Friday, February 02, 2007

The Good Stuff, The Bad Stuff, And All The Stuff In-Between

After writing about renting games first, I went to Metacritic and decided to look at their games database for 2006.

If anything, I believe reviewers are too lenient with their scores instead of being too harsh. And even though there are all kinds of qualifications that come with this data (Metacritic gives some reviews more weight than others, for example), I still think it's interesting.

Here's what I found.

Metacritic lists 756 games in its database as being released in 2006 (not including games for hand-helds or obsolete consoles) and having enough reviews to qualify for an overall score.

Holy crap. That's a lot of games.

Guess how many had an overall review score of 90 or higher?


That's 1.71%, in case you're wondering. Here they are:
96--Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (Gamecube, Nintendo)
95--Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (Wii, Nintendo)
94--Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (PC, Bethesda)
94--Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (360, Bethesda)
94--Gears of War (360, Microsoft)
94--Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence (PS2, Konami)
93--Company of Heroes (PC, THQ)
93--Final Fantasy XII (PS2,Square Enix)
93--Okami (PS2, Capcom)
92--Guitar Hero II (PS2, Red Octane)
90--Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter (360, Ubisoft)
90--World Soccer Winning Eleven 9 (PC, Konami)
90--GTR 2 (PC, Atari)

F.E.A.R. Combat also had a 90 score, but it was a free download and only had 4 reviews, so it was not included. Oblivion and Zelda were counted twice, because they were rated 90 or above on two platforms.

Now let's look at the other end of the spectrum: games with average scores below 60.



That's over 30% of the freaking games! Surely that's not possible.

Then I looked at some of the games:
--Soldier Elite (Dreamcatcher)
--25 to Life (Eidos)
--Bad Day L.A. (Aspyr)
--Hard Truck: Apocalypse (CDV)
--Torino: 2006 (2K Sports)
--Lula 3D (CVD)

Oh. I guess it IS possible.

Here's a full breakdown for how many games fall in each rating bin.
1-59: 228 games, or 30.2%.
60-69: 187 games, or 24.7%.
70-79: 201 games, or 26.6%
80-89: 126 games, or 16.7%
90-99: 13 games, or 1.7%

In case you're counting, there's one game missing--the F.E.A.R. free download I mentioned earlier.

Let me sum up those results in one word: ouch.

Over half the games get an overall rating of less than 70. Less than 20% get a rating of 80 or better.

Are those ratings always accurate? No, but I'll say this much--I have a much better chance of liking a game that's highly rated than one that's rated poorly. So they're not exact, but they're not trash, either.

Do any of the "big" publishers emerge as head and shoulders above the rest? In a word: no. There's no safety in a name.

So what does this all mean? Two things, I think. It's clear that the industry has an endemic problem with quality control, but that's not breaking news--anyone who plays games has known about that for years. I know the kinds of impossible deadlines that developers face, and the ridiculous crap they have to put up with, but as a consumer, I don't care.

The second thing it means, at least for me, is that I'm not buying anything this year unless I rent or play a demo first. I mentioned that in the previous post, but this data really drives it home. I'll make an exception for Spore, and there might be one or two other PC games to slip past the policy, but there won't be many.

It's the math.

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