Once known as the “defender of the downtrodden” when it came to indie games, it appears that Valve wants to try and compete with Sony and Microsoft for AAA developers. In an announcement made late last week, the company laid out a revenue sharing plan that will put more money in the pockets of big developers while completely ignoring the people that have made Steam the success it is today.
In a blog post, the company announced a kind of reward system for developers that earn at least $10 million in revenue on the platform. Currently, the revenue split is 70/30 between the developers and Steam. The new system will see Valve only take 25 percent of earnings if a game makes at least $10 million. If a game manages to make $50 million Valve will only be taking a 20 percent cut.
The explanation for these new rules is that AAA developers will bring more games to Steam since they will have a chance to make even more money. Valve claims that’s going to be better for everyone because it will keep the money into the platform and support developers that aren’t making anywhere near that kind of money. The massive downside is that more than a few indie devs are seeing this move as a “slap in the face.” That is certainly the sentiment from Wandersong developer Greg Lobanov who was among the most vocal in his displeasure in this move.
As Lobanov correctly points out, this is a situation where the “richest get richer” and developers of games that might be plenty popular still have no chance at earning anywhere close to $10 million.
From Steam Greenlight to Just Another AAA Content Mill?
The real problem with this move is that it is one that simply isn’t needed. Steam is the world’s leader when it comes to selling PC games. Most of the AAA games that are loaded onto the platform were going to be made anyway and they were going to be loaded onto the platform anyway. If the goal is to get more high-quality games on Steam, wouldn’t an effort to get more money to smaller developers be a better approach?
The bottom line is that Valve appears to be turning its back on what made Steam such a popular and valuable tool to PC gamers for all these years. It’s a place that pioneered the idea of “early access” games. It’s a place that allowed users to decide what games they wanted to see come to fruition thank to Greenlight. It’s a place that saw uber-powerful companies like Sony and Microsoft mimic the way it dealt with indie developers.
Why Valve now feels like it has to turn around and mimic what Microsoft and Sony are doing when it comes to courting AAA devs is a mystery. Cash is certainly kind in the video game world. The problem is that Valve was getting to write its own rules when it came to how people came to one title or another. This move appears to be a nod to the status quo and that’s a bad thing for everyone.