Tag Archives: reviews

‘Metacritic’ Still Matters, But For How Long?

Chris Baker, Glixel:

The hue and cry around that score is the best evidence that Metacritic deeply matters to many people. And not just fans – the bonus payments that game makers receive from their publishing companies is often tied to the Metascore and those same publishers spend a great deal of time and effort trying to predict the number as it could affect everything from retail orders to returns.

But the games business, and games themselves, are changing. In many ways, a snapshot of what the critical consensus is at the time of launch does not reflect the ultimate nature of a game. Is Metacritic still relevant in this new climate?

A great insight to the inner workings of Metacritic. Must read.

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Polygon’s 2016 Games of the Year

I’m proud to say that I played three of the 10 games chosen as Polygon’s 2016 Games of the Year, my reviews of which you can find below:

I also played Uncharted 4, which I thought to have a profoundly moving story and absolutely stunning visuals. My review, which somehow finds room to discuss Mega Man 7 and 2016’s atrocious Warcraft film, can be found here.

Also of note, Pokemon Go took the world by storm, something unprecedented in video games since the Wii. It may have seemed ambitious to deem it Game of the Year in July, but I’ll argue that due to its cultural impact, I wasn’t wrong.

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Polygon Skips Star Wars: Battlefront Review Event

Polygon:

Review events are a reality of the industry, and in the case of multiplayer-oriented titles, they make sense — it’s very difficult to organize 20-40 people in different locations remotely at the same time, and we introduced provisional reviews this year to account for server uncertainty. We’ve attended review events this year when it made sense to do so, including events for Call of Duty: Black Ops 3Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain and even Battlefield Hardline.

But we will not participate in review events that tie our hands in ways that restrict us well after the general public has full access to the game in question. With that in mind, we’ll be playing the full version of Star Wars Battlefront on EA Access this week, along with many of you, without support from EA. As we have not agreed to any advance access or accepted any coverage restrictions, our provisional review will be live once we are confident in the opinions of our pair of reviewers.

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Provisional Reviews on Polygon

Arthur Gies:

Whatever factors were preventing publishers and developers from setting their games loose upon consumers in an unfinished state have become less pressing, apparently. I’m not actually interested in calling any particular publisher or platform holder out here, as I don’t think I have enough fingers to point at them all. The point is, simply, that it’s becoming harder and harder to know, even on release day, if a game will function on day one, two, three or indefinitely.

I don’t think this is going away. In fact, for the time being, I am absolutely positive it won’t. It will be some time before publishers get the hint that this isn’t ok, where they move beyond lip service about “making it right” and actually start doing the right thing and delaying games that aren’t in a state fit to be sold. I don’t know what it will take for this to happen. I don’t know what the final straw will be for consumers to push back.

That said, I think there’s more we can do to serve our audience and offer some modicum of caution and warning about games we have reservations about.

Like clocks and cars, video games are two-fold: wondrous products made functional by mechanical innards. Video games are at once magical experiences full of narrative, music, design, and animations; at the same time highly mechanical, dynamic pieces of software full of the nuts and bolts of computer science.

Playing a video game is an individual, singular experience. As Griffin McElroy has stated before, “games by their very nature are interactive, meaning… your experience playing the game is going to be different.” Therefore, the critique of a video game’s artistry (design, narrative, visuals, music, etc.) should hold little weight to an individual. Where a video game’s critique should be heavily considered is it’s functionality. If a manufacturer isn’t going to hold up their end of the consumer protection bargain (or be legally held accountable), the duty must fall on the media outlets to inform the public of faulty products and bad business, even better if the outlets can forewarn.

I am excited by this stance from Polygon. Video games are artistic illusions that only work if they are fully functional. If the undying mechanics are broken, the illusion is broken, too.

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Embargoes and Appetites, Simplified

Ben Kuchera, Polygon:

This is how publishers should begin looking at their launches: Players with set time and budget concerns are looking for reasons not to buy a game, and the better your game works at launch, the more reasons we have to pick it up.

There is always a choice to be had, even if that choice consists of playing the things we haven’t yet finished. A bad launch takes you out of the running, and stressed-out players may almost be happy to see you go.

This is another reason why pre-ordering games is a terrible idea, and waiting to buy is so smart. If you’re not locked into a purchase you can simply buy another game, or wait for things to become more stable. There are people who ran out to pick up Unity yesterday only to get to work and read the reviews. Or worse yet they opened it, played it and are now stuck with a product they can’t return.

A simpler way to read yesterday’s rant.

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Embargoes and Appetites

Ben Kuchera, Polygon:

When a game’s embargo isn’t up until the day of launch you need to be careful. If it isn’t up until a few hours after the game is launched you should probably run screaming the other way. That’s not a signal that the game may have middling reviews, that’s a signal that the publisher is trying to sell copies before the word hits the street.

It could also meant the game is still being worked on, but any embargo past midnight the night before is sketchy as hell. It’s a way to weaponize embargoes, and the best thing to do is to hold off until you can read about the game in detail.

[…]

You should always be on the lookout for these situations. The earlier a review hits, often the more confidence the publisher has in the game.

Earlier this year, I commented that Nintendo “gambled for positive reviews two weeks before launch”. Looking back, this was definitely less of a gamble and more a projection with confidence.

From a publisher’s perspective, I understand careful consideration over embargo dates. However, if a consumer cares deeply about a reviewer’s opinion, there should be no problem in waiting for a trusted opinion. The day-and-date state-of-mind is poison.

This does not, however, address the problem of protection from broken product. This is not film or music— botched playback would never escape manufacturing; a bad bounce would never escape the studio. Pre-orders for products so deeply rooted in real-time mechanics and engineering, notoriously subjected to time crunches and annual release dates, cannot wisely be considered for pre-order without subjection to reviews. While I implore patiently waiting for reviews on this type of product, release date and post-release date embargo lifts, as Kuchera implies, are cowardly and bullshit.

Pre-release embargoes are important, as is our appetite for new product.

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‘How Reviews Impact Those Who Create’

Speaking of reviews, here’s a interesting follow-up from the side of developers.

Brian P. Shea, IGN:

Ultimately, reviews should never be viewed as the final word on a game. Instead, they’re guidelines for readers to apply to their own personal taste. If a review gives a game a 7.0 and cites poor multiplayer a one of the game’s issues, but you don’t intend on playing the multiplayer, you can synthesize that review and conclude that you might be very likely to enjoy the game more than the critic – and that’s OK.

A worthwhile read but I maintain that a 7.0 persists as a flag. It is likely going to deter consumers from a $60 gamble “to apply their own personal taste.”

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A $60 Gamble

Host of the DLC podcast Jeff Cannata to co-host Christian Spicer regarding the Driveclub launch:

I think you brought up a really interesting point in saying, “we should be able to return these games.” The idea that this industry as a whole has figured out a way to convince the public that they can’t return broken products, that you buy it and you’re screwed, that there’s no lemon law for software, is a little bit ridiculous.

After hearing this, I was immediately reminded of why I continue to base my video game purchases on reviews. If a return policy and/or less expensive price-tag was put in place, would I be willing to take more chances? I’m not entirely sure. But as it stands, I am not willing to take, as DLC guest Brian Brushwood put it, “a $60 gamble.”

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