Small developers are losing confidence that Valve is earning its 30% of Steam sales, according to a new survey. In 2017, 39% of developers agreed that Valve had earned its share, but that number has dropped to 11% in this year’s survey. Lars Doucet, who has run this survey for three years, is quick to note that these results are not scientific – but they do put numbers to issues developers have lately been in heated discussions over.
Questions include things like whether Valve “has interests positively aligned with mine,” “answers my questions and meets my needs,” or “is earning their 30%.” In each of those three cases, developer responses are less than half as positive as they were a year ago.
Doucet calls this survey ‘Operation Tell Valve All the Things,’ and it’s worth noting that Valve does often respond directly to the results. In fact, he estimates that nearly half of the issues developers have brought up in previous surveys have been resolved with specific Steam updates from Valve. But with the Steam discoverability bug, controversial revenue split changes, and new competition from the Epic Games Store, there’s still a lot to be done.
The biggest thing developers are concerned with this year is “not getting screwed by ‘the algorithm.’” These days, Steam selects games for promotion primarily through data analysis that has never been entirely clear to developers or players. Valve asserts that the secrecy is to keep the system from being abused, while developers worry that quiet alterations to the system have dramatic, unpredictable effects on their sales.
Other top issues include desire for a fairer revenue share and more extensive curation, and while developers at different revenue tiers tend to emphasise those issues to different degrees, they all rank them the same.
You can read the full survey for yourself here. Doucet is chatting with the folks at Valve about these issues today – hopefully these criticisms will lead to an improved store for developers and players alike.