What Steam User Reviews Mean (discuss)

So I have 1300 games on Steam. I've played most of them, and I've read Steam user reviews for all of them. Here's my quick interpretation of what the user review scores mean when there are at least 1000 user reviews.

NOTE: It's important to note that games generally review much better than they deserve and that many people who don't like a game will nevertheless leave a positive review because they believe other people will enjoy the game, or they just don't like leaving negative reviews.

95% to 100% Positive (Overwhelmingly Positive)
If you like games in this genre, you are almost guaranteed to like this game. This is as good as it gets. Almost perfect.

90% to 94% Positive (Very Positive)
If you like games in this genre, you are almost guaranteed to like this game. A small number of people may dislike a system in the game that spoils the experience for them, but it is overall a great game. It is probably worth your time to read the negative reviews, but I would only pay attention to problems mentioned by more than one reviewer.

80% to 89% Positive (Very Positive)
If you like games in this genre, you will probably like this game. There are some minor problems with the game that some gamers will find too much to deal with. You should read the negative reviews to get a better idea of the problems. Look especially for things that more than one person mention.

70% to 79% Positive (Mostly Positive)
It's a coin toss whether you will like this game or not. Proceed with caution. There are numerous things about this game that people don't like. Carefully read the negative reviews, especially noting items that are mentioned by more than one reviewer.

69% and below (For AAA games only)
You are probably not going to like this game, but it is still worth your time to do the research. Read both positive and negative reviews. Sometimes the positive reviews may provide perspective on the negative reviews. For AAA games, often the games just aren't good, but other times, games that don't quite meet expectations can end up here, and the negative reviews can snowball and make a game seem worse than it really is. If this is a genre or series that you really love, it is possible that you may still enjoy this game.

69% and below (For Indie games only)
You are very unlikely to enjoy this game. There are numerous problems with the game, some very serious. If you do research on this game, realize that there could be, and probably are, problems that the reviews fail to mention. Only consider purchasing this game if it is extremely cheap, and you love the genre.

Would be interested in hearing other people's takes on how to interpret user reviews.
Yeah, my first thought was what you both mention—the timing of the reviews is important, and a glance at the graph is also a good idea—sometimes there can be a major negative spike due to something irrelevant like a stupid comment by a dev on TwitBook, or similar.

There can also be a large negative 'bomb' for non-game issues like DRM or price, which may not be relevant to you.

69% and below (For Indie games only)

I infer you're saying that Indies generally get more favorable reviews than AAAs. Makes sense, I imagine much less of their customer base are casual game consumers who'll complain about anything.

how to interpret user reviews

Your summary looks good to me, I'd probably drop the floor 10 points to 60% for me since people often complain about issues which are not negative for me—but 70% seems about right for the general body of gamers.

The wisdom of the crowd is a potent force—as long as one is part of the crowd :)

read the negative reviews to get a better idea of the problems

That's my main usage of reviews, and often to discover basic info important to me, not just problems—eg if it's FPP or TPP, does Alt-Tab work, etc. Marketing spiel omits those little nuggets.

Has anyone tried getting AI to summarize a game's reviews?
Has anyone tried getting AI to summarize a game's reviews?
Both Gemma and CoPilot are okay at getting the overall sentiment of user reviews, but they can't "read between the lines" like a human who is experienced at reading the reviews. It also can't tell when a review is simply wrong, like the Forza Motorsport review that says the game only has 10 tracks and one mode. People have done an absolutely miserable job of reviewing this game.

For Forza Motorsport,

Gemma did a good job of getting the main issues people talk about, both positive and negative.

CoPilot added a nice touch of comparing the recent "mixed" reviews with the older "mostly negative" reviews.

Both of them agree that the primary reason for the negative reviews is performance/bug related. I disagree. The game runs perfectly fine on my laptop. At least, it runs the same as Forza Horizon 5. I've never crashed or experienced a bug that I'm aware of (some people are calling AI running into them a bug). The primary reason for the negative reviews, I believe, is actually disappointment. The wait for this game was several years longer than usual. The hype was through the roof. But most of the significant changes were under the hood and can't be seen by the average player. The average player using cheats like traction control to help them drive can't tell if the physics is any better than it was before, for instance. All they know is that they were expecting some grand campaign like you get in the Grid series. and the campaign is exactly like it's always been.

The game's primary feature seems to be disappointment.

There are some valid complaints, of course, but the game is definitely not deserving of a "mostly negative" user score, and that's something Gemma and CoPilot may never learn how to determine.

If I'm an unreliable source, then consider that PC Game Pass users, Xbox users and professional reviews all agree the game is pretty good. Meanwhile Steam is sitting at 38 percent positive.
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Community Contributor
I look at Steam reviews as a combo of the game's quality and the marketing around the game. That's because I've seen quite a few reviews where people aren't reviewing the game as it is, but the game they imagined it to be. The cheaper the game, the worse this seems to get, too. A lot more people are going to buy a $5 game on a whim, just looking at the name and maybe the first two screenshots on the page.

Take Marvel's Midnight Suns. The game description doesn't say it's like XCOM, the game's video doesn't make battles look like XCOM, the pre-release hype specifically calls out that the game isn't like XCOM, the pro reviews say it isn't like XCOM, but it keeps getting downvoted because it isn't like XCOM. Presumably by people that don't even look at Steam reviews downvoting the game because it isn't like XCOM. It gets down-votes for other reasons, too, but the ones for this reason are pretty maddening.
Generally I don't buy a lot of games so I take care when spending my money. I do read steam reviews but I also look at a games forums and discord.

Also recommendations from other communities like this forum mean more to me than steam reviews, especially as a good game can easily get review bombed.

I also play some games such as "simulator" games that generally get bad reviews. That doesn't necessarily put me off.

Also I often look out to see if a game that is on my wish list has a demo as there is nothing better than actually playing the game yourself to get a feel for it.

I still wish I hadn't bought Diablo 4 though :)
As with everything, I'll check out the negative reviews first and see if I can glean any actual information between them and the positives. So many reviews, positive and negative, have absolutely nothing to say, so the percentage rating is usually meaningless to me.

Take Pacific Drive for instance, it currently has a "Very Positive" score, but it's not a game I will touch, because I looked at the Negative reviews, which mention it doesn't have a reasonable Save system, which just absolutely won't work for me.

Or take Dave the Diver. I really like Management games, but just looking at both the effusive praise surrounding it and eyeballing the game itself, I can tell it's one of those "Kitchen Sink" style games, that's a mile wide and an inch deep, something I know I'll have fun with for a few hours, but ultimately drop after feeling unfulfilled by it.