Editorial: Do Delays Cause Review Scores to Suffer?

Did Watch Dogs score lower than expected simply because our anticipation was that much higher after the delay?

Did Watch Dogs score lower than expected simply because our anticipation was that much higher after the delay?


Many factors can have an impact on critics and ultimately, review scores.

When a game is delayed – specifically, a high-profile title – a couple notable things happen:

Firstly, the longer it takes to hit store shelves, the more the expectations rise. The general consensus is that if the developer has all this extra time, the game should benefit. Of course, the flip side to this coin is that anxiety may rise as well, because delays often hint at a problem. Gamers are leery of problems on the design front; they’d prefer smooth sailing during the development process.

Secondly, in addition to increased anticipation and anxiety, when a game comes out later, the competition is stiffer (usually). With each passing year, the industry produces games that raise the bar; the longer it takes, the more amazing titles will be on the market when your product finally arrives. And of course, when a review is to be done, critics have to compare the game to what’s currently available.

If we take the recently released Watch Dogs, for instance, and its average Metascore in the low 80s, it could be argued that heightened expectations contributed to lower-than-anticipated results. It’s all theory, obviously, but we’re considering plausible theory.

When this hugely anticipated game finally arrives, will the ridiculous expectations affect the scores?

When this hugely anticipated game finally arrives, will the ridiculous expectations affect the scores?

That all being said, when we examine history, it might be difficult to find a positive correlation between hefty delays and review scores. Grand Theft Auto V took much longer than initially expected and the scores certainly didn’t suffer. Duke Nukem Forever scores did suffer but really, that wasn’t because of the countless delays…it just sucked. There are examples of games that don’t fare well after several delays but again, it’s mostly because the product wasn’t any good.

When The Last Guardian arrives at long last, that’ll be another test. The game will undoubtedly launch for the PS4 and as it’s Sony’s new flagship console, the expectations will be through the roof. A true “next-gen experience” from the ICO and Shadow of the Colossus creator? It better deliver. However, if it does, based on the evidence, it seems critics will be happy to reward it.

Can you think of some examples where delays feasibly had a negative impact on the review scores?

5 thoughts on “Editorial: Do Delays Cause Review Scores to Suffer?”

I think it depends. If a game takes TOO long, it’s obvious that something went wrong with the development. And I’m willing to bet that as a critic, you can’t help but think about that when sitting down to review it.

But for the most part, I think critics probably just review what they’ve got, regardless of when it was supposed to come out.

I definitely think it can have an impact.

Look at RAGE. It was an awesome game; I don’t care what any critic says. I think because the game took SO long to finish that everyone was expecting the second coming or something. They were totally blinded to the fact that it was still a fantastic product.

No, I don’t think so.

Just because a game was pushed back doesn’t mean critics should suddenly use a different set of “heightened” guidelines or anything like that.

I agree. But that doesn’t mean delays can’t have an unconscious effect on critics, right?

Right, critics are only human. They can’t be sure that certain factors aren’t having an impact on their thought processes.

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