If you’re submitting your game to Valve’s Steam Greenlight service, Valve expects you’re going to market the game a bit to get word out. One thing it doesn’t want developers doing, though, is handing out keys for their game in exchange for “Yes” votes on the service, whether as one key for one vote or even as a drawing.
“When you give away copies of your game in exchange for votes, you put us in a really uncomfortable position,” the company said in a locked post captured by Steam Database. “We do not think these votes accurately reflect customer interest and it makes our job harder in deciding which games customers would actually buy and play on Steam.”
Valve’s other concern is that allowing one developer to do this can turn it into a marketing arms race.
“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.”
There’s no way for Valve to directly stop developers from giving out keys, however. Instead, the company says that, when considering games for Greenlight, they’ll take into account whether or not a developer has engaged in tactics of this sort, as it is “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.”
Greenlight does not exist in a vacuum, as much as we would like to wish that the best games would come out winners and the worst downvoted into oblivion. Elements like a game developer’s reputation or social media presence can give them an edge, while some games are subject to smear campaigns for reasons only tangentially related to the game at best. No game on Greenlight is immune from the outside social elements that can often influence potential voters. This is one way, though, that Valve can prevent some of that influence to help keep the service as level as possible.