Valve Has a Message For Greenlight Participants: Stop Offering Keys for Votes

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According to Steam Database, a Twitter account that unofficially tweets out news they glean from Steam, Valve has strongly recommended that developers going through the process of having their games Greenlit should not offer game keys in exchange for votes. This has apparently become enough of a problem that there are devs who not only view it as a marketing strategy, but feel it might be necessary to make any headway in the Greenlight process, which is outlined in the Workshop FAQ.


Valve says that they are in “a really uncomfortable position,” due to the behavior, and have outright said that this may effect the chances of a game being Greenlit. If a developer offers keys to potential players in exchange for votes (with the assumption that getting a free game may be more likely to yield a positive vote), the process by which the games are picked is skewed. A game may have positive votes simply by virtue of having given away a number of free keys, while games that have relied on more traditional means of marketing may be struggling to be Greenlit. As a result, all games will have to be evaluated on a much stricter scale, meaning that games that receive a large number of votes through word-of-mouth alone may be delayed, as well.

greenlight keys rule

The rule regarding keys for votes is briefly mentioned in the FAQ (see photo above), but the new document uploaded to Steam Database has more details on the additional guidelines. Steam does offer tips for developers trying to market their games in order to keep things fair in terms of user perceptions of the game and its developer(s). As seen above, developers may give away as many keys as they want after passing through Greenlight.

Steam’s Rules of Conduct lists “soliciting, begging, auctioning, raffling, selling, advertising, referrals” as forbidden practices, which applies to all users, and regulates the content posted in reviews as well as other areas of the site. This is an additional safeguard that has always been in place to prevent blatant marketing practices, but has not been explicitly stated to developers as a potentially-outlawed practice, until now.

Do you think Valve is right in this action? Do you think developers have a right to use any advantage they can? Are users who engage in this behavior subject to stricter punishments and/or standards, as well?

Bonnie is a streamer, gamer, and word nerd who enjoys puzzle and horror games, and getting entirely too excited about both genres. She's been writing professionally for 18 years, but IGM is her first foray into gaming news. Bonnie's life outside of IGM involves massive amounts of hair dye, sewing, and being a cat lady. Feel free to contact her on Twitter!

  • Guest

    Would be nice if they actually enforced it.

  • consider

    Maybe just revamp the GL system to be less idiotic so that things like this don’t actually matter?

  • Well, that’s fun.

  • In what way? Do you have a suggestion? Or specific ways in which the Greenlight system is “idiotic”?

  • consider

    Accepting the ‘top n most voted’ group rather than simply having a standard to meet means that this kind of thing can cause damage. People will vote more for gimmicks, unenforceable promises, or flashy trailers rather than considering the actual quality of the proposal.

    If the system simply required a percentage and a quorum it wouldn’t keep garbage out, but it would be much less likely to penalize potentially good proposals for not out-gimmicking the top-voted proposals and vaporware.

  • Some folks have suggested allowing devs to post demos on their Greenlight pages, and I think that’s something that has merit. Smart marketing has many forms, but the opportunity for all devs to participate is the only way to level the playing field as far as Steam goes (anything else would put someone at a disadvantage, making the voting process as worthless as that for “Best Animated Feature” at the Oscars). Social media is another animal, entirely, and that’s the logical next step.