Steam is a bit of a linchpin for indie game success for better or worse. The audience is there, understands the platform, and uses it extensively. But just as is the case with any marketplace, they do not serve the interests of indie developers first, they serve the interests of the marketplace owner first (in this case Valve). I think indie devs mostly understand this, but I think its totally reasonable to call out what the current situation is. Grey Alien points out considering other avenues of revenue, but how they mostly just don't show the same level of sales.
My take is that if we want both indie games to be a thing and have good indie games, then maybe Valve should pay attention to this sort of feedback and make sure the hard-working, full-time indie devs are getting enough attention to be sustainable. Otherwise you basically get the Youtube model of lowest common denominator drivel.
The platform cannot handle the volume of games being added.
The question is: what is the correct number of new games, and how can that number be reached most efficiently?
I'd propose that the platform can digest about 70 new games each week, which is the number of slots on the 'new and trending' page. Currently, there are 205 launching each week (and growing), so there would need to be a reduction to 34% of the current level.
Curation is just not going to work with that volume. The overhead is too high.
Its clear instead that the $100 Steam Direct fee is too low. If we want to encourage professional-quality games (even from one person), this fee does not represent that level of quality.
I really think Valve should increase the Steam Direct fee to $500 - test it out, and see if that makes a meaningful impact by decreasing the total number of launches but increasing average quality. The $500 could still be recouped to the creator at a certain sales level.
To me the greater shame is the professional game launched to few sales, leading to the permanent exit of that creator from the industry, and perhaps their financial ruination, rather than a higher fee meaning a few less school kids and hobbyists uploading their weekend project.
All of this is poison to discuss online though, because many of the people filling the comments section on Steamworks and Reddit are the people who would be filtered out if the Steam Direct fee was increased.
Otherwise if the status quo continues, legitimate developers will face far higher advertising and PR costs (and time). If I could pay $500 or $5000 to launch on a much less cluttered and supportive Steam store, I would gladly pay that. This is the advantage that the consoles still have, and the success rates there are much higher because of the higher upfront costs and efforts keeping out low-effort content.
Some very amazing games that are largely one man projects
Kenshi: amazing game and about to hit 1.0
Those are just two that immediately come to mind
I wouldn't dismiss that developers are still responsible for gathering user data, observing trends and marketing their product, all that is still there. This post is merely highlighting how changes to the platform can have some huge cascading effects downstream, and that sucks for those trying to build followings and businesses.