Hey all. Here are a few thoughts about a comment made by Adam Sessler of G4 at GDC '09 during the rant session. Hope you enjoy the read, feel free to comment!
Sessler: "Shame on you, publishers, for using Metacritic to determine whether or not a game is good. We have a method for determining whether or not a game is good. It's called the market."
Not entirely true. Who hasn't purchased a game based on hype and potential only to find later that it stunk? I got burned big-time on Timeshift when it came out. I work in video game retail, and I can say with certainty that if publishers (and by extension copyright law) allowed for new-game refunds the market would show a very surprising trend: Purchases do not determine quality, only success of marketing strategy/IP/license. The phrase "can I return this, it was terrible" is pretty common. Take Halo Wars, for example. A great game with an engaging story in my opinion, but successful largely by name-recognition, strength of license, and a familiarity with the studio developing the game (Ensemble). Copies of the game flew out the door, but easily one in ten (not a large number, but somewhat significant) were brought back within the week simply due to the fact the purchaser either didn't like the gameplay, thought it was a different genre or thought it was actually ODST. Ignorance of the obvious by the consumer aside, this is an all too common occurrence and with the sudden glut over the last eighteen months of mediocre to poor games that sold better than they should have punctuated by a few wildly successful titles, there's really no way Sessler's statement can be a sensible one. The market determines whether or not the game is successful from a marketing/financial standpoint but has little or nothing to do with whether the game is "good." Was Resident Evil 5 "good" because it sold a lot of copies? Or Grand Theft Auto IV? Killzone 2? Halo 3? No, it was strength of brand combined with massive marketing strategies. Halo 3's "Starry Night" commercial aired once, during Monday Night Football, and it was a huge hit by itself. RE5 commercials are still running during March Madness to get that target audience. I saw the Killzone 2 "War. Perfected." commercial a hundred times during the playoffs. Do any of these things help a game be "good?" Of course not. They help it sell, nothing more. Take Tomb Raider: Underworld, for example. The market, and Eidos, said the game underperformed by selling 1.5 million units worldwide (US numbers not found). Still, the game averaged a 7.4 from reviewers, putting it in the "good" category. So, did the market determine the quality rating of the game? I don't think so. I think Sessler's comment vastly oversimplifies the point he was trying to make, which was publishers using a single source for measuring the quality of a game. In this, I happen to agree. Publishers should be, and hopefully are, smart enough to diversify sources and identify different opinions from original source material as opposed to a compilation source like Metacritic.