Earlier this month Valve announced that Steam Greenlight, the voting system service used to determine which independent games made their way to the Steam store would be closing. Valve made some vague comments regarding the issue, but overall developers were left confused, upset and in some instances angry at Valve’s mishandling of the service which will be replaced by Steam Direct later this year.
To truly understand why Steam Greenlight is shutting down, one only needs to look at the game’s which have been Greenlit in the last six or so months. What do they almost all have in common? They worked with a company called EMJ Advertising to promote their games on multiple high profile gaming social media pages including the group ‘Greenlight’s Best Games’. One developer who asked to remain anonymous said this:
“Because of the genuine traffic and votes companies like EMJ are able to bring to Greenlight games, the average amount of votes needed to reach the ‘Top 100 Games on Greenlight’ list has almost doubled in the last year. Now, as developers, if we want to compete with the games using advertising agencies, instead of investing our money into making our game better, we need to invest it in to paying for social media advertisements on Steam groups, Twitter pages and YouTube channels, it isn’t fair.”
It seems that, for Valve this was a problem as companies like EMJ Advertising were following all of the Steam Greenlight rules, they weren’t using bots and they weren’t forcing users to vote, they were simply posting the links to Greenlight games on their social media pages which have large followings. If they had have been breaking the rules, Valve could have banned their Steam accounts or tried to stop them, but instead they they are planning to shutdown Steam Greenlight and are going to replace it with a system where developers simply pay a fee to get their game onto the Steam store.
I reached out to Elliott Marc Jones, the founder and Managing Director of EMJ Advertising to hear his thoughts on the matter. This is what he said:
“Just like a political campaign, advertising is important. Presidential candidates pay for ad spots on television stations in order to get more votes, game developers pay our company for ad spots on social media pages in order to get more votes. Would the government end democratic voting just because it's unfair to less wealthy candidates? Of course they wouldn't, just like Valve aren’t closing Greenlight because some developers feel the service is unfair. They are closing it because it’s universally hated by gamers, and because most of the titles that get onto Steam through the service make Steam as a platform look bad.”
So, who exactly is Elliott Marc Jones and how did he become one of the most powerful men in the indie gaming scene? According to his Twitter profile, he is a British game developer and last year he created the indie sensation Redactem. We used EMJ Advertising’s website to secretly find out more information about the service by talking to the customer service department via the live chat function that is available.
We were told that Elliot grew the social media pages by encouraging the players of his video game Redactem by offering them gifts such as free copies of his game. This checks out as the Twitter pages that EMJ Advertising uses to promote games passed the Status People test to see if the followers were fake or not. Having such large pages full of real gamers also explains why EMJ Advertising’s promotions were and still are so powerful, as they are continuing to offer promotional packages for regular indie games.
EMJ Advertising wasn’t the only company offering promotions for Greenlight games, there were other groups who copied EMJ’s style and had mild success too, but according to the developers we spoke to, their promotions weren’t that useful.
We hope to update this article as we learn more about the story.
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