: Does Immense Popularity Negate Review Scores?

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Does Immense Popularity Negate Review Scores?

While it has been proven that higher-rated games typically sell better (which is why EA continually mentions the need for high scores for their products), I'm wondering if certain titles are immune to the effect of said scores.

We didn't really have reviews back in the days when Mario ruled the gaming world, but I get this feeling that if we had, it probably wouldn't have mattered if Super Mario 3 held a critical average of 4; it likely would've sold just as well. Today, we could use Call of Duty, Halo, Madden, and Grand Theft Auto as the best possible examples; would it really matter if they bombed out in the scoring? If this year's CoD averaged a 6, wouldn't Activision still rake in their billion dollars? The Madden fans haven't seemed to care about review scores in the past, either, and GTA is GTA, while the Halo fanatics are...rabid.

But maybe I'm giving popularity too much weight, and I'm underestimating the consumer's intelligence. Perhaps it's best to assume that most gamers will check review scores...but then again, aren't we talking about the more casual titles? Most of them may not even read - or care about - reviews. Maybe it only matters if the game is designed more for the hardcore audiences; those who don't typically buy a game based on the name on the box. But one has to consider that immense popularity has the unique capability of negating the need for quality. That's a basic rule of mainstream entertainment and last I checked, gaming is mainstream now.

4/8/2011 Ben Dutka

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Comments (45 posts)

Norrin Radd
Friday, April 08, 2011 @ 9:39:50 PM
Reply

I always thought the popularity of a franchise had an artificial inflation effect on review scores. But that's probably just me being cynical.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Friday, April 08, 2011 @ 10:54:36 PM

Proof=CoD scores.

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Beamboom
Saturday, April 09, 2011 @ 4:13:24 AM

No I think you are right, Norrin Radd - and I believe the gtaiv scores proves that. It was not a bad game, but 97%? some giving it a perfect ten? C'mon...

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Underdog15
Saturday, April 09, 2011 @ 9:03:02 AM

PCGamer (I think it was them) gave Black Ops like a 6 out of 10, if I remember correctly.

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bigrailer19
Friday, April 08, 2011 @ 9:59:00 PM
Reply

I think popularity rules. I also think that popularity would never let say COD get an average score either. It's sad really, but I thinks it's the truth. But that's not what we are talking bout really...

I think as consumers we buy what we want. A lot of consumers will only buy AAA games that get high scores, even go as far as purchasing mostly only exclusives. But I myself have bought quite a few games that didnt score well because, well I wanted them. I think when popularity plays a roll we will give in. Well not everyone, but a fraction of us. If the next COD starts gaining a lot of attention and Soubds really good, but scores come out and it has a below average score, say a 6 (doubtful, just don't see it happening cus of popularity), I can't honestly say I'd pass on it. I really like the franchise, I'll be the first to admit they need a change drastically, but I like to play them. So regardless of it's score, unless I seen how it played first, I'd probably still buy it. I'm just using COD as an example as well.

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Dancemachine55
Friday, April 08, 2011 @ 11:56:13 PM

I can see it now, Xplay or IGN reviewing MW3:

"The game is far buggier than MW2, and the campaign falls a little short of expectations. It just feels like retreading the same grounds as previous CoD titles. The multiplayer hasn't changed much, a few extra perks and some new interesting maps to run around in, and the introduction of (gun) certainly spices things up a bit. If you're new to the franchise, you'll love it. If you're sick of it, you might get your kicks from Battlefield 3.

But hey, it's still Modern Warfare 3, and it's by Infinity Ward.

A 5 out of 5."

Last edited by Dancemachine55 on 4/9/2011 12:01:15 AM

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Killa Tequilla
Friday, April 08, 2011 @ 10:05:30 PM
Reply

I refuse to buy any Call of Dutys after Black Ops, but as for GTA, unless it COMPLETELY RUINED I woulnt buy it regardless of its score.

Last edited by Killa Tequilla on 4/8/2011 10:06:27 PM

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Underdog15
Saturday, April 09, 2011 @ 9:03:38 AM

I thought you loved CoD?

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Killa Tequilla
Saturday, April 09, 2011 @ 1:03:25 PM

No, it's a horrible, unbalanced game.

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rogers71
Friday, April 08, 2011 @ 10:09:31 PM
Reply

I am more prone to buy established franchises/developers and the more popular games without reading reviews. I usually reserve the reviews for the lesser known games or new IP's. That is just me but I think I am probably not in the minority. What say you?

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Dancemachine55
Saturday, April 09, 2011 @ 12:03:32 AM

Possibly treading the thin line between hardcore and casual gamer?

Doubt it, but that's the impression I got. Going after established franchises regardless of review scores is not uncommon.

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rogers71
Saturday, April 09, 2011 @ 12:21:42 AM

I wouldn't say I am treading any line at all.

Maybe I could have stated it better but what I was trying to say is that I already know if I am going to buy a game before the reviews ever come out. Games like MGS, GT and Uncharted for example. Those games are always preordered as soon as they are announced.

It is games like Homefront or Infamous that I waited for a review before making a decision. One example was RDR. I didn't think I would be interested in that game until I saw the review here on PSX. I immediately purchased the game after reading the review.

You can try to label me as Casual or Hardcore, I just say I love to play games and don't want to waste money on bad games. That's just me.

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Clamedeus
Saturday, April 09, 2011 @ 6:12:24 AM

Same with me some what. But in my case i don't need a review to make up my mind if I'm going to buy a game or not. It's not needed for me when i see a game that sparks my interest with any game i never use any reviews on my decision.

Most of it is based on what i like and appeals to me, and sometimes i will buy a game because my friends and brothers have it and we all have a good time playing.

Last edited by Clamedeus on 4/9/2011 6:13:28 AM

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Temjin001
Friday, April 08, 2011 @ 10:11:27 PM
Reply

I think one of the roles of the critic is to bring to light greatness found in dim places.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Friday, April 08, 2011 @ 10:56:13 PM

hear hear

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Beamboom
Sunday, April 10, 2011 @ 1:52:42 PM

ooooh - quote of the week!

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Qubex
Friday, April 08, 2011 @ 10:22:26 PM
Reply

I have to say... popularity does have a huge influence I think.

That there is no doubt in my mind, nor should there be in anyone else... its obvious. Its similar to what is popular during this phase of our pop culture today... if its hip to be part of a franchise that is making 2 billion a pop then why not support it? It can only enhance your image as a reviewer and give you traffic because interest is so elevated in the said title...

Its political capitilisation, but this time, over a commercial product... nonsensical if there ever is any...

Q!

"play.experience.enjoy"

Last edited by Qubex on 4/8/2011 10:22:36 PM

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Dancemachine55
Saturday, April 09, 2011 @ 12:07:40 AM

That's a darn good way of thinking of it Qubex.

Get lots of traffic on your site by fully supporting a popular product or go the opposite way and trash it for hate mail and negative popularity.

It explains the stupidly high review scores of MW2 which, in my opinion, was far shorter and in no ways better than CoD 4. It was exactly the same, but with a shorter campaign and repainted maps.

Oooh, an extra perk, that's totally worth the $60 for the same game as last year!!

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Qubex
Saturday, April 09, 2011 @ 1:28:54 AM

Thanks Dancemachine... yhea... they will all dance to the COD tune and give it high scores when it is not really worth the disc it is printed on...

Q!

"play.experience.enjoy"

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Lord carlos
Friday, April 08, 2011 @ 10:30:51 PM
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I usually have my mind made up months in advance when buying a game and never rely on reviews.
Might look at the odd developer diary on youtube now and again but as for reviews,i suspect some of the larger sites are taking backhanders from second rate developers that belong to larger parent companies!!

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Dancemachine55
Saturday, April 09, 2011 @ 12:08:34 AM

I did the exact same thing with LA Noire. I'm getting it, regardless of review scores, simply because the trailers really impressed me.

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Qubex
Saturday, April 09, 2011 @ 1:29:56 AM

Got to agree with you on this one gents. L.A. Noire looks superlative! Worth a punt.

Q!

"play.experience.enjoy"

Last edited by Qubex on 4/9/2011 1:30:11 AM

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SmokeyPSD
Friday, April 08, 2011 @ 10:36:07 PM
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review scores and popularity in the end seem kind of irrelevant to me. In the end I know what I like and what development houses. I might follow a review to find out alittle more about a product but in the end I rarely care about the subjective part of it.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Friday, April 08, 2011 @ 11:09:06 PM
Reply

The average gamer still buys without reviews and based on commercials and names. That's kind of sad, but true even with readily available sites on the internet there are people who hate reading so much they won't even look at a review.

Popularity inflates scores because human beings attach more worth to things that they like or own (like a franchise) than is actually due the item.

Not only this, but it can be just as beneficial for a site to give a yes-man review as it can be to give a controversially inaccurate low score because people love to have the opinion that they already have be repeated back to them and told that they are correct. It's why the far right likes FOX and the left likes MSNBC. We like to be told we are right in our intuitions. Who wants to be the black sheep by saying that the most popular game of the time doesn't actually even approach the top quality of other games in its genre?

I hate to keep spewing CoD stuff but hey games are capable of much more than what they were with 5 year old engines, graphics, AI, and environmental construction; yet advancement isn't required in what is popular. That's why it is mainstream.

But there's a limit I think. For instance if Final Fantasy doesn't start delivering elite games people will get tired of it fairly quickly, even those like myself who saw the lower than average scores and said "Eh, it's Final Fantasy, it has to be better than it scored because reviewers just hate JRPGs."

The scariest thing is when lower scored games in a series sell better than their predecessors, like with Dragon Age II. From a business standpoint, it would make more sense to make DAIII more like DAII, even if DA:O was the better game. That stuff frightens me.

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Dancemachine55
Saturday, April 09, 2011 @ 12:16:44 AM

Very true World.

The DA:O and DA II example completely supports the power of an established franchise.

Another that comes to mind is Saints Row vs GTA. Even if Saints Row 3 is more fun, has a bigger world, more things to do and better gameplay mechanics, GTA V will likely score higher because it is the popular franchise and it has that extra layer of polish in terms of graphics and glitches.

I honestly felt GTA IV was the most overrated game ever!!! Definitely not deserving of the top position on Metacritic.

Sure, the graphics were fantastic, and they had a new physics engine which was great. But in terms of content, it was seriously lacking. San Andreas was far bigger in scope and far more engaging for the player than GTA IV.

Anyway, I guess some franchises won't die, even with terrible review scores.

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Qubex
Saturday, April 09, 2011 @ 1:31:39 AM

How wonderfully written World...

"Not only this, but it can be just as beneficial for a site to give a yes-man review as it can be to give a controversially inaccurate low score because people love to have the opinion that they already have be repeated back to them and told that they are correct."

Yes man Yes man Yes man...

Q!

"play.experience.enjoy"

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Beamboom
Saturday, April 09, 2011 @ 7:31:38 AM

"From a business standpoint, it would make more sense to make DAIII more like DAII, even if DA:O was the better game. That stuff frightens me." -> Totally agree. I hope they do realize that the sales of DA2 is partially (maybe even mainly) cause of DA:O.

However it must be said that I've actually experienced a rather strange new wave of positivity regarding DA2 again. It started good, then went downhill, but now after a huge amount of hours I've started to really enjoy the game again. It's not that much worse than DA:O. Only thing is the replay value. DA:O with its different race-dependent beginnings were absolutely wonderful.

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matt99
Friday, April 08, 2011 @ 11:10:27 PM
Reply

For me a really low score like a 4 or 5 would stop me from getting the next game in a series I liked, but slightly lower than expected score probably wouldn't.

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Dancemachine55
Friday, April 08, 2011 @ 11:51:31 PM
Reply

I believe there are two sides to review scores and gamer types.

For the casual gamers, they go for well-known titles that have been highlighted in other media, or they go by the recommendation of friends. Some might see a review score, but as long as it has brand power and peer recommendations, it will still sell quite well. I'm assuming casual popularity makes up about 70-80% of sales numbers of big-name titles like CoD, Mario and Madden.

For the hardcore gamers, review scores are everything. Why do you think so many developers go to Metacritic as a source? To please the hardcore, the developers aim to make a game that is of the highest quality, that push the boundaries and truly impress those who are highly critical. These make up about 20-30% of sales in big name titles like the ones I mentioned above.

So, in the end, if a popular title like Madden, GTA, Halo or CoD were to get below average review scores, I believe that sales will not be as high as the previous title with the higher review score, but will still sell well due to the 70-80% of casual gamers getting it.

Say Modern Warfare 3 gets a 6 out of 10 on Metacritic. It will still sell very well, millions in fact, due to the brand power of Call of Duty AND fans of the games who praise it and fight to the death to defend it. However, due to low review scores, it won't sell as well as Black Ops or Modern Warfare 2 because the smaller hardcore audience will be tired of the same formula and looking for something better.

Ben has some good points, but review scores still play a crucial role when it comes to the success of certain big titles. GTA is the highest scoring game on Metacritic and is only one behind Black Ops in terms of sales. That's gotta say something.

But I think that no matter how big a title is, like Mario, CoD, Halo, GTA, Madden, etc, review scores will still play a role when it comes to sales. No doubt they will sell big, but maybe not AS big with lower than average scores.

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BikerSaint
Saturday, April 09, 2011 @ 12:01:39 AM
Reply

I will check out vids & reviews, but I take them with a grain of salt because a few games have gotten less than stellar reviews, but after waiting till they hit under $20, I enjoyed them.
Anyway, I basically know if I want the game or not once it's been announced.

But on the other side of the coin, I have to buy the crap games that I'll never play too as a gaming collector, just so they're there to help complete my collection (#%&$*%^$ I'm evil-eye balling you, Rouge Warrior!!!!!).

But the biggest difference for me is that for the Games I really want, I'll either buy new, wait for a decent price drop, or buy when there's a great deal or a buy2-get1 free going on.
And those crap ones will only be bought ONLY when they've grown humongous dust bunnies in the chump-change bin.

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Ludicrous_Liam
Saturday, April 09, 2011 @ 12:18:08 AM
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Kinda off topic, but I was thinking the other day about when UC3 releases. I think the critics are gunna give it like a low 90 even if it is masterful, and their reason for that would be it wasn't as good as uncharted 2. Because, lets face it. Uncharted 2 was bloody perfection.

If UC3 was to top UC2, if really would have to be the best game ever.

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sirbob6
Saturday, April 09, 2011 @ 9:12:26 PM

It will be better. Never doubt ND.

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Ludicrous_Liam
Sunday, April 10, 2011 @ 5:19:56 PM

Never did :D I'm just saying critics will.

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kraygen
Saturday, April 09, 2011 @ 1:39:18 AM
Reply

I think there are definitely franchises that are basically immune to review scores. Partially because there are some who won't even look at the scores because it's part of that established franchise.

Which in turn is why we are now seeing so many games that aren't anything like previous editions but have the name stamped on them. For example the new RE, Third person tactical shooter, but has RE on it so a lot of people will buy it without reading anything other than Resident Evil.

Another part of the problem is that while the video game industry's clientele has practically exploded in such a short time, there are those who don't even realize what resources are available to them in the gaming world.

Then you have another problem which is probably a bigger issue than we'd like to believe. A large portion of gamers are children who don't have to worry about scores and research and how good a game will be because their parents buy it for them. If they don't like it, it doesn't really matter because it's no loss to them.

Popularity plays a big role in the sales of everything and while often games should see a reduction in sales due to the lacking quality and yet it continues to sell incredibly well on name alone. There might not be any scientific studies to prove it, but we can all see it with our own eyes.

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kraygen
Saturday, April 09, 2011 @ 1:46:01 AM

Off topic but I got my games today from Ben. Dissidia 2 should be about done installing. Really excited.

Ben I popped Hyperdimension Neptunia and Ar Tonelico Qoga into my ps3 and it appears they do support trophies even though they are review copies so that's awesome. I'm really looking forward to playing them.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Saturday, April 09, 2011 @ 3:23:51 AM

I just started Ar Tonelico, too early to form an opinion but I'm enjoying it so far, even if a turn based battle system would have beat the tar out of the one it has.

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Saturday, April 09, 2011 @ 10:16:21 AM

Cool. I think the earlier review copies didn't support Trophies, but they've been added recently, it seems.

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kraygen
Saturday, April 09, 2011 @ 1:48:35 PM

Man I got thumbed down for getting my games?!?!

I wasn't too worried about it, but figured I would check and they did so that's cool.

I played Dissidia for about 3 hours last night. I really like it, took some getting used to though. I think it expected me to have played the first one, but when I heard the second one was coming out I decided I would just get it so I never played the first.

I think I got the hang of it though and it's pretty sweet. I unlocked Sephiroth as quick as I could, I'll probably max him out before anyone else.

Thanks again Ben.

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___________
Saturday, April 09, 2011 @ 3:23:25 AM
Reply

slightly.
there are a few out there that by games by reviews, i use to be one of them until GTAIV got 10s everywhere that broke that!
but it wont make much of a difference because 99% of the human race are sheep.
they just follow what everyone else does.
tis why COD is so popular, there are heaps of better games out there but dont get the same attention because there not as popular.
look at the ipad, one of the most overpriced most useless things to ever release!
and every one they release sells out for months!
so, no.
if mario did get a 4 as the highest score, it would of sold worse obviously, but not by much.
its like taking your favorite food, then putting a spec of dirt on it.
your not going to throw it away and not eat it are you?

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Miggy
Saturday, April 09, 2011 @ 10:19:33 AM
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I usually just check review scores just to see other peoples' opinion on games. I mainly base my purchases on demos, gameplay videos, and past experiences on previous iterations if it applies. Most of the games I own have low review scores but I enjoy them all. Especially Fist of the Northstar: Kens Rage. I personally dont like reviews because of the word "repetition" that gets thrown around to critique a game. The way I look at it is ALL games can be accused of repetition. FPS you just repeatedly shoot people, wrpgs you just repeatedly do quests, jrpgs you repeatedly grind, god of war 3 you repeatedly press square and triangle to slaughter your foes etc. I just think there's a double standard if you say dynasty warriors has repetitive controls when in 99% of fps shooter games your shoot with R1 and fine aim with L1. Im rambling lol. Sorry. Just my opinion of the matter.

Last edited by Miggy on 4/9/2011 10:22:18 AM

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DemonNeno
Saturday, April 09, 2011 @ 1:27:16 PM
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Regardless of the score, my biggest influence is the overall communities reaction towards a game. It's easier to deal with over hyped fanboys than a crooked review. There's no neutrality in reviews, it seems, as it's rarely an factual affair. Opinions are like an anus.. You kno where that's going.. :)

Popularity also trumps reviews, imo. Too much dedicated fanboyism in the gaming world. Some of it is well warranted, when reviews are unfairly biased against a console in general. Then there's psxe.. Where true reviews bring tears to my eyes...

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Minishmaru
Saturday, April 09, 2011 @ 4:54:48 PM
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I'm really interested to see how BF3 turns out, I'm generally curious to see what the next CoD will be...but I don't think I'll jump on the wagon as fast as I did previously.

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Mornelithe
Sunday, April 10, 2011 @ 12:11:47 PM
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Of course it does, why would you need to look into a game if most of your friends are playing it? Or everyone in the world has it on their lips the majority of the time you're out and about?

There's also the problem with reviewers having lost the confidence of those who actually would've read reviews in the past. Guilty or Innocent, I think the profession itself has largely been tainted by the numerous cases of tainted review scores that've arisen since gaming became the massive market force that it is.

Either way, I think RL popularity, marketing and hype tend to drive peoples purchasing decisions more than review scores.

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Lairfan
Monday, April 11, 2011 @ 8:48:36 PM
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The common (aka non-hardcore) gamer nowadays doesn't seem to give a sh*t about review scores anymore. As long as the series they're familiar with keeps making more sequels, they'll keep buying them. People don't like change, so as long as the series stays the same, they'll like it. Why do you think a sequel to a game that changes a couple things (not including the sacrilege the Japanese gaming industry is doing to their JRPGs and other series) gets so pounded by the fanbase?

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Nynja
Thursday, April 14, 2011 @ 12:15:30 PM
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If the next Call of Duty received a "6" I would laugh.

I don't intend on purchasing any more versions of COD until they actually make a new game. I'm already bored and tired of the same game I've been playing for the past 3-4 years.

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