A Newbie Guide to Steam Greenlight

So, you’re thinking about launching your game on Steam?  If you don’t have a game on Steam, then you’ll need to go through Steam Greenlight – here’s what you need to know.

What is Steam Greenlight?

According to Valve:

Steam Greenlight is a system that enlists the community’s help in picking some of the new games to be released on Steam. Developers post information, screenshots, and video 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 during the development process.

Essentially, the Steam Greenlight process is the way you get your game in front of Valve and the Steam Community, who then decide whether or not it can be listed on Steam for sale. There’s no other way to get your game on Steam (unless you have direct contact with a Valve employee).

Who should submit to Greenlight?

Any developer who doesn’t have an existing relationship with Valve can use Greenlight to get their game on Steam.

There are two categories for submissions – early concepts and near-finished games. Either is suitable for submission, although games will be reviewed by Valve before they are made available for sale.

If your game is early in development, you can go through the Greenlight process (which can take anywhere from a few days to several months as you need to convince enough players to vote for your game) in order to get your game on Steam, but pre-sale. I.e. your Steam storefront would be setup and players could join the community, but can’t buy the game until you launch.

This can be very useful for developers as it allows you to begin marketing your game early on and you can also use Steam to invite players to test your game before it launches.

How much does it cost?

There is a $100 registration fee in place (which Valve say is to reduce the number of spam and joke submissions).

How long does it take?

It depends on your game and how far along you are in development.

There have been cases where some games have been Greenlit within a few days (I’ve launched a campaign that was Greenlit in 13 days), but for some games it can take months.

While you’re on Greenlight, you need to drive visitors to the page and get enough of them to vote for you. You’ll be able to see how you are progressing from the analytics that Valve provides.

About once a month, Valve will approve a batch of the top voted games (this seems to be anywhere between 30 and 60 titles), although they do say this can vary depending on their own bandwidth to ship new games.

After you have been approved, you can get your storefront setup pretty quickly (i.e. you could expect to have your game on sale within a week or so if you get everything setup quickly).

Assets required for Steam Greenlight

To prepare to launch on Greenlight, have this ready:

  • A square branding image (similar to a box cover) to represent your game in lists and search
  • At least 1 video showing gameplay of your game
  • At least 4 screenshots or images
  • A written description of the game along with the tentative system requirements.

When creating these assets, try creating a positioning statement first.  Think of this as a mini GDD that helps give direction to the assets you create.

Remember, you can (and definitely should) update your Greenlight page often, so think about what more you can do before it’s approved – dev blogs, comparison shots, WIP, concept art, etc.

How many votes does a game need to get selected?

There’s no hard number that you need to achieve – Valve just want to see that you’re getting traction with the community and there’s a degree of interest in what you’re doing. Don’t worry if your game is particularly niche – the volume of votes is irrelevant. It’s all taken in context.

For example, a project I worked on wasn’t even in the top 100 when it was approved (it just happened to get a bit of attention after we first submitted).

What do I need to do after submission?

Don’t assume that because you’re on Greenlight, that the hard part is over!

You need to do everything you can to get the word out about your project (and not many press will cover new Greenlight items, so that can be tough). Getting onto Greenlight…and then staying there forever would be a pretty bad result!

Here are a few tips:

  • If you’re in Greenlight for more than a few weeks, be sure to update the community on progress you’ve made during that time.
  • Take the time to respond to comments and topics in the forums.
  • Use your social media channels (and email lists if you have them) to ask your fans to vote for you.  Leverage your network!
  • How your game is perceived is important.  That’s what people are voting on, so ensure your assets are as good as they can be.
  • Use the announcements feature to post updates.
  • Don’t be disheartened!  Steam comments can be brutal at times – ignore the naysayers!
  • Ask other indie devs for feedback on the page / concept.
  • Tell your story.  Let players know a bit more about you, your studio and why you’re making this game.

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