Earlier this month, Eurogamer made the decision to get rid of numerical scores from its reviews.
In doing so the site joins the likes of Kotaku, which hasn’t had a numerical value attached to its reviews for several years.
Towards the end of last year we strongly felt that scores weren’t helping readers any more,” Eurogamer editor Oli Welsh tells MCV.
In fact, we felt strongly that scores weren’t providing readers with useful context and were struggling to encompass – even sometimes distracting from – the issues that were most important to our readers. How should we score an excellent game with severe networking issues? A brilliantly tuned multiplayer experience with dreadful storytelling?
Games and reviewing are changing fast. There are a number of existential threats to reviews: the rise in online games, the rise of YouTube Let’s Plays as a way for the audience to get a sense of game quality, and the changing world of game development, where games are only finished on the day of their release. With all of this going on, we felt reviews themselves needed to change if they were going to stay relevant.”
Bossa Studios co-founder Imre Jele is in support of abolishing review scores.
I understand the desireto simplify complex matters into easy to understand patterns, it’s tempting to use measurable, chunks of data,” he says. At the end of the day it’s easier to put 82 per cent in a spreadsheet rather than write: ‘I really like it but there are others which I liked more so this is not the best but still very good’.
But I believe review scores are a bane to the industry. These numbers claim to sum up an experience potentially lasting dozens of hours through days even weeks of play, and they’re also expected to represent a wide range of personal tastes at the same time as well. It’s expected that the same zero to 100 scale covers everything.”
For Eurogamer, this comes back to what it describes as ‘the unhealthy influence’ of Metacritic.
The problem is in the way parts of the games industry and audience treat Metacritic,” Welsh explains.
They attached far too much importance to these numbers, and have inflated expectations of how high they should be. The idea that a game isn’t worth buying – or that its developers have failed and don’t deserve bonuses – if it scores under 80 or even 85 on Metacritc is only going to result in very samey and bland games that are made according to what happens to work in Metacritic’s system, which is certainly not the only way to gauge a game’s quality. It’s harming innovation in mainstream gaming.”
But Eurogamer still has a rank system in place, likely to placate publishers looking for a value to place on game boxes. Some titles will be given one of three awards – Essential, Recommended and Avoid.
"When we talked about dropping review scores it was a purist system without those tiers. But it felt like we were taking something away from readers that might help them put our reviews in context,” Welsh explains. It also didn’t seem fair to the games that we really want to highlight. That’s how Recommended came about – it’s a strong endorsement from us.”
But while there are consumers who appreciate a full written review, there are also people out there who just skip down to the score. Welsh and the Eurogamer team thinks its new system still provides the best of both worlds.
We now have a short summary – no more than the 140 characters, the length of a tweet – at the top of the review giving the headline of how we feel about the game,” he says.
For people who don’t want to read the whole thing, I hope that will be really helpful – together with the recommendation if there is one.”
He concludes: It will only take a few seconds to read and will give you a lot more useful information than a single number can.”