Last week, Epic finally added a user review system to its PC game store, nearly 3.5 years after the service’s initial launch. The first set of public ratings produced by that system is now live for hundreds of titles on the Epic Games Store (go to the end of this article for a handy breakdown of some of the best-reviewed EGS games ever).
After a bit of filtering through those ratings, some of the pros and cons of Epic’s unique user review approach come to the fore. While EGS’s user review system brings some interesting ideas to online game stores, it still feels a little half-baked, even after years of obvious work on Epic’s part.
The main difference in the Epic Games Store rating system is that it is not open to any player with an opinion. On platforms like Steam, anyone who has “playtime recorded” on a title can submit a user review. On EGS, by contrast, Epic states that “the rating system will ask random players, who have played a game for more than two hours, to give a rating on a five-point scale.”
Those quick surveys – which are complemented by polls that ask more specific questions about the content of the game – appear randomly to players after individual playing sessions. Epic promises that “we won’t spam our players, and we probably won’t ask about every game or app we’ve used.”
Senior Product Manager Patrick Hollenbeck told Ars that “user engagement with the new system has exceeded expectations in terms of number of users and frequency of answers provided. The quality and quantity of engagement is encouraging enough that We are looking to increase the opportunity for users to participate, and are monitoring users who are trying to abuse the system.”
On the plus side, the EGS user review system is “well-designed to protect the game from review bombardment and to ensure that the people who assign scores are the actual players of the game,” as Epic describes its goals.
This is also not a minor improvement. On Steam, Valve has gone to great lengths to combat a common issue where a flood of “off-topic” reviews (i.e., those focused on “outside the game” issues) messes with their user recommendation engine. Valve’s efforts, which mix automatic detection algorithms with decisions from “a team of people at Valve,” have had mixed results.
Epic, on the other hand, won’t need to worry about detecting its own EGS review bombs. Limiting reviewers to a small, random sample of active players means that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to organize any such review bombing campaign for those players.
Everything is great!
On the downside, Epic’s system also leads to significant score inflation. Of the 480 or more EGS games for which we could find a public user rating so far, only four had an overall rating of less than 4 out of 5 stars. Osiris: New DawnThe worst rated game we could find on the store currently has a rating of 3.8/5.
To be fair, the public ratings of most of EGS’s roughly 1,450 listed games are not yet listed. Epic spokesman Nick Chester said that EGS titles “must have received a minimum threshold of reviews before they can begin showing ratings publicly” and that Epic “fully expects that”.[s] All products to eventually display these ratings.”
It’s possible that EGS games with current public ratings are what players are most excited about, and currently unrated EGS games will eventually fill the lower end of the scale if those players reach a critical mass of ratings.
On the other hand, limiting reviews to active and consistent players can skew those reviews toward the higher end of the scale. This is not necessarily a problem, as long as EGS users realize the nature of that disparity and take it into account when comparing scores on a relative basis.
“We are constantly evaluating how players interact with our ratings and polls,” Chester said. “We have already made and will continue to make adjustments to the system to provide the best information for each game.
a bit normal
The other main problem with Epic Games Store’s user reviews is their lack of exclusivity. On Steam, users can add text to their thumbs-up/thumbs-down reviews, highlighting what specific elements they liked or didn’t like. This can help both customers and developers learn what to focus on in future updates.
On the other hand, with EGS, player-reviewers answer pre-populated survey questions about specific elements of the game, which are then distilled into descriptors that are listed with user review scores. Those descriptors (so far) are limited to extremely general (and universally positive) feelings about the game: “amazing story”; “Miscellaneous Characters”; “Obsessive Gameplay”; “Great Boss Fight”; e.t.c.
These are good things for people browsing the store. But those kinds of descriptors lack the granularity you get from skimming through a random sample of Steam reviews for most games.
And even if you want a quick list of highly rated EGS games with “various characters,” for example, EGS can’t help you. Currently, there’s no way to find a store (or filter results) based on review scores or descriptors (though clever Googling can help a bit).
As a Service, we worked through EGS to select 90 or more games that rated a 4.9 or 4.8 “overall rating” on the store’s five-star scale (this data was initially collected as a result of the “Game As a Service” rating). The score may change slightly since then). You can break down that list on the next page, along with a breakout of some common content descriptors provided by users for those games.