Steam Greenlight was a "quality control" system designed by Valve Corporation to be used on Steam to control the quality of Indie games published on Steam. It was discontinued in favor of Steam Direct.
How It Worked
Anyone who wanted to publish their games on Steam could pay $100 to start a Greenlight account. They could then submit their games to a voting queue by giving information of their games on Greenlight (Screenshots, Gameplay Video, etc.). The community would vote on whether or not the game should be published on Steam (much like YouTube's "Like/Dislike" buttons). Any games that the community has approved could later be sold on Steam's marketplace.
Why It Sucked
- Voting to get a game on Steam was extremely easy to abuse. Using bots to get votes, bribing, reposting the game after it fails, etc. Greenlight made it too easy for literally ANY game to be put on sale. One of the most infamous examples is Zombitatos: The End of the PC Master Race, which was published despite not getting properly greenlit.
- As far as Valve was concerned, the only thing that mattered for games approved on Greenlight was if the game was functional, the actual quality of the game didn't matter. Because of that, the vast majority of games that were "approved" by Greenlight were of very low quality. In fact, sometimes games were published without an executable file, meaning even non-functional games could get on the store.
- A lot of Hentai/Pornographic games that were published on Steam came from Greenlight. Almost all Hentai game developers dodge Steam's restrictions on pornographic content by releasing the games on the store minus the adult content and releasing a separate patch to restore it. Yet it can still be accessed by children via age cheating. Not to mention that some of them have scenes which seem to have things like rape, sexual harassment and heavy BDSM themes going on, sometimes even in censored versions. What makes it even worse is that most of them have a pretty awful or mediocre-at-best gameplay and poor writing.
- Some of the "games" approved are even malware in disguise.
- Some developers released fake screenshots and information about their games on Greenlight just so their games could get approved.
- There was no limit to how many games a developer could upload to Greenlight, allowing shovelware developers to spam games nonstop, including even reskins of the same game.
- If a game failed to get greenlit the developer could just post it again with a different title over and over until it gets published.
- Allowed the mass outbreak of Asset Flip games (called "Fake Games" by Valve) to happen. Now decent games are completely overshadowed by floods of shovelware.
- The Greenlight program didn't stop bad indie game developers from entering the Steam marketplace, in fact, it made it easier for them. Bad developers spammed countless shovelware into Greenlight with the intention of farming Trading Cards to make a quick buck.
- The Greenlight system allowed unfinished/early access indie games to get published on Steam. This caused a lot of bugs in a lot of unfinished Greenlight Indie games, with Steam users complaining that it was not a "real" game, as they are unfinished.
The Only Redeeming Quality
- As easy to exploit as Greenlight was, it still helped many REAL indie developers with genuine talent get their games published on Steam when normally they would've been ignored.
Because of horrible qualities listed above, and the increasing ease of making games with free and easy-to-use game engines like Unity and Game Guru, Steam has become flooded with tons of shovelware, adult games disguised as visual novels, and outright scams made by people that want a quick buck thinking they're actual game developers. This went to the point that even teenagers with a camera could put a home-made video with no gameplay whatsoever on Steam. The massive amount of garbage games made it increasingly harder for real games to get attention on Steam and has given the platform a very bad reputation in recent years. The low effort developers also tend to react badly to negative criticism. Valve did very little to solve this problem and often let the hostile developers go unpunished. Valve often didn't do anything about developer hostility until it reached levels of death threats or threatening lawsuits.
The Steam Trading Cards system only made this situation worse. If a game is sold for dirt cheap and the buyer sells the cards, they make their money back and the developer gets a cut of the sale. This exploit allowed shovelware developers to make a profit by spamming lots of games and putting trading cards in all of them. They also used the ability to generate free codes for their games to set up bot farms in order to milk the cards en masse without even needing to sell the games at all. Valve confirmed that the trading cards was indeed how shovelware developers made their money.
Valve announced that Greenlight would be discontinued and replaced with a new system called "Steam Direct" in which developers must pay a $100 recoupable fee to have their games published on Steam, in an effort to discourage shovelware developers from spamming games on Steam, as they will need to pay the fee for every single game. They also made several changes to the trading card system to make trading card farming unprofitable.
In April 2017, Valve had a meeting with Jim Sterling and TotalBiscuit regarding Steam's future. In the meeting, Valve suggested new policies that would make shovelware less abundant and make the trading card loophole go extinct so shovelware stops being profitable. Sterling and TotalBiscuit, being victims of hostile developers themselves in the past, also requested Valve to inflict harsher penalties against people who engage in that kind of behavior.
Greenlight was officially shut down on June 6, 2017. Rather than improving, however, Steam Direct has only made the situation significantly worse.