Steam Charts: Your Reason To Go On

Some have doubted the power of the Steam Charts to change people’s lives. Those people are dead now. Belief in Steam Charts, RPS’s greatest, longest-running, and most industry-revered column, is literally the only thing keeping you alive right now. Don’t be a dead one. Love us. LOVE US.

10. Call Of Duty: WWII

An open beta weekend is the reason this colossally over-priced pre-order pokes its nose into the charts. For just £45 you too could not be able to play a game any more that isn’t out for a month. Or, if you’re quite mad, you could pay £80 for the same honour.

Which gives me cause to mention a strange detail I keep spotting on Steam: the complete absence of details of what the higher prices actually get you. Perhaps I’ve missed a feature – Steam is nothing if not an awful mess of bad design – but all I see is two options for paying, one costing twice as much as the other, with no explanation for why. Head to the game’s website and you’ll learn the “Digital Deluxe” (which, hilariously, Activision has set as the default, but forgets to put the price) gets you the season pass, and, er, “additional bonus content”. Fork out your NINETY POUNDS for undefined imaginary objects!

(More fun comes when seeing the “Pro Edition”, which apparently also includes a “steelbook”, but their own site is so broken the ‘pre-order’ button doesn’t do anything. Mmmm, pre-ordering is SUCH a good idea!)

9. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

Goodness gracious, Valve must have had a tough week. The #5 best selling game Counter-Strike: Global Offensive has fallen to #9! Unconfirmed reports say Valve employees have been sighted staggering through the streets of Seattle, emaciated, their wan faces beset by blankly staring hollow eyes, aimlessly stumbling from bin to bin in search of hope. If you see a Valve, please, be compassionate, buy a seventeenth copy of CS:GO.

8. Assassin’s Creed Syndicate

With everyone getting their chitchat on about AssCreed Oranges (ffs, Ubisoft, and your bloody “Origins” obsession), Ubi picked a smart moment to lower the price of the last one, 2015’s Syndicate, by 60% this weekend. They didn’t, however, have the sense to leave it there, the two year old game now back to costing a mammoth £35.

In the Olden Days, when you were just a wee mite, I spent ten years writing spunky RPS tribute magazine PC Gamer’s budget section, They’re Back. It was five reviews of games being re-released on budget. The process went like this: A game was released at full price, then six months to a year later, it was re-released at a fraction of that price. Then it would be endlessly re-re-re-released until eventually it could only be found in wire mesh bins in the dankest corner of your game shop for a pound. So it is, having this embedded in my soul, it is that I get quite frustrated and disappointed by the scurrilous ways of modern publishers.

I don’t miss plastic boxes and tiresome trips to stores to be able to play games, but I do strongly lament the accompanying loss of the budget re-release, not least because there’s an entire generation now that didn’t even know it was an option. Syndicate would have been out in a box marked with the label “Ubisoft Classic Essentials: Origins” or some such for a tenner in 2016. And then by this year, with the next game coming up, it’d have seen a new release on “Ubisoft Originals: Essential Classics: Origins” for a fiver. But now, it’s still thirty-five sodding quid, because apparently everyone’s forgotten. That’s not OK at all.

7. The Guild 3

An early access release of this medieval trade sim trequel sees it leap into the charts, but not into many hearts. Steam reviews are “mixed”, which a cursory glance suggests is a “mix” of people saying, “Er crikey this game is barely even started”, and people saying, “Ooh, let’s give them a chance to add the game at some point.”

I think this serves as a very useful guide to why Steam reviews are a pretty useless guide to judging a game, even when they’re not the victim of arseholes downvoting something because it has a girl in it or something. The other side is positive reviews, of which there are so many for The Guild 3, that go (and this one’s real):

“At the moment the game is almost unplayable because somehow there are suddenly no rescources left in the market end every where else. No Tutorial and a lot of trial and error or just doing nothing. It looks like everything is only halveway implemented and not complete. At the moment I don´t enjoy the game. I hope they get it going. Performance is by the way [expletive].

I voted positive because I am still hoping they get it on the right way…”

Yeeeeerrrssssss.

6. Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony

I confess a terrible ignorance about the Danganronpa games, but crikey, £50 for a visual novel, it’d better be good. But if you’re as clueless as me, you’d do well to read Stephen T Wright’s primer on the series from last week. I’ll bet that like me you’ll go from, “These games make me want to hide” to “Ooh, this sounds rather interesting.”

5. Grand Theft Auto V

Everybody’s favourite series, What Are Rockstar Spending All The GTA V Money On? is back!

What Are Rockstar Spending All The GTA V Money On?

Fidget spinners

4. Cuphead

Well there you go. Only a million years late, but the tough-as-beautifully-animated-nails platformer has swooped into the charts with its crowd-pulling combination of outrageously lovely graphics and the dark night of the soul that is endless boss fights. We’ve got a review coming in soon.

3. Divinity: Original Sin 2

I have significantly upped the difficulty of DOS2 by playing it at the same time as Zelda: Breath Of The Wild. Not exactly the same time, I’m not magic, but one upstairs on my PC, the other downstairs on the TV, and I’ll tell you it’s a confusing thing to do. The games are certainly very dissimilar, but remembering in which one it was I was trying to complete a particular quest gets quite a muddle.

Gosh this is a good game, isn’t it? So pleased to see it still selling so well a couple of weeks after release. (Oh, and it’s £30 at full price, because they’re not massive dicks about it!)

2. Total War: WARHAMMER II

Out at last, after what seemed an interminable pre-order period, and hurrah, it’s good. BUT THE NAME IS NOT.

I shall never tire of my rage at the naming of this series. It OBVIOUSLY should have been:

Total Warhammer!

Exclam included. It would have worked. No one would have been confused. Everyone would have got the joke. Hell, they could have put the “TOTAL WAR” bit in their font, the “HAMMER” in Games Workshop’s, and it’d have been bloody marvellous.

But they didn’t, and as such, even though it’s very good, you’re not allowed to buy it.

1. PlaYERUNKNOWn’s BattLEgrounDs

This week your required listening is the utterly magnificent Sesame Street version of REM’s Shiny Happy Monsters:

33 Comments

  1. Syt says:

    Total War: Hammer 2 – Electric Boogaloo

    • TillyBarrett says:

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    • DocMo says:

      Awesome reference!

  2. Premium User Badge

    james.hancox says:

    Muppets! Just what I needed on a Monday morning. Thanks John :)

  3. Cronstintein says:

    Just wanted to say I don’t think Steam reviews are useless, you just need to actually read them and not depend solely on the approval percentage. That number is a only useful as a clue to the fact that there is a problem worth checking for in the written reviews. Once you find the tenor of the common problems, you can make an informed decision about whether it’s likely to unduly hamper your own enjoyment.

    Anyway, I try and write reviews and will virtually always peruse them before purchasing.

    • napoleonic says:

      Agreed: my usual approach is to read the negative reviews and see whether they’re saying anything actually negative.

    • Syt says:

      I do make a point of reading the negative reviews. It lets you see if there’s a certain trend about what people dislike or what doesn’t work, and it also gives you a quick feeling how serious to take them – if most negatives come from people with hundreds of hours in the game who complain about a certain niche thing “broken” or how devs don’t listen to their customers because personal grudge #33 isn’t fixed, then I tend to ignore them.

    • DanMan says:

      The thing with the particular review that was pointed out is: do you vote it “useful”, because the text made you aware of how broken the game currently is, or do you vote it “not useful” because the upvote the review itself gives is misleading?

      I think voting “not useful” probably is the right thing to do, because the accumulated score for a game doesn’t account for the actual text contained in reviews.

      Of course, in the end it’s the reviewer’s fault for giving the game an upvote in the first place. Steam already accounts for the point in time a review was made and the game being in Early Access.

      You don’t review the idea of what a game might become, you review the way it is. Period

    • Premium User Badge

      teije says:

      The negative reviews I find particularly useless is those who like the game/features of the DLC, but go negative because they feel it is overpriced, or hate the DLC policy of the publisher. Very common with any Paradox DLC right now, and even spreading to reviews of the base game.

      I know about the price, I can be my own judge of value for my money – just give some input on the actual features please!

    • AngoraFish says:

      Which is all well and good, however when you have 30-40 new games being released on Steam every day nobody has time to read even a section of reviews from every one of them.

      Aside from looking at the pictures and seeing if the title grabs you, the overall positive/negative amount certainly is going to provide some kind of ballpark assessment about whether a game might be worth investigating further.

    • Yglorba says:

      I feel that Steam reviews should have had an “it’s OK” option. The five-point-scale most other reviewers work with is too much, but a two-point scale isn’t enough – it’s hard for it to distinguish between games that are just OK and games that are terrible in terms of scores.

  4. Someoldguy says:

    Oh dear, Guild III grabbing for cash before it’s anything like enjoyable? This doesn’t sound like its finances in a happy place. I really want this to do well but at this rate it feels like it’s going the way of Folk Tale.

  5. napoleonic says:

    And the sequel to Total Warhammer! should have been Totaller Warhammer!, followed by the final part of the trilogy, Totallest Warhammer!.

  6. Zorganist says:

    Don’t Steam sales (and their kin on other platforms) now fulfill the same function as budget re-releases? The dynamic is slightly different, in that you only get games cheap a couple of times a year, but it does the same job of letting people get older games on the cheap.

    I’d also argue there’s less need to for this kind of thing full stop nowadays, given how many excellent indie games are available at permanently low prices, which are just as good (if not better) than the likes of AssCreed.

    • Premium User Badge

      John Walker says:

      I’d disagree that one replaces the other, not just because they’re temporary discounts useful only for brief moments, but also because they’re nowhere near as cheap as budget releases would have been. A £30 game would be down to £5 in two years, for most of the last 20 years of PC gaming. Now you might see the game at £15 for two weeks out of every year. A pale replacement.

      And other games being cheaper isn’t particularly useful to the person who wants this game.

      • Archonsod says:

        Usually even cheaper – I recall Game always had an offer on the budget range (usually 3 for 2, though they did the occasional foray into other forms, such as buy one of the £10 games and get a £5 game free), complete with extra generosity during the post Christmas sales.
        It also seems to me they had the opposite approach to trying to sell the game with extra tat. We still had the odd collector’s edition with novelty box type of thing, but one of the other draws of the budget range was they tended to chuck pretty much everything from the game’s marketing campaign it was possible to digitise and put on a CD-ROM on there; from the usual game maps, wallpapers and patches to marketing campaign oddities and the like. Almost as if they were trying to persuade you to buy an older game by giving you extra stuff, rather than the more modern method of promising extra stuff if you hand over the money for a game they haven’t made yet. What strange times they were.

      • Yglorba says:

        I think part of the reason for this, though, is the death of Moore’s law and the fact that technology has mostly stabilized.

        Back in the 90’s or early 2000s, a two-year-old game would start to show its age – asking full price for it would seem silly. Additionally, the market was smaller, so most people would have played it already and you’d want to drop the price to attract people who were more lukewarm about it.

        In 2017, things are different. Technology isn’t advancing as fast, so two-year-old games look pretty similar to games today. And Steam is flooded with games, so there’s still lots of customers who might buy your game at full-price when they come across it.

    • Ossian says:

      In a way I kinda like that games are only discounted due to sales, otherwise my backlog might be at a rediculopendous level, rather than the more approachable look-at-what-I-got-during-the-latest-bundle/seasonsal-sale level of moderate horror it is currently.

      • Unclepauly says:

        Says more about you than the pricing

      • mactier says:

        You think you can make that stupid face in public? Reporting you to your parents, mister.

  7. Ghostwise says:

    Ubisoft isn’t obsessed with the word “Origins”, it’s just that customer panels react well to that word.

    On the subject of bargains I remember seeing a mini-study of the mean time before price cuts happen on Steam games, and the delays seemed fairly predictable. Though Japanese PC releases from major game studio seldom seem to get under 50%.

    But IIRC it was solely about discount rates, not the base price you were complaining ’bout. So yeah, not technically the same thing.

  8. SaintAn says:

    Here’s a real quote from Total War Warhammer 2:
    “Please-please befoul my fur with your stench, my lord!”

    • batraz says:

      Where are you getting at ?

      • batraz says:

        Just joking, I love the sentence too, might even make me try the game. (I need to try a french translation : “Par pitié, souillez mon pelage de vos miasmes, seigneur”)

      • ThePuzzler says:

        Clearly, that’s how elves talk.

    • Vitty says:

      That line works well if said in a Morrisey voice

  9. Premium User Badge

    Aerothorn says:

    This reminds me that I need to go and screencap the really excellent discussion about the methodology of game pricing posted in last week’s comments.

    • napoleonic says:

      John’s point is better this week. Last week he was saying that companies are losing out by pricing this way, and our point last week was that companies are very sensible to price as they do. But it’s effectively a zero sum game, and John seems to have finally clicked that though it’s sensible for companies to price like this, it’s worse for the consumer.

  10. Peksisarvinen says:

    People who pre-order, people who buy games in early access, and people who buy Cowwa Dooties are dumb as bricks, aren’t they.