: Why Do Gamers Care So Much About Reviews?

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Why Do Gamers Care So Much About Reviews?

In the world of video game websites, there are really only two forms of content that generate significant attention and traffic: Breaking news and high-profile reviews.

The news part makes sense but I believe that in terms of product reviews, our industry is unique. There's a reason why publishers often grant developers bonuses for games that hit a certain Metacritic average score. There's a reason why former EA John Riccitiello said dozens of times during interviews that his company's ultimate goal was to put out games that bring down 9+ scores. And there has to be a reason why millions of gamers wait on the edges of their seats for a big review from a major source.

Although I'm not as familiar with other entertainment markets, I don't believe it's the same for movies, music or books. Sure, the avid and hardcore fans of each venue are interested in critical reception; they like to see the best-rated movies, for instance, and they like to buy the acclaimed albums and novels. But those reviews don't seem to have the same impact on sales. I think the one clear difference between gaming and those other markets is this: A great critical reception for a film, music album or book doesn't necessarily translate to high sales. It helps, but it's not a guarantee. In gaming, it's very rare that a widely acclaimed title flops.

Yes, we all know that some fantastic titles didn't get all the financial success they deserved (several of Tim Schafer's memorable games leap quickly to mind). But most of those can't be considered "flops" and the majority of games that score really high tend to sell really well. Here's another good example- if you check a list of the top 100 video games of all time, as rated by some critical source, you will notice that the overwhelming majority of those games sold exceedingly well. I'm really not sure the same could be said for other entertainment venues, especially movies.

So what is it about video game reviews that makes them so potent? This isn't a rhetorical question; I'm not sure I know the right answer...

10/18/2013 Ben Dutka

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Comments (31 posts)

PC_Max
Friday, October 18, 2013 @ 10:31:13 PM
Reply

Off the top of my head I think gamers/them/us/we/me look at reviews possibly from two points in time, before and after a game launches.

Before launch we see a game that looks great.... or bad via trailer or demo. So we either hop on the fan train or miss it. And some maybe more than others react to the game, before we even know what it is really all about, positively or negatively and want people to agree with us.

After, we still want people to agree with us... especially the critics who unconsciously or not give our view more credibility. And for those who oppose our view, especially if critics suppose it... we trounce on. Not all of us but many. God knows some people relish being right about something in their own minds eye and want EVERYONE to know about.

I see the same thing on forums for movie reviews.

Its like we do have a stake in the game. We bought it, we love it, we will defend it.

And as we all know, reviews are subjective... and for some reason its becoming more prevalent with games these days. Maybe the stakes are higher because as we have seen, a games success determines the rise or fall of a studio.

Might be a testament to games that they invoke great emotion in people... but there is a down side to it as many have seen or experienced.

As Ben pointed out, Tim Schafer is a good example. I was weary at the time in regards to Psychonauts and stayed away as did many people at the time. Then I walked in many moons later in to EBGames and saw on the cheap and abundandt supply of PS2 versions of the game. I look at the artwork on the cover, read the back a bit more, talk to the guy behind the count and WHAM! I gave it a shot. And well... I LOVED IT! This was different and the art style was perfect. Dialogue and story was hilarious. It was a Gem!... in my mind. So much so years later I bought the poster signed by Schafer.

We are fickled! or pickled at times.

Sometimes.. we get blinded by our passions for games. But good or bad... we love our games of choice.

Keep playing! Peace people!

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To Be Decided
Friday, October 18, 2013 @ 10:33:01 PM
Reply

I have always been wondering how a mere number can hold so much weight? For game and judging all of it factors by a mere score I find odd. Though that is not the worse part about reviews I find. What I do find is the cause and effect it causes. Example as you said metacritic holds way too much power; developers and publishers have gone mad by it. Like Creative Assembly who would do whatever it takes to get a 90+ on metacritic going so far to remove features even late into production. WTF!? and then we have people attack reviewers for giving out low scores since it is not within the others scores. Like Dragon Crown, several 8 but then Polygon gives it 6.5 i think and everybody attacks... again WTF!?

At the end of the day they are just opinions and should be taken as a way to gain information on title before purchase. Yet this way is not so common. Hell, for all the negative reviews that Time and Eternity I still bought it and found it enjoyable . Different taste for different folks and review shouldn't be taken so seriously has it is now.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Friday, October 18, 2013 @ 10:36:37 PM
Reply

Good question, really, reviews are something people go wild over. I think in one case you have people who are looking for validation, they want to know that what they like is popular. And others refuse to buy anything that scores below an 8, so reviews are a must.

I like finding insight and information that tells me if its for me rather than the score, so a trustworthy reviewer is paramount. Also it is a form of entertainment in itself, reading these things. They get the gaming juices flowing (or stop them) and give us things to talk about.

Maybe high scores matter most in gaming and not elsewhere because quality matters most in gaming. People don't need a well written movie or book to be entertained because it is all quite passive with some imagination involved. In a game the quality often dictates the immersion, so high quality equals deep immersion. The best games suck you in and make you forget about the real world, you can't do that as well with a bunch of visual and gameplay glitches.

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Temjin001
Friday, October 18, 2013 @ 11:34:51 PM

yes, they very much want validation. I remember this with Ni No Kuni and some others this year. Gamers wanted what they wanted to like to be approved because it felt that important to them. There was a lot of backlash from readers on boards who hadn't even played the game, arguing with the critics who had.

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Lawless SXE
Friday, October 18, 2013 @ 10:42:36 PM
Reply

I'd argue that it has something to with the idea that gaming is considerably more expensive than any of those other mediums upfront. It's about $18 for a movie ticket around here, $25-35 for a new release Blu-Ray movie, $10-$30 for a book, and usually $60-90, or higher, for a game. When spending that much, even though you may get more hours out of a game, you want to know that it is quality and will give you the feeling that you weren't overcharged for what you get.

I'd say it probably has something to do with the fact that gaming is a growing medium, too and we're seeing more people getting into the action as time passes. Those people will want to know the best that the hobby has to offer before feeling comfortable enough to stretch their horizons and take on things that might be of lesser quality, but will be more in line with what they like.

What frustrates me is how many people see an 8.5 and say "Oh, it's pretty average then; I won't bother with it." I think more critics need to use the full 10-point scale, rather than having 6 as the baseline for a functional game.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Saturday, October 19, 2013 @ 12:13:37 AM

Good point, it's a bigger commitment to buy a game.

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Temjin001
Saturday, October 19, 2013 @ 1:39:09 AM

it's great just waiting about 6 months or less and then get pretty much any new game for $20 or less.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Saturday, October 19, 2013 @ 11:14:32 AM

But then you have to wait.

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Temjin001
Friday, October 18, 2013 @ 10:44:22 PM
Reply

oh man, I feel like I spend a lot of time with this but I don't have that time right now.
Few things come to mind.
Video games are still in their infant stages relative to literature or film.
Gamers are less interested in reviews for guiding there dollars, rather now the worth of their time.

Many of the highest rated games over the last couple years represent a change in what's most popular and what's best rated.
Last year The Walking Dead and Journey won GotY awards. Unlikely winners, no? I haven't looked at any numbers, in part because these digital titles aren't so easily tracked, but I have little doubt they didn't come close to the multiplayer AAA behemoths that were competing with them, single platform or not, including also, say, Madden, Assassin's Creed, God of War, and Crysis. Didn't the last CoD sell more than ever despite not rating in the 90's?
I look at Bioshock and THe Last of Us, including their scores, and I see high sales, not the highest, but I don't think any critic would place their significance behind an AC, CoD, BF, Madden, Halo or any other mega seller.

I notice these critical hits of the last few years all have one thing in common, those being Walking Dead, Journey, The Last of Us, Bioshock Infinite, and GTA5, they're very much their own experience. They're being praised for this. Sure they're also all technically sound, shouldn't we be passed that by now? To not expect every above average game to be techincally sound by now. even Michael Bay, for as predictable as his movies are, they're all technically sound from a directing and execution standpoint. But while his and Marvel's movies will reap more than any critically acclaimed hit, they aren't particularly special, just target audience manufactured to bring in safe returns.
Anyway, with the big push on the indie scene and innovative gaming entries going forward, I think the masses will continue to stick to the big budget blockbusters, where only the more dedicated to the culture of gaming types will give the critically appraised the time they deserve going forward. This next gen isn't bringing us a paradigm shift in how we game. Now more than ever will critics and some gamers expect something more than safe redundancy as all of this 'fatigue' being heaped onto hardware limitations will actually be revealed to not be culprit after all.

Last edited by Temjin001 on 10/18/2013 10:50:32 PM

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ethird1
Friday, October 18, 2013 @ 10:53:08 PM
Reply

A review ....... of gaming reviews? The gaming world die or something? John Shepard to the rescue!

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Underdog15
Saturday, October 19, 2013 @ 1:53:02 AM

lol it's really funny to have run into something that thinks every article on a gaming website must be a review for something. lol WHERE'S THE SCORE RIGHT?!!?! ermergerd!

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greg238
Saturday, October 19, 2013 @ 12:09:37 AM
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It lik a second opinion if I have doubt bout a game I read about it or new to that game franchise

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xenris
Saturday, October 19, 2013 @ 12:12:55 AM
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People are used to the schooling system where 80% and higher is considered good and makes you an honor roll student.

So it is only reasonable that gamers want to play only the best games and dont want to check out anything under 8.0.

Now I'm aware some 8 games sell poorly but that is usually due to marketing and the genre of said game. But generally people want to check out the good games or the ones that are considered good by their score.

I also think its an identity thing. People want to play the "best" game, also they want the game they like to be the best so they can tell people or be confident in their choices.

Its the same reason some people latch on to brand name things. It gives a sense of community, and something to talk about.

I think there are many more reasons but these seem to be the biggest reasons to me.

I think with how saturated the market is becoming with games it is important to have reviewers you can trust, so that will keep gamers caring about the scores games get as well.

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rjmacready
Saturday, October 19, 2013 @ 12:38:43 AM
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I think it's two things with video games more than other entertainment choices - time and money. Spending $60 for a game is a lot more of a financial commitment than $10 for a movie or book. Spending 20-30 hours on a game is a lot more of a time commitment than 2 hours for a movie. While not the same financial commitment, books can be a big time commitment, so the reviews are definitely read for those.
Combine a bigger financial commitment AND the big time commitment, especially with people so busy in this day in age, a game review could definitely help someone decide how they want to spend their $60, and more importantly their valuable time.

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Geobaldi
Saturday, October 19, 2013 @ 12:55:09 AM
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I just read them to see what other people's opinions of a game may be. I don't use them at all as a purchasing decision in any way. I pretty much know what I'm going to like or not. And for those I'm on the fence about, that's where Youtube videos and livestreams come in.

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homura
Saturday, October 19, 2013 @ 2:09:08 AM
Reply

For me, it's all the same. Gamers are passionate about games, obviously, as well as book lovers and movie buffs, so they care about their favourites, if they are doing well or not, and they will defend it. If you visit some reviews about certain anime, there will be fanboys will defend Naruto, Bleach or One Piece. And of course there's always going to be popular movie, games or music who sells millions and you're wondering why. (Twilight, Justin Bieber, Call Of Duty). But the most important thing is, to know what you really like, and see reviews as a info on what you're getting at. And read the content not just look at the score.

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___________
Saturday, October 19, 2013 @ 3:12:12 AM
Reply

obvious, because it effects the whole industry!
you do realise theres tons of publishers out there who give bonuses on meta review scores right?
tons of publishers have openly admitted they offer bonuses to developers if their game gets above a average review score, which is just idiotic!
in a perfect world id be a great idea, high scores means high quality and innovation, and developers would be rewarded for that.
as they should!
but sadly we dont live in a perfect world, and allot of times reviews just review one portion of a game and ignore everything else, or pick on little things and ignore the unique different ambitious ideas the game brings.
alpha protocol a perfect example, a incredibly buggy game, but its also a game that actually brought allot of new stuff to the table.
and did it get praised for that?
of course not!
reviewers just like to find one bad thing, than nitpick all the way through the review!
IGNs review for the latest sonic game for instance, all he did was whine about the controls.
wah there not as precise as other games, wah you dont get a sense of speed like the other games, wah theres far too much a emphasis on the auto targeting to kill enemies.
ok thats the controls covered, but what about the REST of the game!?
there are other elements to a game other than how the character feels and the precision of the controls.
perfect example of reviewers reviewing 10% of a game!

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Hannah CVH
Saturday, October 19, 2013 @ 3:40:27 AM
Reply

Movie reviewers are overall more harsh. That's why Metacritic has a lower threshold for positive reviews for games since most game reviewers tend to give high scores.

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Saturday, October 19, 2013 @ 11:48:16 AM

They're not more harsh. Just more big movies - as opposed to big games - suck.

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kraygen
Saturday, October 19, 2013 @ 6:03:18 AM
Reply

I have 2 big reasons.

If it's something I'm really excited about I'll check the scores just to make sure it wasn't some hack rush job that bombed, if it did, I still buy it, just wait for a price drop.

If it's a game I'm unsure about, I'll read several reviews, find common complaints and then decide if those commonalities are something I feel will prevent me from enjoying the game.

What the particular score is matters little to me, some of my favorite games this gen have scored averages in the 7 range. People who don't buy below an 8 are missing some real gems.

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TheOldOne
Saturday, October 19, 2013 @ 10:29:54 AM
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With so many good games released I will probably buy one every month or two. So a review will definitedly tilt the balance on which one I would buy.

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Jawknee
Saturday, October 19, 2013 @ 12:09:47 PM
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They help me make "informed" decisions about new IP's and even new installments in established franchises. If it weren't for reviews I probably would have blown $60 on that piece of crap RE6.

Last edited by Jawknee on 10/19/2013 12:16:47 PM

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Vivi_Gamer
Saturday, October 19, 2013 @ 12:13:21 PM
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Late to the party but I think as a consumer it is important to look at reviews. If I am willing to make a full retail price investment in a product I want to know is it sufficient and that can go with any form of product not just media.

However, I do take it with a pinch of salt, I don't just go by review scores alone. Because while reviews are professionally evaluated, the opinion of the reviewer is rarely separated, which is why some games get erratic scores. Take Beyond Two Souls as a recent example, for some people that form of gameplay just does not work for them, however I know it does for me and I did enjoy Beyond, even though I didn't value it is much as Heavy Rain.

It would take a huge consistent selection of negative reviews to make me avoid a product. The most notable one this year for me is the film After Earth, I was generally excited for that but the film barely got a 4/10 if it was lucky... So on that occassion I did avoid that film due to the reviews.

However, I have had the opposite to that too. I have bought a game in confidence from hearing raving reviews and being dreadfully disappointed. Final Fantasy XII being the most notable example. I just hated the game and was devastated as FF is my favourite series yet that got a majority of 9+ reviews. One from this generation, Resistance 3. Another game that got superb reviews but I thought was just an awful disappointment in every aspect.

So I think when it comes to reviews you have to read the content, not just skim the scores and think that will do. There will be some titles you buy no matter what, if you're a fan of the series though and if that is the case then the purpose of a review isn't necessary.

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Teddie9
Saturday, October 19, 2013 @ 12:50:41 PM
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Firstly is the cost of games versus other media(going to the theatre doesn't really set you back) but secondly I think video game reviews are more indicative of the product than reviews for other media, because while the artistic aspects are there - games have technical components.

Good combat, menus, framerate, visuals, and other gameplay additions/systems are fairly objective among most gamers.

Edit: Within a certain genre mind you.

Last edited by Teddie9 on 10/19/2013 12:51:22 PM

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maxpontiac
Saturday, October 19, 2013 @ 1:38:54 PM
Reply

To answer that question... I will ask one myself.

Why do reviewers almost always put a number or letter grade at the end their reviews?

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ulsterscot
Saturday, October 19, 2013 @ 2:14:35 PM
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I dunno - COD gets slammed every year by critics - yet seems to sell just fine.

If demos are available - that's what I use to gauge whether I will enjoy a game enough to buy rather than rely solely on someone elses opinion.

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Underdog15
Sunday, October 20, 2013 @ 1:44:25 AM

It doesn't really get slammed by critics at all. The last one is mid-80's on average. I think that's generous considering the persistent bugs that never go away. Heck... MW3 got an 88. That's really damn high.

P.s. Did you know this site actually brings up BO2's average? Betcha didn't see that comin', didja!

Last edited by Underdog15 on 10/20/2013 1:46:07 AM

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DarthNemesis
Saturday, October 19, 2013 @ 3:34:59 PM
Reply

Its called SHEEP mentality. The average person is a follower who uses the media to make decisions for them. I took psychology last year, but I cannot remember the term for this type of behavior.Its like how religion and general beliefs work.

Last edited by DarthNemesis on 10/19/2013 3:35:37 PM

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Banky A
Saturday, October 19, 2013 @ 7:43:14 PM

There are many terms and branches but I think you may be meaning Conformity or simply Herd mentality like you were leaning towards(?).

You are right too along with what World said about validation.


// In any case I do not base anything on reviews anymore, since the last couple years. I get what I've always wanted to get/support - then I look at reviews to see how others like it or how commenters hate it and their debates :)

Also I look at video reviews because they're pretty and can be entertaining as a gamer :)

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PlatformGamerNZ
Saturday, October 19, 2013 @ 9:47:00 PM
Reply

i guess we want to know that we are getting a gud game for our money but i guess it also comes down to personal preferrence that can overide game critic scores to a degree.

happy gaming =)

Last edited by PlatformGamerNZ on 10/19/2013 9:50:44 PM

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Amnesiac
Monday, October 21, 2013 @ 12:35:24 AM
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2 reasons for me:
EGM and Gamepro magazine

Reviews were more impartial
a game really had to be good to get a perfect score and the writing/humor could have easily filled a spot on Late night with Conan O'Brien

So I read keep reading reviews for one reason its a novelty from my past
nowadays I might read the last paragraph in a game review where they describe each games shortcomings.

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