Why are Review Scores So Important? ‘Cuz Nobody Reads

It's only the judge's final ruling that people care about.

It’s only the judge’s final ruling that people care about.

Nobody reads.

This was our conclusion during a recent conversation among our staff, during which time we addressed the importance of review scores in the industry. Many gamers don’t like that scores have such a dramatic impact on the potential success of a game, but after hemming and hawing for a while, we arrived and an unsettling point:

In point of fact, one of the biggest reasons scores have become so influential is because gamers don’t read enough.

We’re speaking about reviews, of course. We have no idea how often avid gamers read and we’re not about to speculate. However, as all of us have been reviewing games in the industry for at least a decade, we’ve all noticed the following changes in recent years:

If you're wondering why reviews have the impact they do, just examine current gaming culture.

If you’re wondering why reviews have the impact they do, just examine current gaming culture.

1. The longer a review is, the less likely it will be read in its entirety.

Of course, this goes for any article these days. It could be anything; if it’s too long, chances are, it won’t get a ton of attention. That’s just not the way things work online, which flies directly in the face of the absurd notion that the Internet encourages reading.

2. What’s debated most when a review comes out? The score. Not anything the critic says, but the score.

Sure, some gamers will tackle the actual content of the analysis, but the bottom line is that the score is what turns heads. It’s why if a game scores very well with most critics, the one review that gets a crazy amount of traffic is the one that gives the game a 6. We’ve all seen it; we just have to admit that it’s happening.

3. A fair dose of hypocrisy.

When asked, chances are, a gamer will steadfastly maintain that they “don’t care about reviews.” An overwhelming majority will make this claim. And yet, review scores are essentially one of the most talked about and debated topics in forums and communities, year in and year out.

Many try and say they don't care about these scores, but the facts indicate otherwise.

Many try and say they don’t care about these scores, but the facts indicate otherwise.

It’s supply and demand, really. Metacritic and GameRankings succeeded because people wanted a fast, easy way to determine the general quality of a game. It’s that simple. They didn’t want to be bothered with reading fifty different reviews; heck, they didn’t even want to look at fifty different scores. Rather, they just wanted one score that told them everything they wanted to know…sort of. In ten seconds, you can determine the average critical reception of a game.

You guys wanted that. If you didn’t, the aforementioned database sites wouldn’t have worked out. The reason why reviews hold the weight they do? Because consumers wanted quick and easy, and that’s precisely what they got.

All this being said, we’re well aware that plenty of gamers out there read reviews, especially from sources and critics they trust. We just wish there were a lot more of those gamers, because these days, editors who need traffic could issue the directive:

Write a short review with an inflammatory headline, and give it a score that’s drastically different from the average.

In a perfect world, that shouldn’t work. But it does. And it’s part of the reason why review scores, love them or hate them, have a monumental impact on this industry.

7 thoughts on “Why are Review Scores So Important? ‘Cuz Nobody Reads”

Only too true.

If people want to complain about the way things have become, they only have themselves to blame.

“Oh, it’s not about the score!”

Really? Then how come that’s the only thing people remember about a review?

Well, the score is the easiest thing to remember, and it’s the most debatable because of how subjective it can be.

Remember, even if two sources use a 10-point scale, they won’t both interpret that scale the same way. So there’s always a lot to talk about when it comes to the final number verdict.

But you’re certainly right – as is the article – about core gamers pretending they don’t care about review scores, and then spending weeks bitching about the latest “unfair” score for the latest big game.

You have a point about interpretation. Gamers don’t check the review policies for sources often enough.

Too many people just assume an 8 is an 8 no matter where they go, and that really isn’t the case. An argument for some sort of standardization or universality for a game scoring scale…?

The article is partially true, I think.

The other thing to remember is that publishers started to put a lot of stock in those reviews, because they could simply advertise a number. I can’t count how many times I’ve seen a commercial that throws up a compilation of all the best scores that game received.

It was a great marketing tool and it got picked up as such.

Reviews are always a huge deal, regardless of what people say or think.

It’s almost like the review score has become a separate entity or machine in and of itself…it’s THAT important.

I think that’s wrong but there isn’t much we can do about it now. At least, I don’t THINK there is.

I’m one of the few who really don’t care much about review scores anymore.

I mean, I look at them, but only as a curiosity. These days, there’s so much available information and media for any given game, that if you do a little homework, you should be able to tell if you’ll like a game or not.

Yeah, that’s the other thing. Gamers have so much information at the tips of their fingers these days that anyone could almost do their own review just by looking up information and videos.

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