According to a recent survey undertaken at the Game Developers Conference, only 6 percent of developers say that the Steam 30 percent cut of their profits is justified. The annual State of the Game industry survey polls over 4,000 game developers of all sizes. Among the most intriguing revelations was the sheer number of developers who stated that they were largely unsatisfied with the amount of money that Valve was taking as a cut of their sales.
At the moment, the Steam 30 percent cut is taken from the vast majority of game developers as payment for the services provided by Valve. These services include hosting of the game’s files, payment processing, pushing updates, and a number of other handy features. The Washington-based digital game distributor recently lowered their 30 percent cut for some of the most successful developers, but a lot of developers are apparently still feeling the pain. (It’s important to note that this cut for successful developers was enacted after this survey was conducted.)
A shockingly low number of developers—just 6 percent—believed that Valve was earning their Steam 30 percent cut. 17 percent responded “Maybe,” 27 percent responded “Probably Not,” 32 percent responded “No,” and 17 percent responded “Don’t Know/Not Sure.” In total, 59 percent of the 4,000 developers surveyed indicated that they had a negative opinion of how much money Valve is asking of them to use their service.
Why stay with Steam, then? Well, despite their apparent dissatisfaction with Valve’s fees, Steam is nonetheless the most popular platform for game developers. 47 percent of game developers sell their games through Steam for the PC and Mac, followed by their own website at 26 percent and publisher-owned outfits like Origin at 18 percent. Smaller shares of sales were taken up by the Humble Store (17 percent), GOG (14 percent), and Discord (6 percent).
Steam is also eminently profitable for developers. Of the 47 percent of developers who sell their games on Steam, 55 percent reported that Valve’s digital distribution service accounted for 75 percent of their sales. Developers rarely reported similar levels of success on smaller platforms like Itch.io and Discord. Those who were on publisher-backed platforms or hosted their games themselves nonetheless sold pretty well, but Steam still appears to remain the dominant platform.
While developers may be unhappy with the Steam 30 percent cut, it’s inarguable that the platform is still the biggest generator of revenue for many developers. Valve may have to lower their cut to compete with the Epic Games Store and other competition at some point, but it may be a while before the company truly feels the need to do so.