Probably has to do with the amount of hype there were for so many winter games last year, and just the amazing releases overall. Was last year's voting higher than normal? Seems there weren't the same heavy hitters that delivered this year.
The thing about Journey is it's completely open to interpretation. How emotional you get depends on your feelings at the present moment (or you could be completely ambivalent throughout the whole game). The game does a better job of creating an illusion that what you do has a direct influence over the action.
Yes, it's harder to not feel something with Dear Esther, but I owe that to the narration and the soundtrack than the visuals (although walking along the island evokes a feeling of dread for me). You basically don't have to do anything.
There were several points in which I wonder if the person I'm controlling is the narrator or someone who stumbled upon the island after the narrator's demise. I tried to off the player controlled character at several points, but the game just wouldn't let me. It wasn't until the ending that I was confirmed otherwise.
In my quick runthrough of counting the first page or two, Walking Dead had a handy lead over Journey. The difference was Walking Dead was appearing in all places on a lot of lists, while Journey was usually ranked either 1 or 2 or not at all. Apparently nobody played Journey and thought "eh, that was a #8 experience."
I was thinking of making a thread where I suggest people make their top 10 list their homepage for the year (assuming they don't already have one). That's what I do and I was hoping more people did it. It would help me find people with similar tastes (or very different taste if they are making a blind recommendation to me). I get the feeling if I did it would just be ridiculed as asinine lol.