Starting today with our review of The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D, Eurogamer is making the biggest change we’ve ever made to the way we review games. From now on, we will no longer be scoring games out of ten.
In place of scores, we’ll have one-line summaries for every review, and a new recommendation system whereby some, but not all games will be considered Recommended, Essential or Avoid. As a result of these changes, we will no longer be listed on the review-aggregation site Metacritic.
Review scores are important to four groups of people: People making purchasing decisions; people who want their purchasing decisions justified; those who write about games; and developers who want their games reviewed well and scored highly.
Unfortunately for journalists writing about games, review scores have been overvalued by people who play games, and they’ve had too much influence on the careers of the people who develop them.
I spoke with an anonymous game developer about this and he confirmed that there are still some situations where studios receive bonuses based on the review scores the games they work on receive. However, he also elaborated it would be unusual for a specific individual’s contract to include mention of review scores with the exception of an executive like a studio president.
Terrible games have scored poorly in critic reviews and still sell well based on marketing and other pre-release hype. Great games have scored well and not done well enough to warrant sequels, HD remakes, and marketing hype.
It’s good news that Eurogamer, like the dearly-departed joystiq, are trying new things but I still believe that review scores offer something valuable to people who are looking for recommendations. Joystiq attempted to solve that with a short summary at the bottom of the review and awards on an ongoing basis. Eurogamer is doing something similar with awards and other signage to indicate games to look into or avoid.
I think they’re onto something good, but just like everyone else I look at the score first and then go back and read the review. It’s a bad habit, but it’s one that isn’t going away with my generation. Younger people seem to be watching pre-recorded (youtube) and live streaming (twitch) videos instead of reading anything. I definitely watch and listen more these days than I read.
This is a shame for everyone who has lost the opportunity to express themselves with more nuance than you can get on a podcast or in a video. Some games, and some opinions, just don’t get represented well enough on either.