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Many of us liked to imagine potential future prospects as children, one of these dreams jobs for many was getting into the video games industry and making it big. For aspiring game devs, Steam’s Greenlight program is a great way to get your game into the public eye. Enough “yes” votes and your game makes it through the evaluation stage. Any amount of “no” votes have zero effect on a game being lit.

This practice of exchanging game keys for a “yes” vote on Steam Greenlight is nothing new, there are several cases of devs engaging in this unethical practice. It’s one thing to give away keys to get feedback, it’s another issue altogether when keys are being used as a form of bribery.

Giving games in exchange for votes

Enticing gamers with free game keys to push a game through feels dishonestly underhanded. While not bribery, Steam Greenlight has more flaws that are apparent that cause the same sort of skepticism on legitimacy.  What else is as underhanded as exchanging a game for a “yes” vote? Empty fake accounts that give favorability. Valve is not pleased at all when it comes to Steam Greenlight abuse. As stated previously, “no” votes lack any impact on a game whatsoever. When you vote “no”, you’re simply stating you have no interest in purchasing the game if it passes. Votes are intended to gauge the community’s reaction to new games coming out on the market, their viability.

I’ve asked a new dev on the scene who recently got his game lit his thoughts on trading keys for votes. Here is what Slade Villena aka Roguestar’s response was;

It defeats the whole fucking purpose of greenlight.

With Valve cracking down and some devs against the practice, gamers should be in better hands. Many agree, “yes” votes should be genuine. Any other way and it defeats the purpose of a community vote. This is why shady practices are discouraged and why Valve is doing what they can to curb some of the abuse.

What are your thoughts on game devs being told they can not use promises of keys as leverage for passing?

Anthony Lee

Gamer since the NES era, computer nerd since 2001. Happily in a loving relationship with a happa who has been a gamer since the Sega Genesis era. Who says Sega does what Nintendon't?

  • Audie Bakerson

    Surprised it took so long.

    Curious how games that promised keys and were greenlit, but are no yet released (such as Gurumin, which I’ll buy if I don’t get a free key), will be handled.

  • Nin

    Eh, it’s too late. It’ll be impractical for Steam to simply force them all back on Greenlight.

  • Misogynerd

    Greenlight would’ve been better as a place for demos. Pretty much what I also think of Kickstarter. Don’t Greenlight/Kickstart your product before you have a demo. As a consumer also beware of products that lack that.
    While art assets and other graphical content is what tends to be what takes time in AAA products, indie games need to sort out the technical/engine side, which a competent demo would show that the game is working fine.

  • Audie Bakerson

    I meant if keys that were promised would still be given.

  • If valve wants greenlight to be better, then they need to implement a system where if a game has reached a certain number of “not interested” votes and the total votes have more “no” votes than “yes” votes (aka “you interested or not” votes), then they (they being valve) should at least have a implementation in their greenlight which places a big ole sign above it saying “this game will not be greenlighted” or something. You know, something like in the photoshop I done below. It’s not that hard really, it’s essentially the same programming as the “yes” coding except with a few minor adjustments to the code. I really don’t understand why this isn’t implemented already.

  • Marvus

    I don’t think it’s a good idea, this would be too fragile to abuse and doesn’t have any benefit for Valve whatsoever. Why should they care about how many people don’t want to play a game? It’s not relevant for them at all. They care about how many people are willing to pay for a game, the whole Greenlight system is about that and they shouldn’t take a political agenda over business.
    For example, there was the Hatred incident. A lot of people showed disgust over the games’ topic and representation. Is the logical answer to this is to ban the game and let some people decide what others are able to play with?

  • Typical

    Look, how is giving your game away helping it get sold? Greenlight is supposed to be a gauge of if people will buy it, not if they like it. I usually just go to a game’s home page on greenlight because you can usually get the game DRM free.

  • ZURATAMA1324

    Oh boy, another unethical practice in Green Light?
    What a surprise.

  • Reptile

    How about a vote system where you have to write a little “why do you want this game?”. Then a software engages in checking if there is too many words in common between texts or fake lorem ipsums and if it has the minimum of characters. It won’t stop the abuse, but I think it would help.

  • ArsCortica

    About time they did something against that. That being said, I still think Greenlight is a mess. For every good (in the sense of “good quality”, not necessarily “game I would personally buy”) product or supposed product in the catalog, Greenlight has four or five bad ones, consisting of:
    1. One RPG Maker game with default sprites that would have been released for free back in the day.
    2. One simple physics sandbox.
    3. One unity game whose assets look as if made out of plastic.
    4. One game very obviously made by a twelve-year-old.
    5. One “LEL SO RANDUMB XDDDD” rock simulator 5000.

    It really would help if Valve would use all the bloody money it makes to hire two or so clerks who would do basic quality checks on all the stuff people put on Greenlight.