FWIW I greatly prefer the new system for this very reason. Every pick feels like a pick people really wanted, whereas in past years there were a number of AAA consensus picks - the game that everyone played, and enough people were willing to low-rank it that it appeared on the list. And we’d all sort of collectively roll our eyes and go “okay, sure” and move on. And it gives more credibility to those AAA picks - as noted above I am not a huge fan of AC: Odyssey (and Katherine agrees with me, bless her heart) but I can go “okay these people really did like it that much!”
For an example of a truly terrible awards system, look at The Game Awards. First, it uses “secret sauce” and is not transparent, but as far as we can tell it’s basically constructed to do the exact opposite of what RPS does; by having a TON of publications fill out all-staff ballots - and making a lot of those publications tech blogs and flat-out tabloids that don’t do deep delves into gaming - it guarantees that the votes will be concentrated around the big, heaily marketed AAA games that everyone played. And then The Game Awards are themselves run by a board of presidents/CEOs of the big gaming publishers & console owners, so…yeah.
Frostpunk was actually an edge pick for me - Alec liked it, but he always coached that with “I like it more than it deserves, it’s flawed” and while it was huge in PC Gaming Land in general, I don’t think RPS staff really went ape for it.
Hitman 2 may have just come out too late; it also has the issue of being really, really similar to Hitman Season 1, which was on the calendar last year. So it’s an easy horse to trade away - “we’ve sort of already honored it.”
Wandersong may have just come out too late and been played by too few people.
Also: even with 12 people, there are a lot of games that are played by zero staff! As far as I can tell, nobody played Lamplight City, for instance. Is it Calendar material? I have zero idea. But if it was it still wouldn’t be on there for that reason, them’s the druthers.