RPS Suggests: Game stores and sites that say no

storevalues

RPS Suggests is where we put forward our own ideas for new games, or changes to old games, or anything else. Think of it like backseat driving for the games industry.

Here are two things that a healthy videogames ecosystem requires: digital distribution platforms that are accessible to any developer who wants to release a game, and websites which attempt to cover every game released.

We have both of the above now and that’s great. Do you know what else is good for a healthy videogames ecosystem? The exact opposite of those things.

It is wonderful that we now live in a world where there are dozens and dozens of PC games released each day, but as more and more are added to Steam, it becomes a less useful service for discovering games. That’s a shame, but it’s not the platform’s primary goal, and I don’t think recommendation algorithms, Steam Curators or any other change will ever reverse the trend.

I do think that other digital stores which are more exclusive and curated at a fundamental level is a good idea, though. Stores designed only to sell adventure games, or non-violent games, or games about flowers, or games about crafting, or games that begin with the letter ‘b’, and which look at every other game and go: nah. Stores where you know what you’re getting when you walk in the door, because you understand that the store has a certain set of aesthetic values that it uses to select its stock.

There is one obvious instance of this already in existence, Good Old Games. With some exceptions, you know that the games on the site are going to be old and going to be, broadly speaking, good. That’s useful as a shopper, but it has also led to the site doing a tremendous amount of work to bring good, old games back from the dead by making them playable on new computers. That’s a great example of where specificity can help a community and a culture to grow in a way a general game store likely wouldn’t.

It is essential, also, that we have websites like IGN, Gamespot and so on which aim to cover every game as fully as possible. Set aside whatever you think about the quality of their output (and I think both do plenty of good work), if sites doing what they do didn’t exist, you’d need to create them. Obviously there are a bunch of finite resources – time and money, mainly – that stop them from covering everything, but the point is that they’re big tents that don’t specifically exclude any particular type of game.

Yet I wish also that we had more sites with an explicit set of aesthetic values which the editors used to decide what games to cover and what games to ignore. No, only covering PC games and not console games doesn’t count.

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In both instances – digital stores and journalistic websites – exclusivity would help games and genres find an audience and to grow in more interesting ways.

The clearest example of this in criticism lies with music, in which the most popular magazines and sites have traditionally had a clearly defined sense of taste. In the UK, it’s pretty obvious what kind of music the NME will cover, for example, and how that differs from what Q magazine will put on the front.

This would lead, I think, to better writing and better games. Take reviews: they’re often charged with providing buyer’s advice for a general audience that includes potentially anyone. It’s hard to make meaningful recommendations when you’re not sure who your audience is, leading to desperate cop-outs like, “If you like this sort of thing, you’ll like this sort of thing.”

Or consider review scores specifically. It’s been a complaint for decades that game reviews tend to huddle around scores from 7 to 10, and it’s at least in part because “Good” or “Quality” are such vague terms that the reviews become over-concerned with basic things like, “is it polished” or “does it have bugs” or “how technologically advanced are its graphics”. Having a distinct set of aesthetic values lets you judge games against those values and rate them accordingly. So PurpleGames.com could dedicate itself to games with lots of the colour purple in, and gives games without much purple 1/10 every time.

A good critic dedicated to a single subject can also do a lot of work there’s less space for at generalist sites, by picking out trends, drawing connections between games past and present, and talking in more detail for an audience that’s informed enough to follow along with the really nerdy stuff. Criticism like this tends to create an audience for the kind of work it’s covering, too, and thus helps more (and more interesting) games to succeed.

There is a feedback loop that happens between creative communities and the critics that cover them, but it happens at its best when it’s focused. When it is instead generalised – and worse, averaged out further via aggregators like Metacritic – then the feedback loop will only lead to more formulaic games. Such as when every game decided it needed to have a multiplayer mode, because games with multiplayer modes got a few extra points in reviews, because reviewers were writing reviews for everyone and out of everyone, some people like multiplayer.

I think these changes – to stores and to games websites – would help people find more games to play that they actually like, without the burden of trying to teach robots their opinions.

Unfortunately, there’s a catch: the market for games and games criticism probably doesn’t support any of these ideas. But let’s call that someone else’s problem.

75 Comments

  1. UnholySmoke says:

    There is a feedback loop that happens between creative communities and the critics that cover them, but it happens at its best when it’s focused. When it is instead generalised – and worse, averaged out further via aggregators like Metacritic – then the feedback loop will only lead to more formulaic games.

    Strongly disagree! My music taste is what I’d like to think of as fairly esoteric, but Metacritic is fantastic for finding new stuff – both stuff I probably wouldn’t have listened to otherwise and stuff I am fairly sure I’m going to like. That’s because it’s the best predictor for ‘overall quality’ (to the extent that there is such a thing – and there totally is) and because ‘aggregation’ means I can get straight to, say, the Drowned In Sound review and ignore (to some extent) most of the rest.
    Fully agree with the piece though. I like big sprawling single player RPGs these days. Something Dedicated to that, with a capital D, would be fantastic. Aren’t we supposed to be bigger than Hollywood these days?

  2. Premium User Badge

    Drib says:

    Hm.

    I guess something like a single-genre store could work, if they could price competitively.

    Otherwise it’s just an offsite curated list of stuff to buy on Steam.

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    Grizzly says:

    That’s what I like about Cool Ghost’s “The Best Game Ever” series, which only covers games that are *really good* at certain things.

    • TheDandyGiraffe says:

      Cool Ghost’s “The Best Game Ever” is more like “games that Quinns and Matt like because of a specific reason”. Which is perfectly fine by me, as they’re among my favourite game critics; but still, I think Graham had in mind something quite different.

  4. Andrew says:

    there’s nothing game critics like talking about more than game critics and the work of game critics

    :)

    Co-Optimus is only (well, occasionally they do other stuff) about co-op games. There are website only about MMOs.

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      The Almighty Moo says:

      I live co-optimus’ reviews, especially when they give a voice to both (or more) parties to talk about the different things they liked and didn’t like, as well as the co op specific experience. An excellent site when looking for things to play at a games weekend.

  5. brucethemoose says:

    Yet I wish also that we had more sites with an explicit set of aesthetic values which the editors used to decide what games to cover and what games to ignore.

    That’s a curious statement to make.

    There are plenty of review sites (and YouTube channels and so on) for all kinds of genres and niches out there.

    The problem is the exact problem you just described: obscurity. They’re buried by IGN, mega streamers and the collective mass of the internet.

    I thought RPS, of all sites, would recognize that, seeing how y’all have a knack for posting links to obscure sites and games in some articles.

    ____________

    I suspect the game stores you describe would have a similar problem. Even with some kind of head start (say, Notch and Mojang started a sandbox game store?), they just couldn’t sustain the critical mass required for the internet to hear their voice.

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      Nauallis says:

      Deleted an almost-comment about the same thing. I suspect that these sites / web storefronts probably already exist, but they’re so small, specialized, or frankly inconvenient that they gain no marketing momentum because they only cater to one topic/genre. It might make sense for a meatspace store to specialize in only one genre or subgenre of gaming, because at least a physical store can create events that encourage local/regional enthusiasts to show up and spend some money: example being wargaming and model hobbyist stores that host tourneys for tabletop wargaming campaigns, how-to seminars for painting and assembly, in-store meet & greet with model manufacturers, etc. In those cases, it’s also possible to give meaningful reviews to your desired audience.

      It’s funny though, because as I write this I’m reminded of gaming hobbyist magazines, which in the past did exactly what Graham is pining for.

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        Graham Smith says:

        Yeah, I acknowledge at the very end that my idea is probably commercially unsustainable. Even if you could launch a website that did this and make it sustainable, there’s a pressure to always be growing, and that’d eventually lead you to branching out, like GOG including new games, or even like IGN writing about Game of Thrones all the time.

        You could probably make it work as a Patreon-funded zine, if you did a good enough job of appealing to an existing community.

        As others have pointed out, there are some folks already doing similar things in video. I’d also suggest Three Moves Ahead do something similar as a podcast. But then I think you get a broader kind of content in writing than you do in video or podcasting.

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          Nauallis says:

          I think that (and generally agree with you here) that the seemingly insurmountable challenge is to create a profitable/successful niche online store, and stick to your genre or subgenres. I feel like there’s plenty of media that already does what you suggest, although it tends to be more of “we only review what we like to play” rather than “we only review roleplaying the sale of certified organic meat popsicles while wearing an inflatable penis suit” and actually stick to that. Plus if you over-specialize it’s impossible to find your audience.

          Perhaps an online storefront that sold ONLY the special editions of AAA-production quality titles? Don’t even sell the regular editions at all? I dunno.

          I work in an industry in the USA that regularly says “no” to potential customers, and our company does it for very good reasons, and we regularly win local/regional industry awards for excellence, and we’ve been in business for about 25 years. On the other hand, the profit margin is in the tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars, so the difference in prospective clientele for every sale is marked.

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            Nauallis says:

            I ran out of edit time. I hope that comment made sense.

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            Graham Smith says:

            “Plus if you over-specialize it’s impossible to find your audience.”

            It’s worth noting that a lot of single-game fan sites traffic a lot better than generalist games sites. Partly because they can hammer search engines for popular terms in a way that a general site can’t, and partly because there’s a lot more people who play one or two games per year than there are people who play dozens and are looking for their next thing. The problem with genre-specific/aesthetic value sites isn’t that they’re too specific, but that they’re not specific enough OR general enough.

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            Nauallis says:

            Interesting, I did not know that.

            Makes sense though, given how the general topics that RPS covers within the specific (and yet, not) framework of PC gaming, but even then your staff writers push the boundaries quite often with articles about hardware, company mergers, philosophical rambling and soul-searching, among many others (I’m not complaining, mind you – I like supporting all of that).

        • brucethemoose says:

          A form of your proposition does exist. Origin, UPlay and so are essentially storefronts for the EA genre, Ubisoft genre etc.

          And there, you see that, even with the monetary and interest problems aside (as these corporations throw massive amounts of money towards marketing and infrastructure anyway), such storefronts STILL run into big roadblocks.

          They have to convince customers to break their habit and leave another storefront. A hypothetical genre storefront would also have to convince publishers to sell games there.

          Consumer/company habits are notoriously hard to break.

          I guess I’m saying that such a concept is more than just economically unsustainable, like the article suggests. It also goes against the consumer’s/publishers habits.

          Now, Steam-sponsored storefronts would be a whole different story. Reviewers don’t have those problems either, which is why some niche sites still exist.

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            Don Reba says:

            They have to convince customers to break their habit and leave another storefront.

            I’d say, it’s about the social network, not the storefront.

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            Graham Smith says:

            I don’t think Origin and uPlay are the same thing, although they’re grouped around publishers (and Ubisoft especially make a samey kind of game). I think it’d only work in creating what I’m talking about if eg. Ubisoft let everyone else making Ubi-ish games on there. You gotta be making some effort to be completionist at least within your oeuvre.

        • BooleanBob says:

          Calling for something to be a patreon funded zine is calling for its creators to exist below the breadline, surely?

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            Graham Smith says:

            There’s some really well-funded Patreons out there, but it’s not like I’m suggesting this is the best of all outcomes.

  6. DragonOfTime says:

    I think that, to some degree, the shop part could work within Steam’s ecosystem. By expanding the curator function, so instead of just having a list of games recommended by this curator, an entire storefront containing this curator’s recommended games is available. Think “a Steam storefront within the Steam storefront”. This could be further expanded upon, allowing people to design their own storefront and perhaps get some small portion of the revenue from games sold from their storefront.

    Edit: Didn’t Valve actually mention something like this once?

    • brucethemoose says:

      Yeah, the key is getting someone who’s super interested in and dedicated to the genre (like a good curator) maintaining the storefront, as opposed to a suggestion bot.

      Not sure if Valve mentioned that, but I hope they did.

    • FriendlyFire says:

      I’m almost certain that Gabe himself actually said this was Steam’s ultimate goal at some point. They wanted to become a platform for specialized storefronts rather than a storefront in and of themselves.

      Steam would become a client for connecting to various themed storefront using the Steam ecosystem (so all your games are still managed and linked by Steam). Each storefront could decide its pricing policy, selection of games, display them as they wish, associate critique or comments to them, etc.

      I really liked the idea, but it seems like it’s been ditched in favor of half-assed stuff like the curators.

    • mattevansc3 says:

      Gabe did when talking about SteamOS. Much like Android OEMs could add a skin to stock Android, PC OEMs could bundle in SteamOS with a curated store.

  7. Ghostwise says:

    If Steam had some sort of affiliate program, specific storefronts managed in a certain way could be workable. Presumably, every YouTuber with two subscribers to rub together would run one.

    But Steam doesn’t.

    • charlesg says:

      This is exactly what I was thinking too. Someone buys a game through your referrer link, and you get a bit of Steam credit.

      Some potential for abuse here, you can just register another account on Steam and refer games to your other account to buy.

      Wonder what Amazon does to prevent that. Do people buy stuff with referral links from family members to help each other make (well, save) a few cents?

      • Ghostwise says:

        IME, Amazon doesn’t give much of a damn on that front. The kickback is low, and margins aren’t are live-or-die issue for them. If you compare to client acquisition costs, it’s fine.

        Amusingly this system would also make it easier for the press to eat and pay the rent. It’d create some conflicts of interest, but such conflicts are already baked in for almost every sort of trade press.

  8. OpT1mUs says:

    GOG has not been an acronym for Good Old Games for quite a while. It’s just GOG now. It has plenty of new games on it.

    • RedViv says:

      And they get rather cross when you call them their old name as well.

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        Graham Smith says:

        Huh. I knew they’d introduced some new indie games, but didn’t realise the name had ceased to be an acronym. Woops!

        • CMaster says:

          Do you not remember the horribly ill judged “Good Old Games is shutting down/dieing” marketing campaign. I don’t think it’s even restricted to indie games, just DRM free ones.

        • Zeewolf says:

          They release far more new games than old ones, and last year was a terrible year for old games on the store. Luckily this year has been a lot better, with usually at least one older game per week.

          Other than that, I thought I’d mention that there are quite a few genre-specific sites that seem to do well enough. Adventuregamers, OnlySP (single player), The Wargamer, et.c.

  9. geldonyetich says:

    Something I was thinking someone could potentially do is:

    1. Categorize the games by reasonably exact feature set of the kind of game it is.

    For example, you could take the RTS genre, and then tag that out into subgenres based off of unique features they had, so a player looking for an RTS with a specific set of features would know their choices.

    2. Keep track of which games with roughly the same features have offered a better experience.

    With the specific aim that if everybody wants to make a lackluster clone of a popular type of game, you can instantly see what’s the best example of that type of game, sorted by features. All the player would have to do is tick the boxes of the features they want and, through the magic of computers, be present with a list with the game to do it best sitting prominently near the top.

    Thereby outright smothering no-talent developers whose entire design philosophy is to make worse games that are in a popular genre, while encouraging everyone to have to make the games better in some way.

    Further, lets say this environment creates a situation where many developers decide there’s absolutely no way they can make a better game of an existing genre and feature set… well, how about you try making something different then? Because concepts that don’t yet exist should stick out quite prominently in this kind of categorization system.

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      Evil Timmy says:

      The problem with this is always, how do you tag it so that another person can intuitively figure out the right keyword to search for. I have a very specific example, most RTS games will allow a group of selected units to all move at their own pace when given a move order, the fastest (and generally weakest) proceeding ahead while the heavily armored tanks lumber behind. Over a long distance or when met with an unexpected threat, having your units out of formation can be devastating. Rise of Nations nailed it by keeping your units together and protected, and if you click and hold, you can select their orientation and width of formation (by mousewheel). But what do you call this? Smart move, unit cohesion, stay in formation, artillery move, vanguard, and any one of a dozen terms could (and couldn’t) work.

      • geldonyetich says:

        Since semantics are unavoidable, instead of regarding them as an insurmountable problem, lets embrace them. I’m pretty sure, over time and with effort, the community can experiment with tags until they find one that sticks and is popularized. People should be comfortable enough with that idea… especially if they speak English.

  10. Rikard Peterson says:

    There is Adventure Gamers (.com) for adventure games. I drifted away from the site a few years ago (I used to hang on their forum, but then they changed forum software which made it pretty much unusable for me – it doesn’t track unread posts), so I don’t know how good they are these days. They tried running a store a while too, but I don’t see one when I look at the site now, so I guess that didn’t work out.

    • zapatapon says:

      I was going to mention this. Adventuregamers launched their store 2 years ago, and it already doesn’t exist anymore, so probably they realized quite quickly that it wasn’t viable. The review site itself must be — they have been around for a while. See also: justadventure(.com) , with a strong fansite feel, going strong since 1997 and which up to a few years ago bravely looked like it was still 1997.

  11. Urthman says:

    I think it’s a really dumb idea to expect the *store* to be the place where curation happens, especially when it’s an online store where inventory space is no issue. What I want from a store is good service at a good price. Stores that purposely don’t carry a game I might want to buy because they don’t think it’s very good? That’s not good service.

    We have the entire rest of the internet to do curation. What’s the point of RPS recommending a game if Steam is going to decide whether or not I can even buy it?

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      Graham Smith says:

      The point is you already have Steam. What’s the point of another website having /the exact same stock as Steam/?

      A lot of people like Itch right now because it’s basically providing what I’m suggesting; a storefront dedicated to a particular kind of game with a particular set of values. The fear I have, I guess, is that Itch is that way partly by accident, and might one day grow out of it – just like Steam did, when it from ‘curated sorta by accident as a side effect of its systems’ to fulfilling its goal, which was to contain more or less every game.

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    Don Reba says:

    Steam’s developers must have thought along the same lines, so they added tags — problem solved, right? You can have your adventure games and your female protagonist games and, of course, your psychological horror dating simulators.

  13. pelwl says:

    Such as when every game decided it needed to have a multiplayer mode, because games with multiplayer modes got a few extra points in reviews, because reviewers were writing reviews for everyone and out of everyone, some people like multiplayer.

    I can’t help thinking that you’re overemphasising the importance of critics here. If multiplayer modes are popular among developers/publishers it’s because a) players are more likely to buy early at full price, not years down the line when it’s heavily discounted and the community is dead, b) they will often encourage friends to buy the same game so they can play together, and c) a popular game with a multiplayer mode can make a mint out of quick and easy to produce cosmetic DLC.

    I can’t help feeling that the only feedback that publishers are really interested in is what’s actually making money and the game developers know it.

  14. charlesg says:

    This is why I’m a fan of The Flare Path. Sims discussed by someone who plays a lot of sims.

    • Gothnak says:

      Hear hear, best reviewer on RPS imo as he’s an expert on a specific genre. Often other members of RPS staff get to review games that they don’t really like, and then you get funny but not entirely helpful reviews.

      • charlesg says:

        So about as useful as reviews on Steam: entertaining, but not really helping you decide if the game is worth buying

  15. xyzzy frobozz says:

    This…. coming from a website that employs Alice “Copypaste” O’Connor.

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      Don Reba says:

      A.k.a. Alice “Objectivelythebestwriter” O’Connor.

      • batraz says:

        Supporting M. Reba’s message, although every writer here is pretty lovely, even the scary M. Walker. If this strange accusation refers to the habit of reproducing marketing blurb, I must disagree : the propaganda we’re not really supposed to read is more informative than advertising, and often has a kind of orwellian charm.

      • MrUnimport says:

        Hear, hear. I wish she covered all press releases. All of them.

    • Alice O'Connor says:

      Hey, only my friends get to call me Copypaste.

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    CrackedMandible says:

    Purple is so casual. I prefer my games heliotrope.

    I agree to some extent with specialized reviews. Rpgcodex gives me reviews in a genre I love, but RPS has exposed me to things I never would have heard of, but loved the experience of playing. IGN I tend to avoid outright because i found it to be so vanilla in the past.

    • pepperfez says:

      I prefer my games heliotrope.

      I too am a fan of the Thief series, though it’s asking quite a lot for a critical website dedicated to it.

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    MajorLag says:

    Everyone seems to have taken Graham’s statement about curated stores to mean something about genres, but I was thinking more along the lines of curators creating storefronts of games that just appeal to them regardless of traditional factors of categorization. Then it’s a matter of finding that curator you’re on the same wavelength with, which is still a pretty big problem, sadly.

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      Graham Smith says:

      Genres are closer to what I meant. ‘Personal taste’ is closer to what we have, through Steam Curators and YouTube channels.

      Leaning in to individual personality feels like what big websites have done to compensate for the weirdness of writing for that big, general audience. It’s good, I like it. But it doesn’t feel like it’s as good for the ecosystem/community as like-minded people teaming up around a more definable sense of taste – such as genre.

      Again, I’m thinking of rock critics who only write about rock music and then, within that, come to write about only certain kinds of rock music. They pick it apart and track it closely and find new ideas within it, which they then hold up to the masses and say: hey, look at this. And so more people come along and do the same thing again and again and the genre ends up tunneling deeper down these multiple rabbit holes until you’ve got umpteen subgenres. Prog rock, glam rock, punk rock, and so on.

      (Obviously it’s not critics alone that make these things happen, but they’re part of the process.)

      If it seems like I’m overstating the importance of critics: I genuinely don’t think we’d have the resurgence of immersive sims or Infinity-engine-style RPGs that we have now if critics hadn’t been harping on about Deus Ex and Baldur’s Gate for the past twenty years. Critics kept interest in those games alive by repeatedly recommending them and introducing them to new people, til you got a critical mass of existing fans desperate for more.

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        MajorLag says:

        What bothers me about that, I guess, is that it really narrows your exposure to otherwise interesting things. I’m not really in to RPGs, for instance, but I played (and really enjoyed) Undertale and OneShot based entirely on RPS’s articles about them. And Yume Nikki is one of the games I hold up when discussing games-as-art. But I wouldn’t follow an RPG-specific blog.

        If you asked me to pick a genre I spend the most time with, where the largest number of games appeal to me? Puzzle games. And while The Witness, Stephen’s Sausage Roll, and Recursed are all games I’d highly recommend, if I only ever visited some puzzle-game oriented site I’d be missing out on a lot.

        I guess what I really want is a curator who curates interesting games. Games that, maybe, aren’t even necessarily good but are judged to be worthwhile experiences by someone who has the same sort of metric for that as I do.

  18. Wulfram says:

    I think the sort of site you suggest can have quite a negative impact, if its particular values are taken to define a good game in a genre.

    Generalist sites mean lots of voices talking to each other and none dominating, specialist sites mean each genre risks becoming the fiefdom of a particular voice.

  19. simontifik says:

    It’d be a fine line to tread but I could see potential in games coverage sites having their own store fronts. That way the cost of quality games content can be subsidised by game sales. Obviously this creates some conflict of interest and the content would have to be judged on its own merits. No good if the site is a constant stream of 10/10 buy this now. But if a site like RPS is genuinely into a game and had the option to purchase at the bottom of the article to support the site, I’d be all for it. I think I’ve heard Twitch is planning something similar, a buy button on streams with streamers getting a cut?

  20. robotslave says:

    Well and good, but let’s be aware of the bathwater you might be buying with that baby.

    In the US, both distribution and criticism of pop music have been more or less explicitly divided along racial lines for over half a century now. We have separate “R&B” charts to this day, and separate radio stations, and separate critical outlets, just as we did in the late ’50s.

    The market for video games is certainly big enough to be segmented now, and further segmentation is probably inevitable, especially for small to mid-budget titles. But don’t be surprised if you find yourself somewhere down the road looking back and longing for the days when everything was just sort of all jumbled together in one big pile.

    • pepperfez says:

      The pop/R&B divide was never really about genre, though. It was about reactionary identity politics and maintaining an imagined racial purity through apartheid.

      Games have already had their equivalent split. “Casual” games, visual novels and, until recently, “walking simulators” are commonly excluded from consideration alongside “core games,” for a similar reason to the split in music: it’s assumed that buyers of games outside those genres won’t want to be associated with them. In this case it’s about keeping a presumed male sphere free from female influences, again largely irrespective of the actual mechanical or aesthetic qualities of the games.

      • frogmanalien says:

        That’s a GREAT point – by specialising too much you also risk throwing out all the great new stuff – I don’t have a lot of time for Roguelikes, but every so often there’s a gem out there that surfaces above the rest. As an even example, there is no way my previous tastes would’ve indicated I’d like Her Story, but fortunately it managed to get in my queue and I loved it – I’m not sure how specialist press would help in this case, especially for the really creative content and genre bending we’re seeing a lot of on Itch.io

  21. FireStorm1010 says:

    Sorry, just big flat no from me. Imho nothing you describe is more then Steam with better filtering/UI.

  22. pepperfez says:

    The market situation has led to a lot of genre-specific commentary being provided by forums or communities, like Shoryuken and Dustloop (among others) for fighting games or RPG Codex and RPG Watch for, er, RPGs. The polish, resources and access of a professional outfit are missing from these, and the communities themselves have (to be generous) their own peculiarities, but at least the demand for specialist material is being met in some way.

  23. Sin Vega says:

    It would be a good start if Valve would make it possible to filter things properly on their shop. Their storefront is abysmal, handing everything to bullshit algorithms (redundant I know) and making browsing a complete waste of time, which completely defeats the point of having trillions of games on there to begin with.

    If they were just starting out now, they wouldn’t last a year.

  24. TotallyUseless says:

    I’m just a simple guy, see a game on E3, looks good? Add on wishlist. Release day and enough $$, buy. I never relied on any curation, reviews, whatsoever. In the over 150 games I bought on Steam, refunded 1 title only.

  25. c-Row says:

    Well, there’s Explorminate for a start.

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      Graham Smith says:

      Explorminate is a good example, yeah.

    • Lacero says:

      Came here to mention explorminate. One of few curators I follow on steam because I know what a game being on their list means. I don’t need someone to recommend “good” games I need someone to tell me something specific about the game.

      The wide-screen curator list is good for this too, I wouldn’t buy or not based on it but it tells me something useful about the game that an rps recommend doesn’t.

  26. elhisai says:

    Steam could do a better job for content discovery, but as in music, the problem is there is an overwhelming mass of content. And as in music, there’s a lot of websites, each with its bias and genre preferences, you can go to for recommandations, that’s exactly why I follow RPS :)
    Now.. sorry but I can’t help noticing the irony of what you’re saying about not publishing about everything when you guys still publish a news for every call of duty or assassin creed or “insert here AAA game you hate and will mock at length in the article, sometimes in a funny way sometimes not” . Every time I wonder why a person would take time to write such an article when every word makes it obvious he or she doesn’t care. And if you don’t care, why the reader should?

    • Premium User Badge

      Graham Smith says:

      Some of us like CoD, some of us don’t; same with Assassin’s Creed. In any case, I think you’re underestimating the amount of news we ignore about each.

  27. jeremyalexander says:

    I’m baffled as to how people think Steam should help you find good games. Steam is a store. It isn’t my grocery stores job to tell me which of their food products are the best. They stock the shelves and I purchase the products I want. Some of those are based on reviews I read online, or recipes I look up, some are based on recommendations from others, and some I just try for the heck of it. I’ve never once walked into a grocer and asked the manager to only show me his best mustard. That isn’t their job. Steam just needs to stock the shelves and weed out the faulty products and loony developers. I don’t want someone else deciding what is or isn’t good content for me. I have plenty of resources for that.

    • Ghostwise says:

      I guess we go to very different stores.

    • dangermouse76 says:

      Baffled ? Really ? Most people want to be directed to stuff, how is that baffling ?
      Also most of the big grocery stores ( UK ) market to you at every level of your psyche. Flattering your ego, flattering you sense of intellect. Arranging the store in pleasing or focused ways to channel you to certain products and deals.

      You may be above that, maybe your not and just think you are. But it’s there and it works well most of the time on a majority of people.

      An online game store has aspects of this baked into it’s UI design and visual style.Steam wants to get the right game in front of you AND every game in front of you. I just dont know if it’s a riddle they can solve.

      • frogmanalien says:

        The shops are certainly designed to give maximum information and encourage sales, but they don’t particularly care what (unless it’s more expensive) – arguably Steam already does that with it’s wishlisting systems. It seems anything more complex than that is beyond traditional retail and is probably beyond Steam too.

        • dangermouse76 says:

          That’s not my experience. They care very much about what and how they sell to you. Consumer choice is in part a sales pitch. They have whole warehouses mocked up as stores and spend a lot of time and money arranging mock shelving with products at different positions and heights.

          Your choices of available brands can differ between Tesco and a Sainsburys based on deals, so some options will be off the table for you.

          Also shops are stocked by post code and demographic information based on average income. So certain products simply wont be there. Your choice is defined by many factors other than your own.

          Also brands such as Nestle offer incentives to have better placement than other brands on shop shelves. Plus Own brand stuff is also pushed hard in order to maximise return on their own goods.

    • Zeewolf says:

      Uh, I often ask the store peeps for help. Especially if I shop at a niche store, like a beer store, I want to know what they recommend, what’s new and good, et.c.

      Oh, and in pretty much every clothes, shoe, electronics, whatever-store, it takes max 30 seconds between me entering and someone coming up to me, asking if I need any help. That’s like, their job.

      Even in larger supermarkets, it’s easy to get help if you ask. So yeah, like Ghostwise said, it seems you go to very different stores than me.

      • frogmanalien says:

        I’m not sure if I’ve ever really valued the opinion of the sales staff in PC World, Game, or even in a bookshop- often because their knowledge is lacking in general but equally because they don’t know my taste – to use the shoe shop metaphor, staff may tell me what features and sizes they’ve got (just like Steam does) but their opinion is typically lacking (I’ve never been told by a shoe salesman that “those shoes look good on you” and I suspect that’s not uncommon).

  28. Premium User Badge

    Al__S says:

    Maybe RPS could spend a fortnight or so only covering games featuring Rocks, Paper and/or Shotguns?

  29. frogmanalien says:

    Why does it have to be a business? I know people got bills to pay, but zines, “mix tape” websites, etc would do the job nicely and could be put together quite easily with links to Steam.

    I’m with a few others here – Steam is not the place for information about products anymore than the label on my food products tells me honestly and truthfully about the taste- for that, I’d need to speak to friends or read something in the specialist press (the Guardian reviews some truly random foodstuffs for example).
    I’m happy with Steam as a store, but for discovery I go out and get the magazines, websites and friends recommendations and build up a concept of what their opinions will mean to me before I buy the game.