Firstly, I think Steam is terrific. It’s flupping awesome that we’ve got our game on there at all, so really, as far as I’m concerned Valve can do whatever the hell they want with their own store. However, since everyone is giving opinions on this, I’m gonna chime in too.
Valve clearly have no intention to ever return to a more curated approach. This means that the only guaranteed way of solving the problem of waste-of-space games (not games which you, personally, consider crap but those which aren’t even attempting to make something decent) is off the table. If the reason Valve don’t want to curate is because of the huge expense in doing so, then I suggest raising their cut by 1% and using the vast income that would generate to fund it.
In terms of Steam Direct – a “please provide some paperwork to prove you’re legit, and also please provide a recuperable amount of money up-front” system – I would suggest a sliding-scale as opposed to a flat fee. The current Greenlight fee is $100 which you don’t get back. My sliding-scale, for simplicity, I would describe as this:
Take the amount you intend to charge for your game, and pop two zeroes on the end of it.
So if you want to sell the game for $1, the fee is $100. If you sell the game for $10, it’s a $1000 fee. If you’re taking the piss and selling your game for $100, it’s $10,000 – suck it (maybe this’ll help people reconsider their high-tier “alpha access” Kickstarter rewards, eh?). Remembering that this is recuperable. So the less you charge, the less you have to do to make your money back.
I’m not suggesting those figures literally – I actually think $500 is a bit pricey for a $5 game – what I’m proposing is a linear scale of fees but it was simpler to explain that with the two-zeroes approach than having to draw a graph.
On top of that, I would add in an automated system which can reduce that amount. Have games on Steam already? Take the number of positively reviewed games, subtract the number of negatively reviewed games, if the result is greater than zero halve the fee. Boom. Done.
Will this solve the problem? Nope. Only human eyes on the game can do that (see paragraph 2).
edit: Gonna put a bit at the end here, because so much about what I read about Steam is negative – pulling at all the things it does badly from various perspectives. Now, if you’re a customer – sure, complain about whatever you like. After all, the purpose of a store is to serve its customers, primarily, since they want to sell stuff to you as effectively as possible. From a developer’s perspective, though, Steam really is terrific. Like, properly this-totally-justifies-the-cut-they-take-and-then-some terrific. They don’t get enough support from devs for this, in my most humblest of opinions. Sure, sometimes there’s a wobble or two – Greenlight may not have worked perfectly as intended, but let’s not forget that prior to Greenlight we almost certainly would not have had our games on Steam at all. Yeah sure, indie games blah blah blah important. But indie games, on average, make bollocks all money. Take away the outliers and we’re talking about an entirely irrelevant set of games from a financial point of view from Valve’s perspective. They could have entirely ignored indie games and the effect on their profits would’ve been minute. But they didn’t, they gave us Greenlight, they’re giving us Steam Direct, they’ve given us curators and Discovery and more chances than our financial success deserves to get visibility within that ocean of games available. Flupping well thankyou, Valve, from the very bottom of my heart – please take your cut from our sales with our deepest gratitude.