Valve have just unveiled Concepts, a new section of Greenlight to which developers may submit their game and software ideas without shelling out for the now-compulsory $100 donation required to submit to Greenlight proper. Unlike Greenlight however, Concepts won't considered for distribution on Steam, rather they'll exist purely for developer feedback and data. That voxel-based Crimean War simulator you've been sketching? That concept art of a swan poking its head around a shower curtain and startling a lady for points? Get them ready, they're Concepts now.
Greenlight is Valve's community-powered means of deciding, through user voting, which games are approved for sale on the Steam Store. Valve recently approved 21 Greenlight games for sale in this way.
The system was initially open to all comers, and so quickly became flooded with illegitimate junk games and joke submissions — that $100 barrier to entry stemmed the flow of crap, but also blocked genuine submissions from developers who were either unable or unwilling to fork over cash. Concepts aims to compromise, allowing developers to pitch to a wide community without cash investment, or even the promise of a completed game.
"This section is intended for items looking to gather feedback from the potential customers and begin building a community," Valve writes. "If you like projects here, feel free to rate them, favorite them, and leave feedback for the developer. The voting here serves only to give the developer data and reactions and doesn't work toward getting the game distributed on Steam."
Concepts exists within Greenlight rather than alongside it, so as long as there's some way for developers to later 'upgrade' their Concept to a full-blown Greenlight project then there's added benefit for both kinds of project. Concepts can start building communities around their Steam pages, while Greenlight becomes less cluttered with vestigial game-gloop. Valve are also now accepting Greenlight submissions for general software, as well as games.