Procrastination Amplification: Punditry on MMOs and games in general.

Newsflash: Metacritic Reviews No Longer Impartial

So, apparently, a Bioware engineer going by the handle of Avanost gave Dragon Age 2 a perfect 10 point review on metacritic. Or so this reddit post claims, making it “a matter of ethics and integrity”. I suppose the only possible response here is this: Boo fracking hoo.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it’s particularly ethical to post reviews for your own product without disclosing your affiliation, but EA (via Kotaku) is quite right that that is how things work. Whole marketing teams are employed to increase product review scores all over the internet and nobody really cares. Hell, it is even a known fact that game publishers pretty much buy scores in critic magazines. (Remember the whole Kane & Lynch incident?) Internet anonymity makes it impossible to simply trust user reviews as unbiased sources.

But even if we could prevent affiliated parties from reviewing their own games (which we can’t), individual user reviews are an almost useless resource. How many people give products insanely low scores over rather minor flaws and how many fanboys give grossly over-exaggerated scores to things they love? Even averages can only do so much to fix the issue of bad reviews. Spore, for example, was a big let-down but it surely wasn’t so bad that it should be rated 4.6 on a 10 point scale (which is what metacritic shows).

Personally, I use metacritic (and similar sites) for two things – getting a quick glance of how well-received a game or product is and finding honest-sounding reviews among the rabble that is user created content. A couple of developer reviews make no difference  either way. Go read the opinions of bloggers you know and trust and that have a similar taste in games for a much better picture of whether a game is actually worth getting.

Would I prefer that game companies left the user reviews to actual users? Absolutely. Would I dislike a blogger that didn’t disclose ties to a particular company? Sure. Reality though is that user reviews don’t work very well and that you simply have to expect people to vote for themselves. And hey, why is Joe “I hate Blizzard and will give a 1 point review to Cataclysm” Schmoe’s opinion worth more than that of the guy that actually made the game? Both are biased, neither has to reveal his or her true identity. That’s how things work.

  • I don’t look at Metacritic to get information on a game. I’d rather read blogs that I’ve found have a similar taste in games to mine. What bugs me about this whole kerfluffle is that some companies apparently issue bonuses and even salaries based on Metacritic. That’s just asking for trouble with an inaccurate, easily gamed system.
    Tesh´s last blog post ..Cloning Clyde

  • True that. Paying bonused based on metacritic is rather pointless – especially when using the user votes on there as the measure. I suppose I can see a point in using the aggregate press score for that – not because it is jighly accurate, but because press response is oh so important for your sales. (Also, game companies / publishers should usually know which magazines they bribed and should be able to adjust the scores accordingly ;))
    scrusi´s last blog post ..Newsflash- Metacritic Reviews No Longer Impartial

  • Metacritic only works when the “soon to be user” reads the low scored posts. The low scored posts usually contain the nit picky bad “I hate you” details a decent user will read.

    No intelligent person is going to pay to much attention to praise ( maybe just a little ); if they are going to shell out money for some over priced coaster or HDD hog then they are going to want to know what is wrong with the show or interactive show ( game ) first.

    The common trend is the fact that the Artist and direct affiliates will almost always make their work seem like it is the best thing in the bizz, but by default they almost always fail in actually conveying its reality. The great reviews get the hopes all up in the sky just to have them slam back down again when reality hits.

    Reality then brings the angry mob splatting the review boards with negatives and insults that clout them with low scores.

    Guess what?

    The usual people who actually buy this stuff don’t pay attention anyway, they just bitch and moan about this and that all the while buying the brand new copy of Mass effect 2 and Dragon Age 2 plus the 2 1200 cards of Microsoft points at the store either online or walk-in.

    Did this Reviewer actually help in making the sale?

    No.

    The general end user did not even know that the review was posted there to begin with.