How it "works"
Anyone who wishes to publish their games on Steam must pay a fee of $100 for submission per game and fill in digital paperwork to give Steam information (company name, address, contact information, etc.). If the Steam curators approve of it, the game will be made available on Steam.
Why It's a Direct Pain
- The use of curators already proved itself to be completely useless, literally allowing anyone with $100 to post whatever they please with zero regulation whatsoever. This is the exact opposite of quality control, and makes it even easier for shovelware developers to spam garbage on Steam than before with Greenlight. Many real games are buried within a day.
- Due to the excessive flood of shovelware caused by the lack of curation, real games often get buried within a single day.
- The $100 submission fee per game is still too small to discourage asset flippers because each asset pack costs $50 - $100 and can be used multiple times. For example, if asset flippers released achievement games with trading cards and sold them for $1, they would need to sell just 100 copies of one of those games to get their money back so they can make even more asset flips.
- Steam Direct still cannot prevent Pornography/Hentai games (which use a separate patch to restore pornographic content) to be entered on Steam as these games are directly curated by Valve's curators.
- On that topic, Valve's curators seem to only care if the game launches. Other than that, there are zero standards for what they allow to be published. For that matter, there have been many times where games without executable files STILL get approved by Valve curators (as was the case with the game Alien Food Frenzy), or even when the game Shadow: Treachery cannot be tolerated was first released as literally just an empty folder.
- Nothing stops developers from uploading the exact same game over and over with minimal changes each time.
- Direct has allowed a new form of shovelware spamming, the "Achievement Spammer". These games have little to no content and only exist to give players thousands of achievements for doing nothing.
- Shovelware games that previously failed to get released by Greenlight are being re-released multiple times.
- The platform is filled with even more bad actors and scam artists than ever because of Direct.
The Only Redeeming Quality
- It still helped a few REAL indie developers with genuine talent get their games published on Steam when normally they would've been ignored.
Impact on Steam
Steam Direct making quality control on Steam literally non-existent has predictably made the shovelware problem on Steam exponentially worse. According to recent reports, over 50 shovelware games get released on Steam on a daily basis. Valve has made "attempts" to fix the problems Steam Direct caused but none have worked for the following reasons:
- When Valve changed the trading card system and put a limit to how many keys could be distributed to players, asset flippers simply made bot/sockpuppet accounts which allowed them to easily bypass the changes due to Valve's ineffectiveness in finding and terminating them.
- With over new 50 games being published on Steam every day (mostly asset flips), the algorithms Valve used to stop these games from being seen can't keep up and in fact, they often bury real games.
- Valve's new curator tools for finding quality games don't work because the users just get flooded with requests for shovelware.
- Reducing the number of achievements games can have from 10,000 to 5,000 doesn't stop achievement spammers because 5,000 achievements is still a lot, way more than what any regular game would ever need (mostly average 20 to 150 achievements).
- Valve's efforts to delete sockpuppet and bot accounts have so far proved futile because the toxic developers can keep making more accounts faster than Valve can find them.
It is worth noting that none of those measures address the real problem; the complete lack of quality control making it too easy for anyone to spam garbage on Steam without any obstacles.
It has now become next to impossible for real indie games to get any kind of attention on Steam and now developers are fleeing Steam en masse in favor of other platforms such as PS4, PS Vita, 3DS, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch or other marketplace like itch.io, GOG and Epic Games Store which have much better quality control and, as a result, have nowhere near the amount of shovelware that Steam has.
PC gamers have also started abandoning Steam in favor of other alternatives such as GameJolt, GOG.com, and itch.io, though none of those alternatives are big enough to pose legitimate competition to Steam, forcing many to keep tolerating Steam Direct due to lack of other big options.