Close
Report Comment to a Moderator Our Moderators review all comments for abusive and offensive language, and ensure comments are from Verified Users only.
Please report a comment only if you feel it requires our urgent attention.
I understand, report it. Cancel

Code Avarice: Valve "pulled the rug out from under our feet"

Code Avarice: Valve "pulled the rug out from under our feet"

Mon 03 Jun 2013 8:02am GMT / 4:02am EDT / 1:02am PDT
PublishingDevelopment

Paranautical Activity facing a battle to publish on Steam

Independent gaming studio Code Avarice is facing a battle to publish its Paranautical Activity on Steam, after an old Greenlight page lead to Valve blocking the developer's publishing deal with Adult Swim.

"We had a deal with Adult Swim to publish our steam release," said Code Avarice's Mike Maulbeck.

"However since we had an old Greenlight page set up for the game Valve decided they 'didn't want to send the message that indies can seek out publishers to bypass Steam Greenlight' and pulled the rug out from under our feet. All of our promotion and planning has been done expecting to get on Steam with no problem, so we're in a pretty rough spot."

Code Avarice is a two man team, Maulbeck and Travis Pfenning, and the creators of DimensionZ. It set up its Greenlight page for Paranautical Activity in September last year.

"So now we're just dead in the water, we've got a Greenlight campaign that we haven't touched in months and we have to resurrect it from the ashes," Maulbeck said in an interview with Green9090.

"Whose dick do I have to suck to get on to this f***ing platform?"

Travis Pfenning

"And Adult Swim, I've contacted them because really the only reason I even considered giving them a chunk of our profits is because they said 'we'll get you onto Steam' so now are you going to help promote this Greenlight campaign? Because if not then I'm not going to give you 40 per cent of my money. And then they hit me back and they were like 'well we don't really want to get public with this yet because we don't want any backlash from Steam', so they're not even going to help us with the Greenlight campaign at this point."

The pair also revealed they currently had no commitment to Adult Swim, but were still tempted by the funds they could provide to support advertising and travel expenses.

Pfenning also suggested that the pair could explore other publishing routes, away from Steam, if the situation continued.

"If that is the case and we're going to get boycotted from Steam or we're going to have to jump through this hoops then we might want to make a move pushing towards something like Sony Entertainment or something like that."

They've actually been approached by Sony Computer Entertainment Europe about the game appearing on console, but admit they'd have to do some "tricky business" to make it run properly on the machine.

Press surrounding the situation has caused much discussion on the Paranautical Activity Greenlight page, but whether that will translate into votes is yet to be seen. Unsurprisingly the events seem to have made both men a little cynical about the whole Greenlight process.

"It's not about having a good game, it's about knowing how to trick people and convince people to click that little button. You can see that by, no offence to the developers of some of the games, but some really poor stuff that's not seemed quality that's been getting onto Steam," said Maulbeck. Pfenning had a blunter take on the situation.

"I feel like it's one of those things, whose dick do I have to suck to get on to this f***ing platform? And I really don't think that that's fair."

21 Comments

Jack James Editor - Owner, Control Command Escape

3 3 1.0
This is what happens when there's only one viable distribution platform calling the shots.

Except there isn't. There's also Desura, Gog.com and the Humble Store (and Mac App Store if applicable). Hard to sympathise if they haven't at least looked into these alternatives.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Jack James on 3rd June 2013 12:38pm

Posted:A year ago

#1

Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic

1,611 1,473 0.9
Mmmm... Greenlight isn't great. But it's going to improve, if only because of this situation. Until then, I'm sure Adult Swim can help this game see the light of day through other stores. Steam may be the largest store, but there are other places, and this whole deal can actually provide a thought-provoing means of motivating gamers to be more platform agnostic.

Posted:A year ago

#2

Iain Stanford Experienced Software Engineer, Tinderstone

35 137 3.9
So are Valve actually now saying the only way an independent team can get a game on Steam is through Greenlight, and not from the backing of a publisher?

The quote 'didn't want to send the message that indies can seek out publishers to bypass Steam Greenlight' seems a bit worrying does it not? Why can't they seek out a publisher?

@Morville, hoping it gets fixed isn't much use for people who need to bank on it for success on the PC platform...and if the quote is accurate it sounds like this particular area *isn't* going to improve. Its not about platform agnostic, a game isn't developed "for steam" and won't work in GOG.com for example (bar a view community APIs that you just turn off). Its not that developers aren't being "platform agnostic" but that being on Steam dramatically increases your revenue and visibility. You still see people comment that "if a game isn't on Steam I'm not buying it".

@Jack Yes there are other areas, but lets face it, Steam is "the big one". Sales figures from other stores can pale in comparison to sales figures from Steam. If you were selling books would you be ok if you couldn't get on Amazon? You could still sell through other sites and stores...

Posted:A year ago

#3

Jack James Editor - Owner, Control Command Escape

3 3 1.0
@Iain: Then I imagine the blame should lie with the publisher. If they aren't interested in the 40% they'd get from Steam sales, is it a big deal? If they should be concerned but aren't perhaps that doesn't speak well for them.

To use your example, had Amazon refused to stock my book, I believe that's an issue I'd take up with the publisher, not with Amazon.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Jack James on 3rd June 2013 1:59pm

Posted:A year ago

#4

Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic

1,611 1,473 0.9
@ Iain

It's less "hoping it gets fixed" and more "when it gets fixed". Gabe Newell has already said that Greenlight needs to be improved, and that they're trying to find the optimum manner in which to get games onto Steam. The only problem is that there's no time-frame on that (though, to be fair, there might be, but only certain developers are currently privy to it).
Its not about platform agnostic
...
You still see people comment that "if a game isn't on Steam I'm not buying it".
Hence my point about "motivating gamers to be more platform agnostic". Gamers can make it so that GOG and Desura have more influence, but it does require them to be less "Steam-keys or gtfo," which is... asking a lot.
Why can't they seek out a publisher?
Part of it may be that some publishers may purposefully wait-out on games until they get a certain amount of votes on Greenlight, then sweep in, take a cut, and leave. Essentially using Greenlight as a free-publicity machine and quality-control system all-in-one. Which is what it is, it's just that it's supposed to be for the benefit of indie developers, not publishers who are seeking a popular game to get a little easy cash on.

In addition, it's the developer who pays the $100 Greenlight fee to charity, so for the publisher to come in after that's been paid... Well, it doesn't give a great impression, does it?

All of which isn't to say that what's happened is good - it isn't. It's just that there needs to be some clause which allows developers an out in case a publisher can truly benefit a developer, but isn't so easy an out that the system can be taken advantage of.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 3rd June 2013 2:14pm

Posted:A year ago

#5

Joshua Rose Executive Producer / Lead Designer, Storm Eagle Studios

191 81 0.4
And then they hit me back and they were like 'well we don't really want to get public with this yet because we don't want any backlash from Steam',
It's funny that nobody's mentioned this part of the whole article.

A major publisher, that's afraid of 'backlash' from Steam? Has Valve turned their entire presence in the digital distribution space into a case of "piss me off and you won't make any money"? Because that's about the biggest thing that quote says.

If this is really the case, than there's a serious problem. I understand the reasoning behind Adult Swim's logic. They make money selling stuff on Steam, they want to continue to make money selling on Steam. But at what point is it more extortion than trying to maintain a solid business model?

If one publisher can throw their weight around and get other publishers to say things like this and actually mean it, then how are other 'alternatives' supposed to get any piece of the pie? You can have all the bells and whistles imaginable on your client platform, above and beyond that of Steam even. But it doesn't mean jack if all the publishers are 'afraid of backlash.'

Posted:A year ago

#6

Jack James Editor - Owner, Control Command Escape

3 3 1.0
@Joshua: not really any different from retail then!

Posted:A year ago

#7

Jakub Mikyska CEO, Grip Digital

207 1,122 5.4
Popular Comment
I cannot believe there are still people who defend Greenlight and Valves attitude. This arrogant and unhelping communication is something we are getting from Valve as well. Greenlight is a tool to keep the little guys out of Steam, not to get them in.

Posted:A year ago

#8

Joshua Rose Executive Producer / Lead Designer, Storm Eagle Studios

191 81 0.4
@Jakub

It would be interesting to see just how many other indie developers are getting burned by Steam (pun intended). Your reply proves that Code Avarice isn't the only company that's had a less than pleasant interaction with Valve.

From the sound of it, Greenlight seems to be one of those 'services' where once you're in, you're locked in if you ever want your game to see the light of day.

Posted:A year ago

#9

John Cook Senior Partner, Bad Management

29 13 0.4
I like Steam as a consumer, and as a business type I also think it's great.

But Steam desperately need to officially clarify what their policy is regarding Greenlight and what that means if a developer joins the program and subsequently decides it's better for them to go with a publisher (for whatever reason that may be).

Posted:A year ago

#10

Joshua Rose Executive Producer / Lead Designer, Storm Eagle Studios

191 81 0.4
I don't think Greenlight is meant so much to keep 'the little guys' out... more than it's meant to keep 'the little guys', little.

Posted:A year ago

#11

Mark Venturelli Game Designer, Critical Studio

14 19 1.4
But the message Valve sends out with this one is actually "think hard before creating a Greenlight page, because you won't be able to change your business strategy afterwards". Which does not seem healthy for any of the parties involved.

Posted:A year ago

#12

Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic

1,611 1,473 0.9
It isn't, which is why Valve have been talking to developers recently about Greenlight (there was a roundtable only a month or two back), and why it will change.

Edit: https://crunchingkoalas.com/improving_steam_greenlight_aka_complete_waste_of_time/

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 3rd June 2013 6:00pm

Posted:A year ago

#13

Ashley Barley Community Manager, Frontier Developments

8 5 0.6
The only thing I've heard about this game is that they can't get on Steam. Maybe if they did a little publicity they would be able to get through the Greenlight process, instead of assuming they can walk onto the platform with no prior titles to back them up?

Its also worth noting that Adult Swim told the devs that they did not get on to Steam for 'such and such' reason, this is only one side of the story-told by proxy. There is probably more to it than 'you have a greenlight page', maybe I'm just being cynical though!

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Ashley Barley on 3rd June 2013 10:42pm

Posted:A year ago

#14

Christopher Bowen Editor in Chief, Gaming Bus

459 738 1.6
@Morville - The things you say either should or could happen - like fixing Greenlight, a system that lives on the whims of the average gamer, or getting people to become platform agnostic when so much of their library is tied up on one platform - likely aren't going to happen, at least not without significant pain. This does point out a fatal flaw with the Greenlight model - and I do sympathize with their reasoning for not liking Greenlight; you would do if you read some of the utterly inane reasons games have been downvoted - but how are you going to fix what is essentially a mob mentality? How are you going to fix a group of people who by and large just look at something for five seconds, and go "ooh zombies", or "graphics suck, downvote"?

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Christopher Bowen on 3rd June 2013 11:16pm

Posted:A year ago

#15

Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic

1,611 1,473 0.9
Yeah, the (for want of a better term) "herpaderp" segment of the gaming community isn't something any of us are proud of. The problem is that there's so much material on Greenlight and so few people in power to curate it properly. Forcing everyone who votes to give even a 6 word sentence on the reasons why would be a start, but Valve still need the manpower to check over the comments. That said, it's already been pointed out that the votes are a data-point, not the datapoint for Greenlight, so staff are already looking at items in some amount of depth there.

Which is a convulated way of saying that the way to fix Greenlight (or at least make it better) is behind-the-scenes, and something only Valve can do, with the help of developers.

And i do sympathise with the developers here, and the Death Ray Manta dev ( http://www.merseyremakes.co.uk/gibber/2013/05/death-ray-manta-no-longer-on-greenlight/ ). Even I don't give Greenlight the time it deserves, and it's something that needs a proactive, eloquent, creative community behind it, in order to help give developers a chance. It could be truly wonderful, but as it stands now it's a great idea that's shockingly badly implemented.

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 4th June 2013 12:06am

Posted:A year ago

#16

Ashley Tarver Indie

41 1 0.0
Ashley Barley makes the most sense in this debate.

Greenlight has GIVEN an outlet to developers - not taken away anything. Yeah it's got some issues. But the reality, like it or not, is that Greenlight on Steam is an extra avenue to get games out there - AND make more money in the process than releasing on niche outlets that 99% of PC gamers likely never heard of, or never go near if they have.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Ashley Tarver on 4th June 2013 12:19pm

Posted:A year ago

#17

Ashley Tarver Indie

41 1 0.0
... Their greenlight entry is still on Steam, so this whole she-bang was about publicising their game?! Adult Swim should never have promised the guys that they would be able to bypass Greenlight, clearly Valve are not to blame here.

Edited 4 times. Last edit by Ashley Tarver on 4th June 2013 9:40am

Posted:A year ago

#18

Khash Firestorm Senior Programmer, MuHa Games

38 37 1.0
@Ashley:
If entering greenlight blocks you from finding publisher which allows you to get to steam then yes, valve took away something as soon as you use this service.
Remember that success on greenlight is not really about your game but advertisements around it. If You fail on greenlight it doesn't mean your game is bad. Sponsor which see your game and sense great success with it can no longer help to publish it, now both have to find enough fans to push it through greenlight. So as soon as you enter greenlight you are not allowed to use normal ways to enter steam and thats worring and very limiting. If you can find 80k-100k fans to say your game is good, you can easily generate great income yourself. But game which doesnt have fans but great potential can still produce even more revenue if put properly in front of steam user base. Ant this is the problem when you recognize you dont have enough backers on greenlight.

Posted:A year ago

#19

Adam Coate CEO & Founder, Coate Games

34 34 1.0
If anyone needs any proof that Valve is just like every other greedy, risk-averse publisher out there, just look at its game output. The only game Valve has ever developed that was its own original idea was Half-life. Everything else has been bought from someone else and sequelized. There is no other independent developer/publisher out there with the resources Valve has. Yet they still make the same greedy, risk-averse, anti-independent decisions as companies like EA, Actiblizzard, etc. I can't wait for the day the Valve fanyboyism stops finally.

Posted:A year ago

#20

Nicholas Pantazis Senior Editor, VGChartz Ltd

1,020 1,467 1.4
Lots of judgement being thrown around here based on very little actual information. The internet does love to create imaginary badguys.

Posted:A year ago

#21

Login or register to post

Take part in the GamesIndustry community

Register now