlight is a new system that enlists the community's help in picking some of the next games to be released on Steam. Developers post information, screenshots, and videos for their game and seek a critical mass of community support in order to get selected for distribution. Steam Greenlight also helps developers get feedback from potential customers and start creating an active community around their game as early in the development process as they like.
So what does that really translate to? Essentially, any indie game developer may upload his or her concept to the Greenlight program and start gather interest in it and feedback about it from the Steam community. I stress concept as the only requirements, and indeed the only things allowed by Valve, for submitting a game to Greenlight are these:
- A square branding image (similar to a box cover) to represent your game in lists and search
- At least 1 video showing off your game or presenting your concept
- At least 4 screenshots or images
- A written description of the game along with tentative system requirements
Amongst those requirements, nowhere does it list “a working demo of the game.” You are free to include a link to a demo of your game (should you have one) within the written description of the game, but it isn’t needed. So, unlike Apple’s, XNA’s, or Google’s developer programs, which require a developer to submit his/her final game for review and approval before it’s posted to the appropriate distribution platform, Steam Greenlight merely asks for an idea, something with which to tantalize the gaming community and see if there’s interest in it. It is, in essence, an elevator pitch to the general public with the hopes that that same public shows enough interest to get Valve’s attention.