November 21, 2012 11:30 PM | John Polson
[Update 11:45 PM EST: Steam has removed the discounted fee. I will update this story if or when we determine this was officially a mistake and when know what happens to those who submitted during the discount.]
Steam has discounted its hotly debated $100 Greenlight fee to $50 during its annual Autumn Sale. Developers are split with the sudden and deep discount, much as they were split as a community when Steam first instituted the fee.
Swift Stitch and regular Indie Busker Sophie Houlden spoke out about this discount earlier this evening. "[M]an, the fee was bullshit to begin with, but now the fee is on sale? [S]team are trolling us all, does nobody else see this?"
While Houlden hasn't used the service, Alexander Martin recently paid the $100 fee to place Probability 0 on Greenlight and was a bit stunned at the sudden discount. "$100 was already a number they picked out of thin air... but it seems pointless to set up a gatekeeper if it's going to back off for no particular reason."
Games go on sale to make more money and draw more attention to themselves, he states. "But if [Greenlight is] going to go on 'sale' why not just drop the price of Greenlight access?"
Martin doesn't necessarily call the whole thing foul and believes Greenlight's fee is "probably the easiest thing in the world to charge less for... I imagine it's nothing so sinister. It's probably just another thing they can [put in the Autumn] sale. It's a pretty big-ticket thing, and they've been getting a bit of heat here and there for charging so much."
Steambirds developer Andy Moore is working with Dejobaan Games on Monster Loves You (which will likely end up on Steam along with Dejobaan's other games). Even without worrying about the Greenlight fee for himself, he says that the sale seems odd and inappropriate.
"That kind of thing shouldn't 'go on sale' once a year. It doesn't make sense."
He analogizes, "You put a product on sale if you want to sell more of it; in this case, the 'product' is an application fee. Are there really that many developers, sitting on games, just waiting for a sale - so they can finally pimp their game?
"I'm not saying it won't sell. it won't do well. We won't see a surge of new games on Greenlight. We probably will - it just feels weird to put that kind of product on sale."
Former Flashbang Studio developer Ben Ruiz is creating Aztez and considering using Greenlight in the future for his game. He's rather unaffected by the sudden, temporary discount.
"I think putting a discount on it is a little weird, but I also think it's in good nature," he reasons. "[This discounts] something that some people found insurmountable. Valve listens, and this is there way of temporarily lowering a barrier they believe makes sense."
Dan Silvers of Lantana Games, whose Children of Liberty project sits on Greenlight, doesn't think developers will wait in the future for Valve to lower the barrier again. "Especially now that Greenlight can link directly back to Kickstarter and IndieGogo projects, I think there's too much correlation with the timing of a project to necessarily justify waiting several months for a holiday sale or gambling on a random sale on a Tuesday."
Rob Lach's highly acclaimed POP: Methodology Experiment One currently sits on Greenlight, and the current discount is "pretty humorous" to him. He admits it "sends quite the mixed message on the intentions of that fee."
He explains, "To me, it either means that they just picked a random number for the initial fee and ultimately it doesn't matter for them, or there is some sort of deeper message to lowering the price that suggests both positive and negative connotations."
Lach reasoned the motivations could stem from Steam wanting more quality submissions on Greenlight. "But by making the price lower that encourages smaller, more left-field stuff, which is not really in tune with the Steam audience.
"That's really reading into the though. I just think they picked initial financial barrier out of thin air and as long as there is some barrier it's okay for them."
Lach says this makes it not okay that it was so high in the first place. "If $50 works then why was it $100. Would $25 work, $5?"