In order to introduce better perspective into the Steam Greenlight application process and how indie developers view the system, Joystiq interviewed indie dev Colin Northway. Northway, developer of Fantastic Contraption and Greenlight lab rat Incredipede, quickly introduces us to the Offspring Fling phenomenon: "Apply to Steam, be rejected, release without it, get popular, be noticed by Valve, release on Steam."
Offspring Fling was a game that found success down prior to the introduction of Greenlight, a process many developers expected Greenlight to solve. Instead, Colin Northway believes the continues, and may potentially be worse -- a path he fully expects Incredipede will have to take:
"We're approaching Incredipede's launch at the end of October and no longer have enough time to integrate the Steam APIs before then, so it looks like we've missed the window to launch with Steam. If Greenlight didn't exist, Valve might have accepted Incredipede earlier and it would be launching on Steam. Instead Incredipede will do what a lot of other great games are going to do: launch without Steam, get a bunch of players, and then leverage the fanbase to climb the Greenlight ranks and release on Steam later."
Northway is so confident in his title's eventual launch on Steam that he is including the promise of a Steam download code in preorders for Incredipede. Certainly, Incredipede could be a fringe case, with certain variables preventing success through Greenlight like schedule and marketing investment. That's the problem though, how can you tell if Greenlight is working? Heck, what even are the conditions to evaluate Greenlight's success?
When asked what he believes the problem is and if there's a solution, Northway offered the following:
"Asking the public to judge ideas is hard. Game designers, publishers, people who judge ideas professionally have a pretty bad track record at it. It's easy to judge after the game is released but by then it's too late. Finding good games is a genuinely hard problem. My gut feeling is that they should go back to having a passionate, knowledgeable, Valve employee do the judging. Instead of giving it to charity, they could keep the $100 Greenlight fee and use it to pay someone to spend a few hours playing every game."
I'd highly recommend reading the full interview over at Joystiq, and definitely visiting Steam Greenlight and upvoting promising looking indie games who might get lost in the hype of other titles.