Some people read my recent blog The Homogenization of the Game Industry and got from it that I must be against any kind of formula for determining what games should go on the platform. That is not true. I saw somewhere that there were something like 250,000 games available through iTunes. To get through that many games there has to be a system or formula if you like. It may in part be mathematical but must in part be reviewed by humans.
Here is my formula for deciding whether a game should be approved to be sold in the store:
1 - Does it run?
The game must have a running version to be evaluated. This can be an early alpha but it has to have a playable version up and running. A version that crashes all the time does not count.
2 - Is it a game?
I know this can be controversial but usually it is not. If it is controversial, you can ask the developer for an explanation of why they think it is a game.
3 - Is it non-offensive?
Again this is controversial but most games are way in the area of safe. Very few games are offensive so you would only have to look carefully at those who were rated as offensive.
4 - Is it an exact copy of another game?
Is it an exact copy? Not similar. 'Candy Crush' is not an exact copy of 'Bejeweled'.
5 - Is it fun to play?
This is not what you think. This does not ask the question of whether you would buy it. It asks whether you had fun playing it. Why? This is like a pass. If most people who review it say it is fun, then it should get get put in the Express Lane.
I would set up a public pool of testers and keep track of what genres they like. When a game comes in, I would offer them a free copy to play it and answer the above questions. I would limit the number of people who can try it to 100. Once they say they will test it, they have 24 hours to respond. After the 24 hours is up, they cannot play it until they buy it. If they don't respond they get dropped from the pool.
If the game has crashing issues, the developer has to get at the back of the line and submit it again.
If the game is on the fence, I would then have someone internally play it and answer the same questions. They would be the final artbiter.
Basically - if it runs, it is a game, it is non-offensive and is not an exact copy of another game, it should be approved. No point in asking whether they would buy it. That is actually a bad question. A few years ago if people were asked if they would buy a Tesla, they mostly would have said 'No'. Now most people would say 'Yes'. Plus on Steam there is an implied horse race that getting more votes compared to others increases your chances of being approved. That is why I think many people vote 'No' thinking that their game has a better chance.
If you run a digital store, you just have to make sure what you sell qualifies as a product. Can you imagine if the same Greenlight process that Steam uses was applied to music? Oh yeah. We do. It is called 'American Idol'. Only in Steam's version you don't get to hear them all sing because there are too many.
I would also charge $100 per submission to only get serious applications.