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How To Get The Most From Social Game Reviews

5 min read

In the second part of the series on Leveraging Social Media ToMaximise Your Game Sales, I’ll expand on the previousarticle and cover the topic ofuseful easily getting Real Feedback, which already exists and youdon’t need to do anything to make it happen!This article started out with the intent of covering quite a lot ofaspects but one particular point expanded out and warranted it’s ownarticle in theseries…scraping Amazon. The rest will have to wait for another article, read on…Pro Reviews - a tiny voiceIn recent years, review scores onmetacritic have really driven game development as we chase a high score through compelling game design, amazing visuals and killer content. It’s quite common to find incentives for the team or business attached to reaching a certain metacritic scoreHere’s an example from a game I worked on, notice the 107 reviewstaken into account.Does paying someone affect their opinion?It’s worth remembering that these reviews are largely written by paidprofessional journalists who get the games for free and have peoplebegging them for good scores. Launch parties, previews, gifts and othertricks can all influence the game. In the early days, I can rememberhaving a reviewer come around within 1 week of us starting a game whenthere was no game to play. Our artist mocked up some screenshots of thegame on the spot and the ‘reviewer’ disappeared with his floppy disk.In the next months magazine we got a rave 3-page review for our game anda 90% rating (for 3 screenshots)! The review was entirely fictional andit’s coloured my opinion on reviews ever since.Why did this happen? Well, review scores used to be influenced by howmuch advertising the publisher paid for in that particular magazine. Themore ads, the better the reviews, the more the sales, the moreads……and around it went.Hopefully this no longer happens but the most valuable feedback you cangain as a developer isn’t from reviewers, it’s from the people who wantyour game.But, there’s a bigger, more important voice to listen to who may tell adifferent storey, noticed the 1,112 votes taken into account, over10 times the amount of proviews:Scraping Amazon - the BIG VOICEAmazon is your friend ifyou want to discover what the world thinks about any product, peoplehopefully buy your game there and it’s not short of people wanting toshare their views on how good and bad your game is. These are usuallypeople who have paid money for your game and have a vested interested init’s success, they want your game to be good because they handed overhard earned cash for you to entertain them and you’d better do it! Thisis a key difference between looking on Amazon and reading commentselsewhere, there aren’t many other places where people who bought it,review it.####Bonus: Cultural Game ExpectationsIt’s really hard to get a true feeling from pro reviews as they’re allso hard to find and come in different formats and they don’t allow youto discover regional variations either, e.g., what did the Spanishpeople think, what did the Polish people think, did the Germans love it?Thankfully, Amazon is pretty much the same the world over and it’scommon 5-star rating system is easy to discover and understand even ifyou can’t read the language.Below are some examples for Heavy Rain(PS3), which I worked on recently and I chose it as an example as it is an easier title to understand because it’s single platform and came with some anticipated cultural issues depending on where it was released.As you can see, we favoured very well and got excellent review scoresand you can see subtle variations in the general acceptance byterritory. I probably picked a subtle example but the principal isthere. :)FranceGermanyUnited StatesJapanUnited KingdomPromoted ReviewersYou also get indirect feedback from people who don’t write comments asthey will often click a button just to say if they like a review or not,where in most cases that review reflects their own opinion. Again, thisis something unique to Amazon as the other review sites don’t allow youto promote someone else’s opinion if you don’t have the time to writeyour own.These ‘promoted reviews’ are the ones to listen to and you shouldconsider these as amplifiers of opinion. You may even want to contactwith these rare reviewers for some inside information and work with theclosely, at least you’ll have the opportunity to amplify your gain theirconnection with the audience as a trusted reviewer.iTunes FeedbackI wanted this article to stay focused on Amazon / Metacritic for now butI thought it worth dropping a note in about iTunes as I think we allrecognise that the built in 5 star ratings system is welcome and enablespeople to at least give some feedback.However, the vast majority of iPad / iPhone users interact on the phoneitself and here’s where it’s painfully limited, I can only give it 1 to5 stars overall. No support for arbitrary text feedback, no support forgiving some detail “Game play was great, graphics were bad”, “Graphicswere great, gameplay was bad”, “Level 15 is lovely, Level 20 is justkiller”.On the iPad / iPhone it also has an inherent flaw in when people areencouraged to give feedback. An example: I buy the game on my iPhone (no ratings system) I play the game on my iPhone I’ve finished with it / bored of it / need the space, so I removeit. I’m prompted to rate the app/game out of 5There’s the rub, I’m at the point where my relationship with the gamehas ended and I’m moving on and that’s the only time I get to givefeedback. I can only guess that this affects some of the ratings.I guess the flip-side is that if you’re still willing to give the game5* at this point, then it must be good!SummaryRight, back to the point. In the last few years game developers havebeen given direct access to our audience, to listen to them, react tothem and share our feelings about the creative work we put into ourgames.The bright, exciting people will take this up this and make a differencewith this new opportunity to make more rewarding experiences and bettergames for everyone.I’m always looking to learn new ways and opinions so fire away! Don’t beshy to drop in a comment. :)Further ReadingMinimum ViableProduct - anapproach to the development loop of publish, listen, act - repeat