Steam study reveals gamers more concerned about bad game design than bugs


An empirical study of more than 10 million user games reviews on Steam has revealed that poor games design is perceived by gamers as much more annoying than bugs.

Among the conclusions that the exhaustive study, conducted by Queen’s University in Canada, reached was that: “Players complain more about game design than bugs. Table 10 shows that only 8% of the reviews mention bugs in games, while 34% of the reviews mention the cons related to game design. Moreover, in negative reviews, 17% mention the bugs while 57% mention the cons related to game design. Moreover, 42% of the reviews that mention bugs in a game are positive reviews, suggesting that having bugs in a game does not necessarily lead to negative reviews.”

In applying rigorous academic analysis to all the reviews of a total of 6,224 games on Steam, the Queen’s University team hoped that: “Studying game reviews can help game developers better understand user concerns, and further improve the user-perceived quality of games.” It also concluded that there are significant differences between reviews of games and those of mobile apps – particularly when those reviews are of paid, rather than free-to-play, games. 

Hopefully, switched-on developers will pay close attention to the study, and use its wealth of data to dream up new ways of improving our general gameplay experience.

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Steve Boxer
Steve Boxer has been writing about videogames since the early 1990s. His first console was an Atari VCS, and he misspent most of his youth in the 1980s in the arcades. As well as for Green Man Gaming, he can be found writing for The Guardian, Empire, TechRadar and Pocket-Lint. He’s currently having trouble deciding whether his favourite console is his Xbox One X or his Switch, and plays a wide range of games, but especially RPGs (he loves a good JRPG) action-adventure titles, shooters of all descriptions and driving games. Follow him here.