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Steam Greenlight: The Longevity Factor
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Is Steam Greenlight starting to die off? Or is there just nothing left to see? It seems the community that was once exploding with input has calmed down.

It would perhaps be naive to say that any community as strong as Steam’s would ever “die off” in any way. However with Greenlight having been active for a few months now, both developers and community members alike have been commenting at the inevitable slow down of new content, unique visits and general interaction.

Steam Greenlight

Seems like a great concept right? Source: Loner Gamer

So, what Happened to Greenlight?

It goes without saying that there aren’t an infinite amount of the two basic inputs to the Greenlight platform: unique visitors and new content. In and of itself, the system has been criticized for not doing enough to keep community members active on the platform. Generally, once you vote yay or nay on a game – it is pushed away from your queue and highlighted “available games to vote on”. This means, if you don’t make a solid first impression – and your game gets “No Thanks”-ed, you may never see that unique user again. There currently isn’t a mechanism to help hook those users back to your page once you’ve made (significant) updates.

In this sense, unless your game is at a near-finished level of polish, or you’ve built up a following elsewhere; it is less likely that users will up-vote your game based on a first impression. Lose that up-vote, and it may be gone for good.

What can be done?

The bulk of games added to the platform were certainly added early on in its life. Nowadays, only a few games are added every so often – keeping the content from staying fresh. So what do you come check up on?

From a traffic optimization perspective, what incentive do users have to come back to the platform? Once they’ve voted for an item – it almost disappears. Why come back to see what’s new on Greenlight if you know there won’t be anything worth following up on?

One course of action seems to be somehow notifying users when a game makes a major update, without being intrusive; to hopefully get a second consideration for an up-vote. For example, when games are listed for the first time, it would be useful to note at which particular stage of development they’re at: conception -> pre-Alpha -> Alpha -> Beta -> Gold. That way, if a user gives the game a “no-thanks” at the conception stage – they may see the same game show up in a “major updates” queue once the developer has moved onto “pre-Alpha”. It still looks terrible? Try again at the Alpha phase, etc.

Greenlight Design

What happens when you run out of games to Rate?

Greenlit Games

Maybe in an attempt to remind people that Greenlight exists, games that are greenlit every so often (right now, there were about 10 in September and 20 in October). A banner saying the game was “chosen by the community” shows up in Steam-based advertisements for the game. Even in this case, the delay between greenlighting a game and seeing it appear or distribution is pretty wide. As of this writing, only 2 of the greenlit games have been released on Steam. You can imagine how users may get bored waiting to see their game come out.

When the platform launched, not only did it receive a ton of press/news coverage drawing traffic, but there was tons of new content to vote through. Now, only scraps remain. Between this and the “fire and forget” design towards voting for games, it’s no surprise most developers have seen their daily unique visits drop to a fraction of what they used to be.

All this to say Greenlight probably isn’t dying from lack of interest, but rather from poor design. While most people would cry ‘blasphemy!’ to me for saying Valve has bad design in anything, the problem seems to be pretty fundamental: users don’t have a reason to come back. Changes like categorizing by development stages may help, but ironically, the system really needs to focus on user retention if it wants to maintain its purpose.

What do you think? Is Steam Greenlight dying off or does it just need a jumpstart?