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Is it possible to publish a game on Steam as pay-what-you-want? Something in the likes of the Humble Bundle. If it's not natively supported by Steam, would it be fine (as in, not violating any contracts or agreements) to have the game published as free (or at a very low cost) and include a link to a page where you, if you so wish, could donate a sum of money?

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Steam does not have direct support for this kind of model.

It's common to fake it on other store fronts (such as on iOS) by making the game available for free and selling some kind of renewable microtransaction that is effectively a "tip jar."

Steam does not mandate exclusivity from you, and many developers also sell their game elsewhere. There are plenty of examples of developers who are putting games on Steam and also receiving donations outside of Steam, for example from Patreon or the like. There does not appear to be anything in Steam's user agreements that contradicts such an approach.

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Another work around, discussed in this Kotaku article is selling "support the devs" style DLC on Steam.

Some, like Thea: The Awakening - Coffee for Coding DLC (also discussed on their blog) include bonus content that doesn't change gameplay:

Coffee for coding is an initiative inspired by our faithful fans who have expressed the desire to reward our efforts in delivering the free DLCs and frequent updates.
We stand by our decision to make our content free, but we will not say 'no' to some loose change coming our way. After all, more coffee = more coding, right? ;)
We also include a gift for all those who wish to say thanks – a full deck of Thea Cards, in the form of high resolution jpgs, featuring our gorgeous character artwork!
You can use the cards for role playing games, or just enjoy the drawings.

Others, like the the Relic Hunters Zero: Remix Donation - "Thank You" DLC have no content:

This DLC contains no data, no new content, and no bonuses or cosmetic rewards. Only buy this if you wish to thank Rogue Snail for supporting this game for free for over 4 years, while keeping the game Open Source and available for modding and teaching purposes.

Thank you for your generosity!

You can find other examples in the previously linked Kotaku article or by searching Steam for 'donation'

Note: I have not read the fine print of Steam's developer or user agreements, I'm inferring permissibility based on prior examples.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The first example shows merit. The second and third example are both "Bonus DLCs", and while they advertise support (for charity and for the developers, respectively), they are both legitimate DLC upgrades including assets and in game files. As such, I do not think they make good examples, within context. \$\endgroup\$
    – Gnemlock
    Feb 24, 2017 at 23:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ Upon review, I agree that the This War of Mine - War Child Charity DLC isn't a great example. While Coffee for Coders DLC does include an out of game asset, the primary intent was to give players a means to pay for prior free DLC. Whether or not the associated content was required (perhaps due to Steam's fine print), I don't know. \$\endgroup\$
    – Pikalek
    Feb 25, 2017 at 0:05

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