Some might argue that it’s dirty tactics to offer a free Steam key for a game in exchange for a vote on the Greenlight program. Others would say that it is just smart marketing to drum up interest. Either way, Valve has made its position clear: if you use this strategy to increase your amount of votes, we will take that into consideration when deciding whether or not to sell your game on our store.
Valve’s message elaborates on this and comes across as reasonable. “When you give away copies of your game for votes, then every other developer on Greenlight thinks that is now the thing they need to do in order to get noticed.” Additionally, they note “This is something we continue to take into account when evaluating titles to be greenlit. The result is that it may take significantly longer for your title to get greenlit, as it will take much more work for us to try and understand customer interest in a title that has collected some unknown number of votes in this manner.”
For those of you who bolstered your collection and found some gems by taking advantage of these offers, good on you. I feel these companies offering this are more interested in having their games played and their work appreciated. Valve does raise some real concerns, though, in that it should not become the expected norm, of which there was a danger. They are simply trying to avoid poisoning the water other developers drink.
In the end, it is their store. The Greenlight program is meant to ask the question “would you buy this game?” Letting developers know not to change the question to “do you like free stuff?” is well within their rights. In the end, I take it as a step towards applying some more stringent standards, which is something that has been needed to be revisited for the past few years.