Esteemed video game website Eurogamer announced today that they are discontinuing the classic numbered scoring system on all their reviews, to generally positive feedback. Given the state of the industry and its relationship with aggregating site Metacritic, this is a bold move – more likely than not, it is also the right one.
What’s wrong with review scores?
The problem with review scores is twofold: firstly, they don’t always accurately portray whether a game is worth buying or not. This is a problem that forever plagues gamers looking to reviews to make a swaying decision on buying a game. This problem becomes exacerbated when websites award the same score (say, a 6) to two different games of wildly varying quality.
The numbers have lost their meaning, especially in a world where anything below an ‘8’ isn’t considered worthy of purchase or as having done well for itself.
Secondly, publishers use them as bonus incentives. In a detailed piece by Kotaku’s Jason Schreier, he discusses how publishers – and in this particular case, Bethesda – only pay out bonuses if developers meet a certain Metacritic score. In the case of Fallout: New Vegas, the bonus would have been $1 million if developer Obsidian had have met their goal of ’85’ on Metacritic, which they didn’t (for the record, they got 84 for the Xbox 360 and PC, and 82 for PS3).
This isn’t a good practice to endorse – it’s one thing to encourage stronger work ethic by offering rewards or incentives, but it’s another to lump a cash bonus based on the collective media’s personal opinion on your work.
This kind of thinking encourages developers to make games for the scores, rather than for those who play them – you and me.
What does this mean for Eurogamer?
As I stated in the opening of the article, Eurogamer have made an impressively bold move in choosing to forgo review scores in favour of a more streamlined system. That being said, that’s exactly where they’re improving on the formula – streamlining it.
Reviewing games based on numbers leaves a convoluted message as to what constitutes a game gaining or losing a point (in IGN’s case, many gamers wonder what the difference is between an ‘8.9’ game and a ‘9’ game). The line blurs even further when comparing games that have the same score with differing quality.
The point of Eurogamer’s new formula is to tell it like it is and offer a recommendation. From their press release:
“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.”
The new system works because it encourages readers to look between the lines of a review, while still keeping the final summary and recommendation for those only wanting a quick glance. It also stops Eurogamer from being a part of the ‘Metacritic machine’, which they state further in their post:
“Over the years, we’ve come to believe that the influence of Metacritic on the games industry is not a healthy one (and we’re not alone in this opinion in the industry, either).”
Did they make the right decision?
Ultimately, I support Eurogamer’s decision one-hundred percent. I believe that the new recommendation system is far more efficient than the arbitrary numbered scale. It achieves the same outcome, but it’s better for the reader, the writer, and the industry as a whole.
Well done, Eurogamer.