Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, November 20, 2019
Mediocre games

In 2018, 9,300 games were added to Steam. It's probably over 10k in 2019. Whenever you have such a large number of data points, rules of statistics apply. So I am pretty certain that if you listed all of these games by let's say Metacritic score, you would get very few excellent games with scores over 90, very few really bad games with scores under 50, and a huge number of mediocre games with scores around 70.

Now one of the strange problems of the market for games is that there is very little correlation between a game's quality and its price. Many of the mediocre games cost the same as those excellent games, and some good games are indies that cost less than some mediocre or bad games. So normally, if you buy a game and it turns out to be mediocre, you are cursing because you could have gotten something better for the same money. Which is why some people really, really hate mediocre games.

However, mediocre often means that the game is flawed in some aspects, but good in others. Playing a mediocre game for a few hours and then moving on can be fun enough. Which makes me think that a game subscription service could actually change the way we play games. I mean, if you can get a game without any additional cost because you are subscribed to some game subscription service, does every game you download have to be excellent? If you download something, play it for a few hours, then think that the replayability isn't great, and you uninstall it again, you haven't lost anything and you still had some hours of entertainment. At least I feel a lot less negative about playing a mediocre game on a subscription service.

A scale on which 70% is a "mediocre" score is a highly suspect scale. Seven out of ten is a good mark, not a "mediocre" one. In fact, anything over half is good so 70% is verging on "very good".

If people expect all the games they buy to be better than "very good" then they're going to be disappointed, often. I agree with your point on subscriptions allowing for more games to be tried at less cost but I dispute the premise that games that aren't "excellent" are poor value. It's more that exceptional games, which are rare, are exceptional value. Good games are good value at the same price.
I think once games reach a certain quality standard, a high score average score means either (1) a large proportion of players like it, or (2) everyone is impressed by it even if they don't really enjoy it. Neither says all that much about whether you personally will like it.

But I guess a subscription service can serve as a demo of sorts, now that real demos are out of fashion.
A scale on which 70% is a "mediocre" score is a highly suspect scale.

While you are probably right, this *is* the scale that Metacritic and other game review organizations use. A game has to be abysmal to fall under 50%.
Subscription skews developer incentives though. How exactly it pays on developer side?

If it is per "hours played" then everyone will try to push grindfests and/or multiplayer.

If it is "started at least once in a month" then multiple mediocre games will probably be better then one flawless hit.
This is bad for you since you lower your quality treshold and spend your time on mediocre games instead of only playing good. If it takes, say, 2 hours to decide that game is not fun for you and ditch it and 10 hours to fully enjoy good game, then every 5 mediocre games rob you of one good game forever, as your time in this transient world is limited...
A subscription service works best when its curated, so yeah, you get your bang for the long as the service provider pays attention to what content they offer you. I think a subscription service that mirrored what the Steam store looks like would die quickly without putting a heavy effort on promoting the star content while gating the mediocre stuff out of site.....something Steam should be doing even without being a subscription service.
In its current form the PC game pass from Microsoft is extremely cheap (less than €5/month) which is basically my morning breakfast. If I get at least ONE good game in 12 month then I feel like I basically spent money for that game and everything else was free.

This subscription model is amazing, with those prices.
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