Opinion: In defence of review scores

I am really quite fond of the review score.

I’m that guy who, more often than not, skips to the final paragraph, sees the number and doesn’t read the full review.

I know it’s not ideal. I’m a critic, too, and I hate the idea that someone just skips to my summary paragraph and reads the number and moves on. What was the point of me doing all that work?

I also totally agree with Eurogamer about the unhealthy importance attached to Metacritic scores (which is actually a wider-industry issue, and not the fault of Metacritic). Remember when Obsidian missed out on its bonus because of one point on Metacritic? That just wasn’t fair.

I also acknowledge that, for developers, a game today is never really finished and that an initial score is simply not reflective of how a game evolves and changes during the course of its life.

I have also spoken to several publishers that hate reviews. The widespread belief is that a good review score has very little impact on sales, but anything below 7 can harm a game’s popularity.

But what developers, critics and publishers want is not important.

I find, as I get older, free time is a luxury and not one to waste on 12 paragraphs of a review for a game I wasn’t sure about in the first place. Perhaps it’s a generation issue, I don’t have time to watch Let’s Play videos either. But I am interested in reading a quick summary of a game’s quality, which is what makes Metacritic such a great consumer tool.

One person I spoke to this week told me that removing review scores is a good thing because it ‘forces gamers to read the whole thing’. But if recent years have proven anything, forcing gamers to do anything will invariably result in failure.

Eurogamer’s new system sounds intriguing. Perhaps it can offer a middle ground between the destructive score-based system and the need for quick-fire analysis.

But I’m wary of the industry’s movement towards no review scores. Because although the media, the publishers and the developers have lost interest in scores, I am not convinced that’s true of the gamers.

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