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Michael Bay proves you should be happy about Metacritic’s influence

Many of the highest grossing movies for the past few years appeal to the same collection of young men that most games are marketed towards, yet the ads seem to work far better for bad movies than they do for bad games. When looking at the 10 best-selling games in the US for 2010, 2011, and 2012, the lowest scoring was kid favorite Just Dance 3 with a 73. Excluding Just Dance titles, virtually no high ranking game in those three years got under an 80, and five scored over a 90. Clearly what the critics were saying mattered more to gamers.

I don’t enjoy defending something as big and potentially harmful as Metacritic. Averages like the ones on that site shouldn’t be considered absolutes because they’re based on opinions, and opinions change over time. Additionally, I think actually reading a review is more important than merely looking at a score, let alone an aggregate of multiple scores. All that being said, sites like Metacritic undoubtedly provide an important service for customers… if they choose to use it.

Instead of tearing down imperfect sites like Metacritic because of how publishers use those scores, gamers should be happy that some marker of quality matters to executives. Or to be more precise, be happy that the people buying games still use reviews to decide what to buy, because that forces executives to recognize criticisms of their games in some fashion. The way some publishers employ Metacritic in decision-making could use an adjustment, but I worry about the future where its impact on games lessens.

Some in the gaming press want to diminish the importance of Metacritic because of some unfortunate consequences, but the genie is out of the bottle. If the site vanished this instant, publishers would just collect the data themselves. produce the exact same numbers, and use them in the same ways. As much as people want to end the influence of Metacritic, the most likely scenario for that would be if gamers gave reviews the same respect moviegoers give critiques.

Right now film lovers are in a scary place where studios profit off a public that cares less and less about critical opinion, where the masses follow the flashiest commercials straight to the theaters. If there comes a day when garbage video games sell as consistently due to powerful marketing, you’ll start seeing scores of 30s and 40s reaching the top of the yearly sales charts, negatively influencing the types of games developed in the years to come. If Metacritic loses its influence, expect to see Twilight's gaming equivalent choking store shelves every holiday season.

You know that kid at parties who talks too much? Drink in hand, way too enthusiastic, ponderously well-educated in topics no one in their right mind should know about? Loud? Well, that kid’s occasionally us. GR Editorials is a semi-regular feature where we share our informed insights on the news at hand. Sharp, funny, and finger-on-the-pulse, it’s the information you need to know even when you don’t know you need it.

14 comments

  • Ricky000 - May 9, 2013 9:16 a.m.

    Brilliant article, a great read. You guys lost me with your site redesign there but content like this is what pulled me back - great work and without the hyperbole and ott sensationalism.
  • rxb - May 6, 2013 8:51 a.m.

    Unfortunately I think Hank the tank is right. I think what we really need is a Hank's corner rant.
  • THETHINGABOUT - May 5, 2013 3:35 a.m.

    There's a missing "i" in Metacritic in the title.
  • Gemsa - May 4, 2013 3:41 a.m.

    and if your unhappy with the behind the scenes modifiers based on website/magazine's reputation/prestige then surely you can just look at gamerankings.com instead. although that site hasn't been redesigned in about 15 years. is that a record or something?
  • broodax - May 5, 2013 1:06 p.m.

    new favorite gamesite t hanks gemsa
  • AtlanteanLancer - May 4, 2013 12:10 a.m.

    a movie is a passive experience, meaning if the the add campaign is big enough you can get people to watch it en masse you just sit there and take intellectual rape right to the head, which can be mitigated by sharing the experience ( easier when a film is popular) when you play a game it's a personal experience, it talks to you and you to it, the crapiness just cannot be passively observed, your mind is active and trying to solve problems through interaction and every story piece is earned not given, falling under much more scrutiny. all in all we should be happy that unlike in the abominable hollywood industry, in gaming, quality still matters
  • avantguardian - May 4, 2013 12:47 a.m.

    indeed. i would think the price disparity between the two mediums would be quite a motivator as well.
  • freeden - May 3, 2013 4:27 p.m.

    I've never understood hate for something like Metacritic. What exactly is it? It's just a collection site that take reviews from all over the web and puts them in one place. The number is arbitrary because it simply doesn't matter. What difference does a 73 and a 75 make? Now, ok, I understand if certain media is being taken at exact number value, but for me at least, films are separated by their range. For example, if a film is between 80 and 90, then I'd estimate that it's probably worth checking out, even at a score of between 70 and 80, possibly even 60-70. And I think it's safe to say that most people who read reviews or check out numbers, actually take time to read up on something if the score matters that much. However, when talking about games, that's even more important. If Metacritic has collectively piled all these reviews together, both user and industry, and put out this collection of critique, there's no reason to dismiss it simply because you don't agree with the system. If you want a game regardless of collective opinion, you're going to get that game anyway. All Metacritic does is help round off the idea of what is worthwhile and what isn't. And at $60 a pop for a game, why should I simply ignore reviews, even for a game that I seem to want? Why should I ignore the game's collective score? Because it's somehow skewed? Because somehow the statistic is wrong? If 100 people go see a movie or get a game and come back and tell me is sucks, then I'm not going to waste my time and money because they may very well be wrong. I may play a demo or wait for the DVD rental, but I am going to take those people at their word because a collective of opinions is usually enough to convince me that something isn't worth taking the chance on. Movies are okay. If I am extremely bored, I may take said chance. But gaming, well, it's simply not worth laying down my hard earned money for something that is getting low numbers in the dozens.
  • garnsr - May 3, 2013 6:55 p.m.

    I think when movies score in the 70s it tends to be subject matter that doesn't suit everyone as well. Games that score in the 70s tend to have qualitative problems with their controls, or graphics, or whatever, and the story doesn't factor in as much as in movies, since you can still play the game and enjoy it, even if the story isn't as compelling as the gameplay (and some people just skip the story in games, anyway.) Movies don't get dinged for technical flaws as often as games, I think, since it's not something you really have to deal with the whole way, like a game, and you can still be pulled along by the story. So, the critics for games are people who want somehting that plays right, which is pretty objective, and the critics for movies deal more in story and meanings and such, which is more subjective. And time can be harsher on games' ratings than on movies, current movies seem to have higher scores than older movies that have aged a bit, but most older games are hard to really enjoy nowadays.
  • rcarrasco121 - May 3, 2013 3:06 p.m.

    ...sponsored by Metacritic
  • ultimatepunchrod - May 3, 2013 2:45 p.m.

    This is the most spirited article I've read on GR in a while, and I like that.
  • Cyberninja - May 3, 2013 2:03 p.m.

    Well I think the difference is movies are still a fun way to waste time even if they are bad, Like just last Monday I went to see Scary Movie 5 and even though it was bad it was still a good time with friends because we can kick back and make fun of it, if it was a bad game no enjoyment can be had. Also the low scoring movies you listed are for a different audience then the critics because if you had the people they were intended for reviewing them they would do much better, like you put kids movies(low scoring) versus serious films(High scoring and things adults would want to see), in the case of the Hangover II people even say its not as good as the first. With games on the other hand the people who review them fall in to their target audience which is why people care more about review scores but in any case that was a really good article.
  • garnsr - May 3, 2013 12:51 p.m.

    Didn't Aliens: Colonail Marines do pretty well, in spite of terrible reviews? Game reviews usually don't come out until after you've run to the store to pick up a game on the first day, or after you've preordered a game, frequently a franchise, that you already know you want. How often does a game really turn out that badly when it's a known quantity? The bestselling games of the last few years have been the games that we were expecting to be good before they came out, so anybody reading this site was persuaded to buy them by knowing that they were coming, and knowing that they were expected to be good, not by any advertising. Movies only cost a sixth or so of what a game costs, and take no more than half the time of the shortest games, and are frequently used as ways to waste time with friends or dates, so it's not surprising that crappy movies do better than crappy games. And a trailer can show you that the movie has enough big flashy sequences to make you think it's worth the money, even if overall it's not great. I don't think reviews really affect whether people go to movies or buy games, but I think the system that Metacritics uses is a reasonable way to see what the general concensus is, and how good a game or movie should be. Their numbers make more sense than Rotten Tomatoes, where it's the percentage of people who gave a movie a positive review, rather than the quality of a movie out of 100.
  • Sinosaur - May 3, 2013 12:44 p.m.

    That was an interesting comparison, but there are a few flaws to consider. Going to the movies costs about a fourth of the price of a game, and we typically expect it to entertain us for an 1.5-2 hours. Games are expected to be around 5 hours minimum. Movies, to some degree, hit a wider audience than games do, and that affects how they're viewed. The big 'Blockbuster' audience in gaming is typically limited to games like the various Call of Duty iterations and the yearly sports games, possibly consuming fewer games in a year than they do movies. Also, the Twilight audience is pretty much the opposite of the typical game audience. These bits aside, there's a lot of truth in your editorial, Henry, and you're definitely right that publishers would look up all the information on their own if Metacritic wasn't doing it for them.

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