The cold shower that is Kongregate’s rating system
* I’m not one that likes rants so I made sure to include some positive bits at the end.
Before going further I think I need to make sure we all get some things:
- Kongregate seems to be doing just fine as it is right now. They look like a successful business so they are surely not in need of me telling them what to do.
- I always knew Golemizer was a niche game that few people would like. That was kinda the point of the project you know. To do something different.
I’m not sure why but I never really paid attention to the rating system on Kongregate before I realized that Golemizer’s exposure was directly related to it. So how is this system working?
- Players must create an account on Kongregate. While they are asking for your email it doesn’t ask you to validate the account using a link sent by email.
- Find a game.
- Click the stars.
- Receive 1 point for rating the game.
- Games features on the front page or receiving badges are choose based on the rating they received.
Seems just fine doesn’t it? The community decides what’s good and what isn’t. The “good” games are picked by Kongregate for further exposure to drag even more people to them.
So as a portal Kongregate makes sure that the first games anyone see on their website are the games that most people will likely play. Makes sense and Kongregate is successful so that’s probably good for them.
Where does Golemizer fits in this? Remember, I said Golemizer was a niche game so it can’t win a popularity contest. Put EVE Online and World of Warcraft in a popularity contest against each other, which do you think will win? Doesn’t mean EVE isn’t a great game but it’s still the loser. A lot of people won’t like Golemizer and that’s fine. I’m not doing this to be liked by everyone, that’s silly. I’m doing it for those who like this kind of game (and I’m still convinced there’s potentially enough of this kind of players so that one day Golemizer could become a full-time job).
So let’s say that in a day of 30,000 visitors on Kongregate only 200 players (0.6%) might be interested in Golemizer, how will they know the game exists? That’s the catch, they probably won’t unless everyone else that rated the game before were also interested in Golemizer (very unlikely).
So those who are not interested in the game are contributing to make sure those that might be interested will never hear about it. Well isn’t always the case? No.
Let’s say I tell you that Zombieland is an overrated movie that don’t deserve all the attention it gets. Isn’t it the same thing as giving 1 star to Golemizer on Kongregate? No because now you know there’s a movie called Zombieland. From there you might decide that if I say so it’s true so you’ll decide to never watch the movie based on what I said. Or maybe you happen to like movies involving zombies so you’ll give it a shot anyway. Or maybe you’re just curious to find out if the movie indeed deserves the attention it gets even if I told you no. But now you are aware that a movie called Zombieland exists.
If you give 1 star to Golemizer on Kongregate, you’re burying it into thousands of games. It’s rating will drop so Kongregate won’t consider to feature it on the front badge or to create badges for it. So there’s very little chances that you’ll be aware the game actually exists. Maybe it’s still not your kind of game but the only thing we are sure of here is that you will never play it just because you don’t know about it.
There are other ways to search for Golemizer on Kongregate. For example the “new games” section. It took about 12 hours before the game was out of it.
If you search per type of games then it is still ordered based on the rating so Golemizer is probably lost in the middle or the end of the list.
There is also the search engine where you can search for “mmorpg”. However this search engine search the entire website, forums included so there’s little chance you’ll find Golemizer this way.
Another interesting bit is that you receive 1 point for rating a game. It’s ridiculous to expect that everyone rating games will actually check all of them for more than 30 seconds. Just because the feature is there (and is used to set a level to your Kongregate account) you know people will just go through dozens of games in a minute just to receive their points. While it would be nice to expect such people to give 5 stars to every games that way we must be honest here and face they it’s just more tempting to give it 1 star. You know about that incredible sense of power the web gives you?
As I’m writing this the game has already disappeared from the “easy to find” spot. That’s 4 days after release on Kongregate.
Am I disappointed? Yes. Am I pissed about everyone that spent 30 seconds in the game and gave it 1 star? No, I don’t expect the majority to like Golemizer. Am I frustrated that this system is actually preventing Golemizer from being discovered by potential new players? Eh, yeah but I can’t do anything about it so I can only swallow the pill and deal with it.
One thing bugging me is the “no need to validate your account to vote”. Do all games that are well rated have been rated legitimately? Is there some kind of system to cross-check IP address with ratings? That might sound a bit jerkish to ask that but since the rating system has such a high impact of games I think it might be just fair to do so.
Am I saying that Kongregate sucks? No, like I said they are running a business and they seem to do pretty well so who am I to judge. I’m the one that needs them, not the other way around (though they would make money through me since I’m using their microtransaction API …). I’m just saying that unfortunately this is probably the wrong place for Golemizer based on the popularity contest that is the focus of this website.
I am now currently running a test ads campaign on Kongregate to help make people aware that the game exists. This can be just as bad as it can be good. I might just draw more 1 stars which won’t help the exposure of the game once the campaign is over and unless I’m really lucky I won’t have the money to keep advertising there. So if I run out of money to advertise it will probably reach a dead end.
Working on Golemizer as “Joe the developer” has been a roller-coaster ride since the start. Sometimes you’re feeling like you’ll take off in the sky and then you’re getting back to the ground. A 2 years and a half roller-coaster can play tricks on your stomach so it comes to a point where you might want to get off before throwing up on people around you (sorry for the terrible picture here). It doesn’t mean to burn the whole thing to the ground as THERE ARE people enjoying the ride but it might help to take a look elsewhere and come back once in a while just to check things out.
It’s still not all that bad as I didn’t lose my shirt in the process. But I have yet to make any profit yet. Sure the game is currently making just enough money to pay for the servers but it didn’t for several months. Add to this the money I spent in ads and artists work and I’m still a long way before buying myself a beer and be able to say “Ah! Thanks Golemizer for this fresh cold beer!”.
Maybe the situation will be different in 4, 5 years or more. Or maybe that I’ll just get lucky and from now on only people enjoying the game will rate it and it will reach the magical bar of 4 stars. Who knows fore sure. But like I said, got to watch your stomach before you’re unable to get back in the ride for good.
But to end on a positive note what could Kongregate do to give Golemizer a small chance?
Well, I’m using their microtransaction API meaning they get a share of the money I make when players are buying stuff in Golemizer. Could they give Golemizer a small temporary front page slot? Why not? It has the potential of paying up for them after all. If the game remains unknown then the only thing we know is that they will not make any money out of Golemizer.
Maybe there could have a feature called “Your pick of the day”. Based on preferences set by the user, each day 2-3 games are presented as their personalized pick of the day. If someone is interested in MMOs then at least once in a while Golemizer would get a decent exposure. Like I said it’s fine that people don’t like Golemizer but maybe others would like to know about it more easily than digging in hundreds of games.
Just with that I think it would give a fair chance to Golemizer on Kongregate without perverting the “users pick the high ranked games” system.
Anyone from Kongregate reading this?