Epic's Games Store Won't Have User Reviews By Default

With review bombing becoming one of the most popular forms of protest - even in unusual circumstances - developers and marketplaces are looking for solutions to keep user-generated reviews helpful.

With Metro Exodus making an about-face on Steam over the last week, users responded by tanking the publicly viewable rating for Metro: Last Light and Metro 2033. It's one of the most accessible tools for gamers who have bought a product to make their voice heard. So as the Epic Games Store gains more traction and exclusives, it's worth remembering that some games on the Epic Games Store won't have any user reviews at all.

With thousands of negative reviews being posted overnight to the older Metro games - which remain on Steam, untouched by Exodus's exclusivity - it further highlights Epic's decision not to have user reviews enabled by default into the spotlight. The decision was announced by Epic founder Tim Sweeney on Twitter just after Christmas, but hasn't been highlighted again in an official post or release.

Mirroring the system already used on the Unreal Marketplace, which predominately markets assets and tools for use within the Unreal Engine, also tacitly highlights another pillar of Epic's strategy: their store is designed to offer a better deal to developers first and foremost, with consumers benefiting through what Epic claims will be lower prices as a byproduct of the fairer revenue split.

The lack of user reviews is also coupled with the fact that the Epic Games Store won't have forum support like Steam does, meaning that users will have to go through other channels, like official Discord channels, Twitter, company Facebook pages and so on. The impact on developers will vary - the latest iteration of a major franchise is more likely to have existing external forums for support than, say, indies like Hades or Ashen.

That hasn't stopped users from decrying the move as anti-consumer by default. But that perspective also ignores the fact that the more channels developers have to curate, the less capacity they have to spend putting effort into each of those channels.

Derek Smart, the outspoken indie developer known more recently for his criticism of Star Citizen, pitched it like this:

So if you think about it, assuming you get the nod from Epic, this is what you end up with:

1) More money (higher royalties)
2) Better discovery of your game
3) No toxic community bs to deal with

That's of little comfort to gamers who cherish the ability to have their voice heard on a major platform, which user reviews offer. Epic's approach is that user reviews aren't necessarily a net benefit, particularly when the system is often gamed by a group or movement for reasons that have nothing to do with the particular game in question. That's compounded by years of complaints from developers that Valve has often done little to nothing to help, as Metro author and series creator Dmitry Glukhovsky explained over Instagram.

"I think Epic will [do] everything to help, and I did not have an impression that Steam gives shit," he said to a user.

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But all of this is simply a smaller battle in a broader argument that has been running through the gaming community for years, if not decades. User reviews are simply one form of consumer advice that a community can provide. Is it the best outlet for a community as a whole? And does the ability to make your voice heard to other users outweigh the benefits of exclusives and potentially lower prices?

Epic, evidently, are betting on the latter.


Comments

    Derek SmartHe's still alive? Can't wait to see Derek Smart's Desktop Commander on the Epic store!

    Review bombing might be a problem (maybe, depends on the game now apparently...) but this isn't the way to go about it. Nor is having no forums. A better solution is to employ some actual moderators to go through and sort out stupid bullshit. It's easy to tell a genuine review from a review bomb. Let the public report it and then have an actual human look at it.

      I don't condone review bombing, but this seems like it could be useful information to prospective customers. Easy to identify the cause and ignore f it's not relevant to you. But it would have been better had Steam not removed Exodus' store page entirely, considering it will be back on Steam eventually..

      edit: original comment got borked somehow.

      Last edited 01/02/19 1:55 pm

      3) No toxic community bs to deal with

      Oh Derek. You'll be so disappointed

      A better solution is to employ some actual moderators
      But that perspective also ignores the fact that the more channels developers have to curate, the less capacity they have to spend putting effort into each of those channels.

        It isn't for the developers to curate, Epic should have a team that actually manages it.

      Easy way to filter review bombs: add a filter to ignore reviewers with less than 2 hours played. Or whatever the cutoff is for a refund. 2 hours? 20? That alone would get rid of the reviews motivated by reasons other than the actual gameplay, and get to whether the game is good or not.

      And still lets people review bomb if they feel the need to protest.

      Kotaku, for the sake of respecting Gamers, please don't mention DS. The guy never delivered anything good and is just hating about anything with a special mention to its beloved enemy: CR and SC community.

      Not only nobody know him in 2019 beside thousands of tweet and a hater blog but he proved during two decades to be incompetent. Failed prophecies after failed prophecies.
      Also "releasing" endlessly the same title under different name and even scamming (for real) buyers by selling +80$ package on Steam, remove the title with zero refund.

      If you respect Gamers... just don't link anything to DS. He brings nothing but toxic behavior all over the place.

        Derek Smart is a professional cry baby.

        All he ever does is whine about games that are doing better than his shitty attempts.

      Of course Derek Smart is in favour of silencing reviews, his games tend to score around 40-50 out of 100. He'd certainly rather someone bought one his games and regretted it than for them to avoid buying it in the first place because they read how bad it was beforehand.

        I bought two of them :(
        (Well I got BC3k free with PcPowerPlay, but I paid actual money for BCM...)

        Derek Smart. Derek Smart! Derek Smart!

          Now I'm picturing Derek doing his own version of "O'Doyle rules!" every morning in the mirror.

        40-50 out of 100? Not even that. Below 2 out 10 on Metacritics.. and most "games" without even a single pro or gamer review.. not one comment.

        17 times the same crap with different name and he pretend to be the voice of gamer, an expert of everything touching game development.
        The guy is just rushing on every article about SC, just to see is name on it. He does care about bad PR as he won't ever have good one. He won't ever change and slowly dissolve into its own inextinguishable jealousy.
        That alone is pure entertainment.

          I was being generous and going by the professional review scores. The user scores are disastrous.

    Whilst being a horrible mess, this whole Epic situation is also an interesting experiment. On one side of the fence, you have the developers who create the content, and on the other side you have the consumer, who purchases the content.

    Epic has taken a developer-centric approach. Everything they do is about making sure the developer gets what they want at the cost of the consumer's freedoms. Steam on the other hand limits the developer's freedoms and leans toward favouring the consumer.

    Who is correct though? A developer needs the consumer to buy their product otherwise that 88% cut is meaningless. The consumer needs the developer to produce content otherwise they have nothing to buy. The developer is also reliant on the consumer to put in a good word with their mates to encourage sales, but the consumer also wants to know the developer is listening to them and responding by improving their product.

    Ultimately the ideal would be for Epic and Valve and whoever else to just back the heck away and let developers develop and consumers consume and let the two groups settle on what works for them.

      I'm pretty much always in favour of consumer's rights over seller's rights, just on principle, but this is especially frustrating because of the market darwinism at play.

      One of the overwhelming complaints from indies is discoverability.
      Discoverability is only a problem because of the sheer volume of content being produced - they are essentially all complaining that they are stuck in traffic, not realizing that they ARE traffic. Each indie thinks they're special and being drowned out by the less-special.

      People sympathetic to the plight of the indie have tried to boost the signal:noise ratio by curating. Steam actually STARTED that way.

      But those who were feeling left out piled on and wanted to know why they, specifically, weren't getting those sweet, sweet guaranteed sales figures from being one of the few, curated pieces on the biggest store in the industry.

      So Steam opened it up. And all of a sudden, the store was full of snowflakes suddenly realizing that when EVERYONE is special, no-one is special, and the guaranteed payday that came when only a few people were special... evaporated.

      So they went elsewhere. Greenhouse (dead). Desura (dead). Itch.io (no audience). GOG (not bad, but getting crowded). Nintendo e-shop (same). Now Epic.

      It's the same old story. The first ones to the new platform get to be stand-out, special performers for a while, revelling in being one of the few titles to capture eyeballs... then the rest of the gold-rush followers come and drown them out and they go back to whining about discoverability again. About being stuck in traffic.

      Far as I'm concerned, the only way for the rich, vibrant diversity of indies to survive is not the curation that locks special snowflakes out of the market for not being the right type of snowflake, but instead uses clever matching to put each variety of special with the right type of audience who wants that type of special.

      And as far as I know, Steam is/was the only storefront making any headway in that space whatsoever. The platform that indies are leaving/shitting on, in favour of marketplaces that will serve only them and leave their competitors out in the cold to die from discoverability obscurity.

      Ironic, that.

        I love indie games and I want them to do well, but the indie argument for discoverability never worked. It's like if I have $100, you want $80 but you also want three other people to get $80 as well. It just doesn't work like that.

        No matter what a storefront does, someone will feel like they're getting screwed. If they promote one game more than another then the indie devs not getting promoted feel cheated. If they promote all games equally but let everyone sign on, indie devs feel drowned out. If they promote all games equally and restrict sign on, indie devs that don't get accepted to the platform in the first place feel robbed. As much as people like Rami Ismail whinge about the way stores treat indies, the alternatives aren't really better, they're just different.

      Steam certainly does not favour the consumer.

      Having to be forced by the courts to follow consumer laws, taking 17 years to get AUD pricing, terrible moderation and a long list of dreadful decisions over the years that have been anti-consumer is not the acts of a consumer friendly company.

      I feel they went the "who do we screw over, the developers or the consumers" and someone in the boardroom stood up with hands raised and declared "why not both?" And they laughed and cheered!

        Well, yes, if you want to go that far, you might as well note that every structure in capitalism screws the consumer. Or that everything is pointless because we're all going to be dead in a few hundred years.

        The point in this context is about consumer-friendliness relative to other stores. And the storefront which has user reviews and discussions pages is certainly favouring the consumer more than the storefront that doesn't.

    Steam used to compete on price. Then they got big and got targeted by govts and retailer associations. Now they more or less match local stores (at least here in NZ).

    I hope Epic have more tricks up their sleeve than just competing on price...

    How am I to know if a game is worth purchasing if I can't read xxx_masiv_junk_69_xxx's review of "cud not load gam 11/10 - IGN" with a thumbs up recommendation?

      How would you know if a game is a hot buggy mess and the developer was of the sort to abandon the game after publishing it, bugs and all?

        well not from xxx_masiv_junk_69_xxx's review because he "cud not load gam" :p

        Isn't that why sites like this exist?

        Not saying Kotaku specifically is perfect but personally I haven't bothered with Steam reviews since... well ever, most of the time they're just an echo chamber of fanboys or review bombers. There's already a whole internet out there to find varied opinions about anything, searching isn't hard...

          This.

          I can honestly say I have never used Steam review in order to sway my opinion on a game, and personally speaking those that do must be the kinds of people that comment on YouTube videos....

            I have specifically been using Steam reviews for VR based content. Then its a great thing to be able to get a range of opinions and feelings about a game, because VR affects people differently. Not only that, but you find out pretty quick if the way the game works is intuitive for VR or not by how people respond to it.
            I can't talk to anything else, as I wait till all the review houses and such come out before making a purchase. Don't have money to waste otherwise.

    This also means developers can't game the system by review botting.
    There's pros and cons. Epic's putting their eggs in the external curator/content creator basket. They're of the mindset that people will decide their purchases outside the store, and the store will be just a store. Which is fair, I personally don't take Steam reviews into consideration when I want to buy a game these days. They're useful from a technical standpoint, as in does the game actually work. Mind you that's something that can be picked up from gameplay vids too. And not having reviews means you don't have people leaving bad reviews because they couldn't play it, without first trying to get support to fix the issue or because their PCs don't meet minimum specs.

    It's a tough one, can't say for sure whether it's a good move or not on Epic's part.

    This is fine as long as they dont let all that useless crap on that Steam does. Be a little more picky with quality control.

      When Steam was more picky, people complained that the smaller dev's weren't getting a fair run. So they changed the policy. Now, because it meant anyone can put a game on Steam, the quality control issue comes up.

      You cant have one without the other. As soon as you put the limitation on, someone complains that they're being unfairly left out. In todays Age of Entitlement, that's grounds for legal action.

        There's a huge difference between old Steam and current Steam in terms of the games being let on though... Initially they basically ignored all indie devs as the only way onto Steam was through a publisher, then they started Greenlight to help indies get on - which actually worked at first albeit a bit too slowly. So they made the requirements of Greenlight almost non-existant and it became a poorly run system, way too easy to game, basically any rubbish could get through - and now they've just thrown their hands up and said any rubbish can get through.

        There's a very easy middle ground here - curation. Yes it takes time, money and effort but it would be very doable by both Steam and Epic if they wanted to.
        As soon as you put the limitation on, someone complains that they're being unfairly left out. In todays Age of Entitlement, that's grounds for legal action.
        That's simply not true. As a store owner, you can decide what products you will and won't sell, no one can force you to sell something or sue you for not selling something.

          A physical store has a space limitation to justify what they put on the shelves. That's not the case in a digital world. A digital store blocking specific developers would have a whole lot of legal implications as a result. If you cant see that, so be it, but I can.

          Then you just need to look at the talk from Steam over this whole Metro Exodus situation. The sudden leap from pre-orders on their service to exclusive Epic Store hasn't gone down well, and their comments aren't a major step away from some sort of action.

          And I wouldn't be surprised if they did. Its a bait and switch tactic, and they're being made out to be the target of any backlash. I think they've offloaded that remarkably well given how fickle most gamers seem to be these days.

          I've seen legal action on things far more trivial than this.

            There's a difference between advertising a product for order before cancelling it (the Metro situation) vs not advertising/selling it at all (curation). There's no country in the world that would allow legal action against a store (digital or physical) for choosing not to sell a product.

    So in other words they are allowing devs to avoid user reivews if the game is a pile of shit.

      Don't worry, there's always YouTube reviewers to shit on a game.

      Not everything is a conspiracy!
      It’s more likely review systems being compromised by idiots review bombing.

        Sure, You keep thinking that.

        Publishers would never want to disable user reviews........

          Look at the review bombing of previous Metro games happening right now as part of the backlash.

          You know what I'd be interested in seeing? A publisher or developer page on a digital store front where you could rate your experience with the company, not a specific title. Review bombing is so misdirected because it's negatively rating a product for something that does not reflect the quality of the actual product (case in point: people review bombing other Metro titles, the quality of which have not changed in any way since the Epic controversy occurred).

          It could be interesting if people could rate the service provided by a developer or publisher. Something tells me that people would still review bomb unrelated products though, because their aim is to punish the company and hurt sales, so it might not work anyway...

    User reviews are a complete waste of time anyway. Sad little man children just hijack whatever system is available and review-bomb 0/10 or 10/10 or the equivalent.

    Gamers put too much stock in reviews anyway. Know your tastes, based on experience and you don’t need reviews.

      So... how do you know if you'll enjoy a game if you're only judging based on marketing material? Demos and preview builds are nonexistent for 99% of games being sold, so where do you get impartial information outside of people who have actually tried the game?

        When you have played games for many decades it’s not hard to know what You are gonna like or dislike.
        I tend to look at reviews for stuff after I play/watch/listen just to get an idea of the general consensus, but I like to form my own opinion not coloured by others.
        If something is gonna be a day one purchase it’s usually a franchise I’m comfortable with the general quality of. For instance RE2.
        If I’m gonna take a risk on a game or game type I’m not familiar with I’ll wait till it’s cheap and have a go. If I particularly hate it I’ll sell it or refund it.

          I try to stay away from YouTube clips because I hate spoilers but on rare occasions I’ll watch a few minutes of gameplay and I can usually get a feel for how it plays.

          I've been playing games for about two decades, and I like to form my own opinions as well, but I also spend quite a lot of time online in recent years, and don't like having a game's plot spoiled, so I'll tend to be an early adopter. Pre-launch reviews and launch day review aggregates (eg. Steam's "overwhelmingly positive" et al ratings) are incredibly useful for learning if there's anything critically or technically wrong with the game that I should be aware of.

          I'm also still adjusting to the ease of digital refunds these days (on some platforms, at least), and very rarely buy boxed copies, so I'm way more hesitant to just jump in and have a go (free trial/demo/beta notwithstanding). Been burned too many times by trusting just my own tastes.

          Not everyone has played games for many decades

        Just of the top of my head I can think of:
        1. Watch streams
        2. Watch YouTube
        3. Visit game-centric websites
        4. Reddit (although this is touchy)
        5. Play it yourself

          My point there was three of those five ultimately rely on information supplied by people who have played the game to get any useful information out of them; one of them is inherently biased (assuming you're talking about dev streams; general twitch streamers can be tossed in the basket with Youtube, gaming news and reddit/social media); and the last (outside of demos, which are nearly nonexistent these days) requires buying the game, which kind of defeats the purpose of trying to determine whether you'll enjoy something or not before making a purchase decision.

          Information about a game essentially only comes from two places - marketing (the developer/publisher media releases, streams, social media, etc), and people who have played it (reviewers, other players). The first of those will never be impartial (which is fine, as long as its bias is accounted for), and the second all sources its information ultimately from people who have played the game. There's meta information, people who discuss information from both sources... but that doesn't provide any new information, other than how reliable some of it is likely to be.

      I find reviews useful, but then again I have a filter: I only read reviews that are longer than 5 lines.

    The "google it" mentality being peddled here by a number of people is ridiculous, and only serves to provide platforms like Steam and the Epic store with excuses to not even provide a bare minimum of information or feedback for consumers.

    Steam's reviews/forums are an immensely helpful way to see if games are still being supported or have been abandoned by developers, their playable state in Early Access or on release, etc.

    Just because you personally never use them to look further into the state of a game doesn't mean anything, as many people clearly do make use of those features.

    The stream review system is super helpful the way it is. If publishers and developers want a good review then stop screwing over your consumers and make games worthy of good reviews.

    Devs and publishers fear the consumer voice.

    The shadier the dev and pub the greater the fear.

    Epic is a store for Devs not for consumers

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