How Important Are Game Reviews?
Publishers are well aware of the impact review scores have on the sales success of any given title; in fact, last year, one analyst said that titles that score at or above the 90% mark tend to sell three times more copies than games that fall below that elite level. This isn't necessarily surprising, because for the most part, the best games in this industry's history are also the best selling. There are a few exceptions - there are always exceptions - but we should take pride in being part of an industry where, typically, the fans reward the top-quality products.
Therefore, we have to believe that reviews play a significant role in the purchasing decisions of the consumer. If they didn't, we wouldn't bother to write them. However, to what extent do the reviews affect your decision when you're on the fence? Do you go more with your gut feeling or do you rely on the numerical scores the game drags in? We're relatively certain there are plenty of fans out there who will automatically buy the newest installment in their favorite franchise (for example, I'm getting Final Fantasy XIII, regardless of reviews). But when it comes to games you're not familiar with - IPs, for instance - we imagine that reviews may serve their intended purpose, and those of you who were initially reluctant to pick up something like Uncharted: Drake's Fortune were swayed due to the high critical praise. And with more new stuff, like titles going up on the PSN and Live Marketplace, it can be difficult to choose correctly all the time.
We're also well aware of the gamers who simply believe they know more than all the critics, anyway, and they'd rather listen to reader reviews. ...well, based on what we've seen of reader reviews, you may find yourself either dropping $60 for a worthless game or needlessly avoiding one that's definitely worth your hard-earned cash. While no reviewer should place himself/herself on a pedestal above those he's supposed to be servicing, it wouldn't make much sense to install random people into such positions. We'd like to believe that most reviewers these days are experts, and that they know more about the industry than the average fan. Perhaps more importantly, they have a much larger "compare-and-contrast" base to use for each of their reviews, which in turn helps the reader. We're not trying to deify the critic - far from it - but to assume all critics are either "paid off" or "just kids who don't know anything I don't know" is a mistake. And we're just wondering- what kind of impact do reviews have on your gaming life?
By the way, this article was inspired by this same topic that is currently being discussed in our ever-growing forums. Comment here or jump in there to add your voice to the throng. What say you?
2/16/2009 Ben Dutka