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