When even Gabe Newell calls the approval process behind what content goes on Steam a "dictatorship," hell, when even Gabe Newell calls the Steam storefront "boring"—well, that's when you know there's a problem.
Judging from his recent talks, though, it sounds as if Valve hopes to change that—there is the possibility of Valve stepping back and letting users create storefronts sometime in the future. The idea is to set Steam up as a distribution mechanism where users can decide what goes through instead of having mostly only Valve decide.
How that'll work is not clear yet, but already there are fears. Many are responding negatively: isn't the fact that Steam is curated exactly what makes it so good? What if I don't want to wade through a bunch of bad games? Won't we all drown in a deluge of mediocre content?
Oh no, not mediocre content! That stuff has killed entire families!
No but seriously though: I don't think it'll be as bad as people fear. Actually, I'm looking forward to seeing Steam open up for users. Think of the possibilities! Here are a few.
@patriciaxh I wanna make a user Steam store. GAMES THAT MAKE YOU FEEL WEIRD AND BAD DOT STEAMPOWERED DOT COM— Line Hollis (@LineHollis) February 7, 2013
I've quoted mostly silly ones, sure. But they're also interesting and specific to my interests. Sorting through stores like that—stores that speak to me, curated by people I know or trust—would make me excited to look at Steam. I want to see what people can come up with, I want to be amazed. With a more open Steam, that's possible.
But right now? Right now, like Gabe Newell said, Steam is boring.
I also have faith in our collective ability to sort through the awful stuff. We already do it practically every day on the Internet—where much of what we consume is self-selected amidst an ocean of awful content. Or to be more accurate, there is always a smaller selection of people who bite that bullet for us and we look to them for guidance on what we should be paying attention to and why.
Plus, if a more open Steam means giving opportunities to developers who might've otherwise never had eyeballs on their work, then to me it'll be completely worth it.
Obviously there are awful implementations of the idea—XBLIG comes to mind. And then there are services like YouTube which don't really suffer despite being so incredibly open. Which will it be here?
The real issue, in a way, isn't the possibility of mediocre stuff slipping through. Hell, that already happens on Steam while it's a "dictatorship," so obviously it'll keep happening if it opens up its doors. The issue is how the content is sorted and presented, and whether or not we'll have tools tools to make sure we mostly/only see what is relevant to us, specifically.
But the idea of having a Steam store that can both surprise me and speak to my specific sensibilities is exciting. I want that. It's just up to Valve to deliver something worthwhile.