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Metacritic Reviews and Video Game Sales Expectations

Metacritic Reviews and Video Game Sales Expectations

Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to The Basement. The segment where gamers can talk free of worrying about pulling punches in the same way you'd trash talk a noob in your favourite multiplayer game. Sit down, relax, and let's have a talk shall we? Today we're going to discuss publishers that use reviews and Metacritic to calculate expected sales of their games.


First off, let's talk about the reviews aspect of this issue. To understand why reviews are important to sales expectations, you have to understand what they mean to publishers. Reviews are used by publishers to gauge interest in a game. If a game they've published reviews well, the assumption is that the game will have a huge interest among gamers and so that helps to calculate a possible number of total sales. The problem is that, especially these days, gamers are finding themselves more and more detached from the review scene.

The reason for this detachment is that far too many reviewers have earned themselves a bad name. Suspiciously good scores for bad games, instances of "bought" reviews, and a general disdain for the opinions of the average core gamer have soured said gamers on trusting any reviews and the reviewers that do them.

Looking at the issue from this angle, there is a question that has to be asked. In a day of ever growing social media, where the opinions of gamers can be seen everywhere, and when gamers don't trust reviews anymore, how can any publisher still believe that reviews are an adequate gauge of gamer interest? Publishers do themselves a disservice by not looking to areas where real gamers voice their opinions to gauge actual interest in their games.


Metacritic is a review aggregate site. Metacritic takes multiple reviews from websites all over the internet and gives games an average review score out of a possible 100 points based on the total of all of the reviews they've chosen. Metacritic has been panned by a number of reviewers who think that it holds too much weight over publishers, and rightly so. Metacritic has become a website that many publishers use to not only gauge the success of their products, but it has even been used in contracts to ensure the "quality" of games in development.

The biggest problem with Metacritic though is that there is no standard by which a website is chosen to be a part of their aggregate scores, and no accountability or transparency in the decision making process. Metacritic chooses who they want to chose and no one knows of any kind of criteria involved in the choosing. This means that there could be troll reviews included, or reviews by sites who have a known dislike of a particular genre or franchise, no one knows. When there are no known standards, and no transparency or accountability, using Metacritic as a gauge of success is a bad move. Put simply, how can you trust that the final average score you are seeing is an objective, non-biased total when you have no idea as to why certain sites and their scores were chosen to be added to the final score?

When we see publishers like Square-Enix claiming games like Tomb Raider or Hitman Absolution are essentially failures because they didn't meet sales expectations, we think that that's a bad thing. If you look deeper though, you see that Hitman and Tomb Raider are hovering around 3 million copies sold. In a market where games have a hard enough time breaking the 1 million copies sold mark, 3 million should never be seen as a failure, especially when one of those games is a reboot. Square-Enix though used Metacritic and Reviews to make sales expectations for those games to be approximately 5 million copies sold. When the games failed to sell 5 million copies, Square-Enix labelled them as "failures" and this contributed to their upcoming strategies in how they will push forward in game development and publishing.

Can you see the problem here? A great way to calculate approximate game sales is to do extensive research into things like gamer buying habits, franchise appeal, time of release, and even looking into the social media networks to see what gamers are saying about specific games or genres. A bad way to calculate those sales is to place your trust in Metacritic and Reviews because they are too random and subjective to be trusted. Of course, sales expectations is a practice that should have gone extinct a long time ago as it is ludicrous to believe in predictions; but if you absolutely MUST calculate those numbers, then you should use information that is as objective, non-biased, and predictable as possible. Developers and Gamers shouldn't be punished because sales expectations weren't met. Tomb Raider and Hitman are not failures for selling approximately 3 million copies.

Well, that's all for this visit to The Basement. What do you all think about publishers using Metacritic as a gauge of success or interest? Should they stop using Metacritic for sales expectations or is it an ok practice? Let me know in the comments below. Stop by again and we'll find something else to talk about, but maybe next time you could stop playing cheap. Trolling is one thing, but spamming is just annoying. See you next time.

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About the Author

420 Points, 9 Comments, and 6 Articles.

  1. Date: May 15, 2013
    Author: Jerry

    So what publications do you feel should not be included on Metacritic or Game Rankings? And what publications should be in their place? You’re suggesting that the slate of critics they’re using is crap. That’s certainly not self-evident when I look at the names – IGN, GameSpot, Game Informer, Polygon, Eurogamer, Edge, etc.

    • A.Duval
      Date: May 15, 2013
      Author: a-duval

      420 Points, 9 Comments, and 6 Articles.

      Actually that’s not what I’m saying at all. What I’m saying is that publishers like Square-Enix need to stop using Metacritic to make their sales expectations. I’m saying that publishers need to stop using Metacritic to claim their game is a success or has high interest among gamers. I’m saying that we don’t know what goes into the choices for which reviews/reviewers are included in Metacritic’s aggregate scores and so to use Metacritic for any kind of prediction or as proof of interest is highly flawed.

      The point isn’t WHO they use, it’s that we don’t know WHY they use them and that many gamers don’t feel they can trust reviews anymore. Even from sites like IGN, GameSpot, etc.

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    Author: Mai

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