Metacritic matters: how review scores hurt video games

Kotaku‘s Jason Schreier:

For one, people are gaming the system. On both sides of the aisle.

There’s the story of the mocked mock reviewer, for example. Some background: game publishers and developers often hire consultants or game critics to come into their offices, play early copies of games, and write up mock reviews that predict how those games will perform on Metacritic. Often, if possible, publishers and developers will make changes to their games based on what those mock reviews say. Mock reviewers are then ethically prohibited from writing consumer reviews of that game, as they have taken money from the publisher.

One developer–a high-ranking studio employee who we’ll call Ed–told me he hired someone to write a mock review, then threw that review in the shredder. Ed didn’t care what was inside. He just wanted to make sure the reviewer–a notoriously fickle scorer–couldn’t review his studio’s game. Ed knew that by eliminating at least that one potentially-negative review score from contention, he could skew the Metascore higher. Checkmate.

Metacritic is an invaluable resource to just casually get a first take opinion on a game. Yet it’s scary to see its effect here on the gaming industry.