Tobold's Blog
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Modern publicity warfare

According to user reviews in various places, like Metacritic, IGN, or Amazon, Modern Warfare 2 is one of the worst games in history, with a user review score hovering very close to the absolute bottom. At the same time press reviews regularly score the game above 90%, as one of the best games of the year. What's happening?

What is happening is that the press in most cases reviews the game just on the merits of its gameplay, and apparently MW2 is a fun game to play. The players meanwhile are very upset about issues not directly connected to gameplay: The campaign is too short (and downloadable additions will probably cost extra), the game is priced more expensively than comparable games, and the multiplayer mode is too restrictive. Thus large groups of unhappy players are trying to send a message by voting down the user review scores of MW2 on various sites. Something similar happened in the past to games like Spore, which were downvoted for their DRM, but with MW2 the practice of lodging a "political" protest against a game by giving it a bad user review appears to be expanding.

I've never been a fan of any review scores, but the more different issues you try to express with a review score, the less useful it becomes. I am not saying that the protests aren't valid: $60 for less than 10 hours of gameplay is expensive by any measure (and 30 times more per hour than I pay for MMORPGs). But by mixing measures of gameplay quality, price, DRM, and customer service into one single number, you end up with a number that isn't expressing anything at all. Different players have different degrees of sensitivity to things like price, game length, or DRM, so a score expressing everything is even theoretically impossible.

What will protest review score lead to? Amazon already got into trouble during one of the previous protests when they sneakily tried to remove the protest reviews from one game. If protest reviews become more widespread, people trying to find out about a game will learn to ignore user review scores. And sooner or later the sites now offering the possibility for users to review things will stop doing so. Sites like Amazon will decide that the protesters are hurting sales. Sites like Metacritic and IGN will decide that offering infrastructure for user reviews that are then ignored by the regular users, because they are held hostage by some protesters, isn't worth it.

And the effect of these protests on Modern Warfare 2? Apparently none, MW2 is said to have broken all first-day sales records, netting $310 million on the first day alone, with sales for the first week projected as being 10 million copies. Not bad for a game that score 1 out of 10 on average in user reviews.
Protest user reviews will inevitably lead to the end of user reviews? I don't buy it.

Whoever is looking for reviews tries to find the sources that are valuable for him: sources with similar value systems.

If I want to know whether the pve aspects of a game will interest me, I'll read what you have to say about it. But I'm not going to bother with what you have to say about pvp or crafting systems: I know beforehand that for these you will not offer me the insights I am looking for.

I find protests user reviews interesting because they often reveal things I want to know about; things hidden all too well by game magazines. User criticism is here to stay, and I like it.
My son loves it, says it was worth the wait and the time at midnite to get it, yes he was done with campaign after less than a day, but is having a blast with the multi-player. Of course he does NOT read any reviews online either. He is 12.
That's something that's common almost anywhere on the internet. There's a small group that aren't happy about something and those are the ones you notice. The ones that are happy and don't care you don't notice since they have better things to do than to spend some time here and there posting.
I hear what the protesters are saying and they're spot on. However, anyone buying MW2 for the single player is well...weird.

Multiplayer is where it's at and as a old school Counter-strike player I can tell you first hand that this is the best FPS multiplayer game since the original Counter-strike. It's pretty awesome. Well worth the $60 I paid.
It seems becomes a place to protest against DRM, Steam and in case of Modern Warfare 2 a protest against the lack of dedicated servers.

That the single player game is a heavily scripted cinematic and only moderately interactive does not concern many of those who voted negatively.

The attention-whoring terrorist airport scene and the overall excess and celebration of violence on top of a shooter has reached new levels with MW2.

But nobody cares so much about that, but I do. It really puts me off and makes me dislike this game. It also gives German hardliners new ammunition for their crusade to ban first person shooters.

So yeah, but it is a bestseller. And despite all the fuss about it, most people love it. :(
I suppose you let your 12 year old play the airport massacre level?

The reason why some people are disappoint is because what they did to the PC version. Also, the game's plot is much more contrived and unbelievable than the first MW and there's far too many plot twists that the player becomes numb to them. MW1 was a better single player game.
It's the classic internet gaming community problem that the WoW forums suffer from a great deal.

The people with an axe to grind, a bone to pick, and a chip on their shoulder are giving people a piece of their mind on the forums - the massive majority who are perfectly content are too busy playing the game to care.
10 hours of gameplay?

You're electing to completely ignore the multiplayer component... because it makes your argument stronger, presumably?
In response to the 12 yr old hubby bought this game yesterday and at the start there are alot of warnings about the content and you have to choose whether to skip those parts or play the game with them in. A parent can choose to not to let their child play those parts.

The airport scene was shocking for us too. We aren't prudes or anything but my hubby even felt uncomfortable shooting in the airport.

As for reviews..on any COD or MOH game we would purchase sight unseen.No need to read reviews. They have enought games in the franchises to know you will be getting an awesome game.
Personally, I'm angered that I pre-ordered the game on STEAM. I recognize that it is entirely my fault that I didn't double-check the release date. However, people don't pre-order via internet and pre-load a game to their computer just to wait 4 days to finally play it.
This, coupled with other decisions related to the multiplayer campaign have me quite angry with the circumstances related to the launch.
It's too late for me to "unbuy" it (even though I still have not played it as it doesn't release for STEAM buyers until Friday), so if I want to take out my frustration, where do I go? I could write a letter, but I've done it before and gotten back a form response. (I work in PR myself, so I recognize a form letter when I see one.)

What are my options?
Your actually missing the real reason behind most of the "outrage".

The lack of dedicated servers and smaller player cap for the PC is where all the hate is stemming from. The mass of downvotes and low user review scores and there because PC players of the game feel they are being cheated.

Long story short: PC gamers are lashing back at the game for cutting some features that are normally standard in most FPS game. (Supposedly /b/ launched some sort of campaign to downvote the game too. Although I'm not 100% sure about that because I don't venture anywhere near that place)

Personally I think this is just a biproduct of the enormous ego and sense of entitlement "Pro" PC gamers have, but whatever thats another issue entirely.

Do you mind that you bought your son 18 rated game?

Just curious.
The vast majority of people have no clue what effect MW2 will have on other games. This is a profitability model put into an awesome game. Wait for the future gentleman, this is it and it is NOT pretty.

No dedicated servers is a huge deal for any FPS gaming community. Where for years they hosted, operated, and Paid for their own servers and own rules with own friends. How are you to do that now when all the servers are distributed straight from the game company. For this game it actually works. But the future may not be so nice to us when they DUMB PC gaming down to CONSOLE level, we all lose!!
To be perfectly honest I agree with the protests. The game designers took a step backwards with online play.

I've heard mixed reviews from people about how it runs, but dedicated servers are such a simple and POPULAR way to go. I don't know WHY they would try to be different. It's like they wanted to be different for the sake of being different.
I personally am very disappointed with MW2 I am disappointed about the price and I am disappointed by the lack of respect being given to PC gamers. I didn't write any fanboi rants not did I try to vandalise any review scores but I did sign the petition and I am not going to buy the game unless the price comes down substantially.

While I don't think EA will shed any tears over the loss of my 60 bucks I did hope that a groundswell of opinion on this might motivate a lot of people to vote with their wallets on this one.

Today I see the headline article in RPS with a screen capture of the membership of the Steam anti MW2 protest group. Guess what game most of them are playing? MW2!

I give up.
Oops did I say EA? - I meant Activision of course.
Multiplayer MW2 here in NZ is a huge joke. half our ISPs use P2P shaping, meaning anyone hosting the game on thier plans gets us all huge ping.

Not that we don't have huge ping anyway - I was playing wiht someone down the street from me today, and had (no shit) 95 ping. With dedicated servers he and I have gotten pings of 20 in this area.

And good luck playing nationally here in NZ - 165 ping to other cities practically blows apart any sense of clan play.

Oh, and you know the best bit?
When their matchmaking sets an American player up with us, the host is immediately migrated to the american - so every NZer gets upwards of 400 ping! fucking amazing.
Firstly, oh the game is scoring 9s, well thats because half of the review sites were payed by Activision to do so. Don't think advertising has nothing to do with it.

1. D-servers are a big deal. Gunn, you have NO idea about online play if you think no d-servers is viable on the PC.

2. Activision is evil. Just that simple. They over sell glorified DLCs like this (is it really that much of an important over the original MW multiplayer?). Bobby actively states how he is solely in the business to get money. They want to get as much money out of people while getting away with the least content.

And don't think the people on the boycott side are the worst. Do you NOT think there are many console-tards doing the same thing, calling out on the PC players. They do their far share of bashing, and lets face it, console-tards affect review scores. Just look at Jimmy on Destructoid, he's against ANY MW2 boycott and I have no doubt this opinion affected his review scoring (if he was actually honest he would have placed PC in a different review).

At least there are SOME honest reviews of the pathetic PC version. The rest are either advertised reviews or hatred and just given the excuse 'copy/pasted from other versions score lol'.
"(and 30 times more per hour than I pay for MMORPGs)."

Just on this, there's a bit of a myth of cheap mmorpg entertainment around. Mostly because everyone reads 'time' as a possitive...instead of a negative.

Take this quick example:
Game 1 costs $10 and gives 20 hours of entertainment and an overall rating of 70 out of 100 fun.
Game 2 costs $10 and gives 10 hours of entertainment and an overall rating of 70 out of 100 fun.

That's overall fun rating - the first game gives no more fun than the second, over all the time spent. But because we value hours of play so very much, we definately don't see it as a negative! We don't see it as just taking longer to get to the very same amount of fun.

More here:
Wait a second, they KEPT the 60$ price tag?! Seriously?

Seriously, everyone who bought this for 60 bucks... you're a complete, flaming idiot idiot.

Bobby Kotick stood up and basically said: "You know what? We can squeeze more money out of these idiots, because they will just pay it."

And what did everyone do? They jumped up, hand on wallet and proved him right.

This whole industry will continue to be screwed by assholes like Kotick and they will continue draining your money while giving you the bare minimum as long as people carry on throwing money at them.

I'd say you all deserve what happens in the future, but you know, when that future does roll around, you'll just mindlessly wander off after the next big shiny to screw up. This world needs an enema.
And apparantly most of those who boycot the games buy the game anyway []...

I am somewhat boggled by the review scores. Here's a part of the summary of the IGN review.

For the strictly single player crowd, however, Modern Warfare 2 is surprisingly short, and doesn’t live up to the standard set by previous Call of Duty games.

And they promptly give it 95%. If a game is worse then its prequel then why do you give it 95%?
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