Steam is an awesome digital distribution service, especially when it comes to self-publishing. Unfortunately, 'awesome' doesn't mean 'perfect'. The service currently relies on the Steam Greenlight program in order for indies to publish their games. Greenlight's had its problems: some developers dislike the popularity voting system, others have an issue with the $100 fee to submit a game for Greenlight, and still more devs have an issue with the time it takes for a game to go from Greenlight to an actual Steam publishing agreement.
Valve has acknowledged that Greenlight is still a work-in-progress. Company president Gabe Newell called Greenlight "a bad example of an election process" back in February.
"Until we can ship everything we want, Greenlight is serving the purpose of helping us prioritize what we ship," said Valve's Tom Bui a few months later. "It is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination and has a bunch of downsides (even with all its failing, it is much better than our old, opaque system)."
Valve is still doing their best - the company just approved 100 Greenlight games for Steam publishing - but the system is still imperfect. Luckily, the Independent Games Festival is offering a few devs another way through the process.
The IGF announced a renewed partnership with Valve to provide Steam publishing agreements to the 2014 IGF Finalists. Finalists in every category get the coveted agreement, including the Seumas McNally Grand Prize, Excellence In Design, Excellence In Art, Excellence In Narrative, Excellence in Audio, and even the Nuovo Award.
The Technical Excellence category, which has seen finalists like Antichamber, Fez, and StarForge, is now gone. To compensate for the category lost, the number of finalists in each category has risen from five to six (with the exception of the Nuovo Award, which remains at eight). That means 38 developers have a chance to get into Steam without going through the Greenlight rigmarole.
Last year's finalists included Gone Home, Guacamelee!, Little Inferno, Kentucky Route Zero, and Thirty Flights of Loving, all titles that have gone onto critical acclaim and (hopefully) great sales.
The finalists for IGF 2014 will be announced in January 2014, with winners being revealed at Game Developers Conference 2014 in San Francisco next March.