Ah yes Metacritic; the review score aggregate site that has been employed in countless gaming/console war arguments. There appear to be two differing schools of thought regarding Metacritic; one argues that its inconsequential and its flawed nature means that it should be disregarded in an objective assessment of any games in question and the other school relies on its results to prop up its arguments, even if it makes an admission to the flawed nature of its findings. Metacritic is by no means a perfect beast. It only takes into account the opinions of those publications it deems acceptable and a minority of differing scores can propel or drag down the overall score of a game, much to the dismay of many fans who have then been known to even go far as petition against certain publications to be taken off the site. As crazy and extreme that might appear to the reasonably minded person, you shouldn’t discount the importance Metacritic has on the wider industry.
The Industry Cares About Metacritic
Metacritic doesn’t just serve to be fanboy fuel for console/gaming war arguments. One should remember that, as flawed as Metacritic might be, it is still somewhat mathematical in its findings; it simply aggregates the scores of the biggest or arguably more well known publications. That’s not to say that those publications are free from criticism or in fact, abuse their status on Metacritic to seek attention. Far from it. History has shown how the rather cheap and morally questionable tactic of scoring games lower for the sake of attention is extremely effective and a problem that plagues the industry. Polygon, for instance, is hated by many Sony faithful who, to this day hold a grudge for their scoring of The Last of Us. Did they score the game lower than their counterparts for the sake of hits or for other notorious reasons? That debate continues to rage on but this highlights the problem.
Spencer wouldn’t give a shit if IBTimes UK were not on metacritic.
Even Phil Spencer, Head at Xbox, uncharacteristically vented out his frustrations regarding such scores:
I think there’s certain reviews that are written more to get clicked on than they are to actually accurately reflect the quality of the game, and that kind of bums me out.
Spencer here was referring to the score of 4 given to Forza Horizon 3 by International Business Times UK. It was the only publication to give the title such a low score on Metacritic, which actually dragged the overall score of the title down but which still currently sits at an impressive score of 91. You can bet your bottom dollar that Spencer wouldn’t give a shit if IBTimes UK were not on metacritic.
Metacritic has tremendous sway in the industry; whether you like it or not
Every time a big blockbuster title is due for release, many gamers, including myself, keep a keen eye on the Metacritic score. The latest entry is Horizon: Zero Dawn, a much awaited and hyped PS4 exclusive that has been receiving excellent scores throughout. In fact, Shuehei Yoshida, President of Sony’s Interactive Worldwide Entertainment Studios was quick to refer to the impressive scores of the title:
— Horizon Zero Yoshida (@yosp) February 20, 2017
This should not be of any surprise to anyone but this tweet of Yoshida sure serves to kill any argument that states that Metacritic does not have tremendous sway in the industry. It does whether you like it or not. It can not only impact the perception of a publication if it dares to review a game differently from the norm but also on game developers and the perception of such titles. Oh and who can forget about us lowly gamers who often get involved in the politics of it all. The Xbox One having at least one exclusive that scored 90 or above was very important for Microsoft and for the fanbase indulging in this console war meta-game. Currently, there are some grumblings about Horizon: Zero Dawn not being at 90. It might only be a couple of points away from it but that has a massive psychological impact and perception of the title.
Horizon: Zero Dawn’s score of 88 has been attributed to USgamer and its dissenting score of 2.5 starts out of five or 5/10 as Metacritic translates it. Naturally, a lot of bitter resentment followed from the PlayStation faithful as is clearly evident from a cursory glance at that publication’s comments section. This isn’t an alien phenomenon and you can be be assured that from now on, many are going to keep an eye on USgamer’s future review scores as as result of the above.
it seems we place more value on numbers in reviews as opposed to the content therein
Yoshida’s reference to Metacritic surprised me when I first saw it. It shouldn’t have based on what I have said above but to me, it was clear proof that the industry keeps a close eye and places much importance on it. Metacritic is deeply flawed in my opinion and at the same time it isn’t because it represents the nature of man and the differing nature of opinions as well as the more notorious elements of our character such a desire for attention, to profit and our obsession with review scores! These days it seems we place more value on numbers in reviews as opposed to the content therein and I do admire the likes of Eurogamer in their newly adopted stance to forsake the scores completely. Whether Horizon: Zero Dawn has a score of 88 or 90 says nothing about the actual quality of the game and we should remember that. However, the impact Metacritic has on the industry is very real and we should be very mindful of that whatever our views of it are.
What do you think of Metacritic? Is it wrong that the industry places so much weight on it? Or is it a necessary evil? Let us know in the comments below. No registration necessary.