UPDATE: After writing this, I stumbled upon some really sad stuff. Seriously, I know I am naive, but I do expect something more from game developers, something much more, that generally does not imply any negativity whatsoever to anyone who played games. How do you calculate value, anyhow, especially in such a hard to quantify matter? Dear gamedevs, whatever you do, just remember that getting mad on your players brings you no benefit whatsoever, quite the contrary.
I am a firm believer that any feedback is good feedback, but today I took part in a conversation that reminded me how much a bad review can influence a game developer. Some of this talk revolved around Steam user reviews and playtime. When does a user have a right to claim a valid feedback, especially a negative one: when he played enough to have a sensible opinion, or when he played just a little and tossed the game away, expressing his frustration using the tools at hand?
Personally, I never buy games based on user reviews – I rather just watch a Let’s play and see if the gameplay would fit me – and I am also very quick to discard any media that disappoints me, may it be a movie, book, or game. Steam’s refund policy stands true to my habits, since I can easily refund a game I did not play too much. But if I were to consider Steam’s metrics when evaluating a potential purchase, I’d dare say playtime would influence me more than most bad reviews – in the end, if a game manages to capture an audience for an average of hours, there must be something to it. And truthfully so, some of my favourite games don’t boast excellent scores, but the median playtime is about as much as it takes to finish the entire experience.
I wonder how other people decide what games to buy. It did not go through my mind to ask the developers I was talking to about their game spending habits. But while Steam’s many numbers are taken into account when calculating the elusive value of a game and its worth to be displayed more frequently in front of the platform’s 125+ million pair of eyes, some of SteamSpy’s analysis bring forth a wealth of interesting conclusions that kinda pushes us out of well known, predefined marketing boundaries.
Surprisingly, there are a lot of questionable games that sold quite well (oh!), and also many games with excellent reviews that sold poorly. I know any game developer craves recognition, but frankly, as a businessman, which situation would you rather face? So it’s really a question of why are you into game development.
If you are in game development out of passion, you are already doing a job that gives you more satisfaction than most people can’t even dare to dream of, so you’ve already won. If you love it, let it go. Let your game loose into the world, help it when it needs help, but stop stressing for things out of your control, such a Steam reviews.
If you’re in it for the money, Steam reviews are a good thing: it means people actually took the time to give you feedback, bad as it is, and just like Steam uses that data to calculate the worth of your game, so can you when calculating the cost of your support, or when planning patches, DLCs or sequels, or else when choosing a quick and perhaps less painful death to clear out the path for your new project.
Stressing over what someone said on Steam or if he had a right to is mostly meaningless, so don’t.