Tobold's Blog
Thursday, May 01, 2014
Metacritic scores over time

In the Chrome store you can get for free an extension called the Metacritic score/time graph. If, obviously with the Chrome browser and that extension installed, you surf to the "See all X critic reviews" on the Metacritic site, the extension adds a graph to that page that shows you all the scores on a graph over a time axis. The interesting thing is that the resulting curve invariably points downwards. For example if you checked on release day the Metacritic score of The Elder Scrolls Online, you would have seen a score of 83, with 3 reviews giving the game a 90. Now, four weeks later, the average critic score is down to 72, with many 60s handed out. Even SimCity got one 100 perfect score review on day one, but now is down to 64 average.

The early, high scores frequently come from sites you didn't know or don't usually read reviews from, like "Cheat Code Central". The scores that come out weeks later are often from the more reputable review sites, like Edge, or Polygon. The TESO review of Polygon (score 60) not only obviously took their time to actually play the game sufficiently long, but also was written by two authors, one of which was an Elder Scrolls fan, while the other is a MMORPG fan. It is stuff like that which makes me think that the later scores are somewhat more believable.

There are games you can play through in one day, so a release day review isn't totally out of the question. But MMORPGs don't go into that category. On the other hand these sites need to publish their reviews in a timely manner. If they took too much time, and for example posted their The Elder Scroll Online review in October after playing for 6 months, nobody would be interested in that review any more. Even if of course you could argue that you need to play a MMORPG for that long to really see how the end game works out.

Some games, for example Bioshock Infinite, don't suffer from review score degradation over time (average is still 94 and the curve over time is quite flat). That leads me to believe that if Metacritic scores tell you anything, it is after about one month. Earlier you just get a distorted view due to hype.

A fun fact is that Polygon updated Guild Wars 2 review increasing the score from 8.5 to 9 a week ago.

I wonder if that is in anyway related to their own ESO experience.
I think there is more love/hate going on with ESO because of the expectations created by the IP.

At this point, ESO is the only game I've played more than 20 hours with a Metacritic of less than 80, but then again I never was a fan of the single player games. I like mmorpg's.
My take away is just that unscientific internet polls are increasingly unreliable. Whether the topic is about Obama, Diablo 3 or Sim City, online polls measure how hot the topic is and how passionate the audience feels about it, but don't seem to provide much insight into the question they pose. Not even counting the firms who spend efforts on affecting their scores.
I agree with Hagu. Metacritic a low-quality opinion poll. It is a poor tool for deciding if you'll like a game.

Scores from reviewers are also poor, the comments are much more relevant.

The best way to find out if you'll like a game (other than playing it), is to read blogs of people with similar gaming taste and see what they thought about a specific game.
Got to agree with Hagu. A 60 strikes me as a "slightly above average" rating for a game, although the reality is most official critics in the gaming press end to treat 60 like a deeply flawed product. TESO, which I've been playing for a while now and have ditched everything else for, strikes me as more like a 75 on a normal scale....a good game with some expectation issues that get in the way of certain people's enjoyment of it. Either way....the fact that most official critics rarely award anything on a normal 10 point scale and tend to really be awarding scores on a 4 point scale that happens to have a 6 added to it means metacritic has some serious problems. But... its still better than nothing.
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