When we decided to port our critically-acclaimed and award-winning title, Mutant Mudds, over to the PC I looked at the library of game available on Steam to get an idea of pricing and genres available. Based on the games that are available on Steam I expected that Mutant Mudds would not have a problem getting on Steam. Not because I think Mutant Mudds is oh-so deservedly so, but because the library of games available on Steam ranges greatly in genre and quality. It does not give the impression of any strict guidelines.
My development experience with Renegade Kid has primarily been with Nintendo platforms. When we submit a game to Nintendo they test the game to ensure it does not crash or have any major bugs that impede gameplay. If the game contains any issues in this regard Nintendo sends us a report that explains why the game was failed. We fix it and resubmit. Nintendo works with developers where needed to isolate issues and correct them.
Valve is a successful company that is reportedly in good financial shape. With this in mind I assumed they would have a robust team in place that provides a similar submission service as Nintendo. I was lucky enough to be introduced to a Steam team member via email thanks to a friend. The Steam team member sent me a friendly email with a link to the submission form and said they look forward to checking out a playable build of Mutant Mudds.
I filled out the form and uploaded a playable PC build of Mutant Mudds with the hope of opening up a dialog about the game to see what features they would like to see supported on Steam, such as achievements, etc. I received an email from Steam about 10 days after submitting:
Thank you for submitting "Mutant Mudds" for potential Steam distribution. We have taken a look at the information provided and determined that Steam is not a good fit for distribution. It is our company policy not to provide specific feedback on a submission but we would like you to consider Steam distribution for your future products.
I was shocked. Like most developers, I never truly know whether one of my games is good or not, but due to the high review scores and fan reaction we received for Mutant Mudds on the 3DS I assumed the game was at least above average and at least on-par with the quality and genre of games currently found on Steam. Steam’s rejection of Mutant Mudds made no sense to me. And, to boot, their policy is not to provide feedback. That’s helpful.
Soon after this, news of Steam Greenlight was heating up and offered potential for Mutant Mudds on Steam – and possibly offered an explanation for Mutant Mudds’ rejection. Did the Steam team want to include it as a relatively ‘well-known’ title in their new Greenlight system? Maybe. Many folks tweeted me saying as much, and I wanted to believe them. I felt fortunate that the Steam team wanted to include Mutant Mudds with the launch of Steam Greenlight. That was awesome.
And then, it quickly seemed as though the games that were being received well on Greenlight were either first-person games, contained zombies, and/or were supported by a built-in PC community or a unique publicity angle. Mutant Mudds could not find its audience. Greenlight is, after all, a popularity contest. Some seem put-out by calling it this. There is nothing wrong with it being a popularity contest. Isn’t that the point of asking a community of thousands to vote? It is what it is. But, now do I need to launch a dedicated PR campaign to get my game(s) noticed and accepted on Steam? I respect and commend those teams that have had their games greenlit. Nicely done, ladies and gents!
Mutant Mudds sits at #82 on the Greenlight list right now. It has hovered around there for some time now. It was at around #40 or so at one point. About 30,000 folks have voted either yes or no for Mutant Mudds to be included on Steam, with a 54% / 46% split in favor of yes. Yep, those numbers pretty much sum up what the Greenlight community thinks of Mutant Mudds: polarized. At this rate I can’t see how Mudds will ever be deemed suitable for a Steam release.
It is puzzling though. How can a game that has been accepted with open arms on one platform be shut out on another? It is truly a fascinating case study. The 3DS audience is more-than-likely very different than the Steam audience, which is one factor for sure. I suppose Steam’s original rejection of Mutant Mudds is somewhat justified now that the community itself has also not accepted the game. Perhaps this means that a game like Mutant Mudds is not suitable for Steam. But, hang on... there are games like VVVVV, Offspring Fling!, Capsized, Beep, Braid, Serious Sam Double D, Super Meat Boy, and even Commander Keen available on Steam right now.
How is Mutant Mudds not a good fit for distribution? I wish I knew. I briefly chatted with a Valve employee at PAX East, who asked for feedback on the Greenlight process. I was not expecting to be chatting about Greenlight at that moment, so I had nothing to offer. Perhaps I should have told them that it is my “policy not to provide specific feedback”, but that would have been rude, right?