In another study, we wanted to compare the PENS model to two games that are already proven to differ in terms of their critical and commercial success. To do so, we chose two adventure games (Nintendo), one highly rated and one poorly rated, based on their rankings at gamerankings.com. We like gamerankings.com because it is pulling together rankings across users and many review sites, and hence is less prone to bias. The highly rated game (98%) was Ocarina of Time (surprise, surprise) and the poorly rated game was A Bug’s Life (57%), chosen because it had both a low rating and was a similar genre/platform to Ocarina (we wanted the major difference to be quality, and not genre/platform).
First, as a way of validating that our PENS measures actually predict game quality, we had participants play each game in our lab and rate their experience. Zelda had significantly higher scores on our measures, as well as having higher scores on both enjoyment and the player’s prediction of how long into the future the game would continue to be fun for them to play. The significant correlations are summarized in Table 7.
PENS had roughly twice the power that game ratings did in predicting enjoyment and value, but both the PENS method and game rankings were significantly correlated with outcomes. Then we ran a regression with both PENS and game rankings competing to see which was really responsible for predicting outcomes. As in the last study, the PENS measures continued to be highly predictive of both enjoyment and perceived value, while game rankings lost their predictive value. In other words, the empirical evidence (summarized in Table 8) shows that it is the satisfaction of needs that is the real hero behind enjoyment and perceived value, and perhaps also what lies at the heart of high rankings in the first place.