Medal of Honor: Warfighter and Resident Evil 6
received a very poor reception from reviews. Yet, despite this, they are selling quite well. RE6 sold over 3 million units, making it hardly a flop. In the other hand, a game like Okami
is receiving a second chance with its HD remake, and the original game sold poorly. In fact, it sold something akin half million copies between all its platforms at its own time. And reviewers loved the game.
What this says about the importance of reviews?
First, it says that the number of people that look at reviews before going to buy games is in fact smaller than many people think. We tend to think that all game buyers are like us and forgot that people who frequently go to gaming sites is far from being the majority of gamers. We tend to apply our own standards to everyone, thinking they behave, or at least that they must behave, like us. This is clearly not true.
Brand recognition and marketing have a more powerful influence in the game buyers than word of mouth marketing than what we want to admit. Resident Evil is one of the most famous franchise in game history, so many people will recognize it in the shelves and buy it anyway. Meanwhile, EA have the marketing power to make people remember that MoH: Warfighter exists. Many people when in doubt about what to buy will buy what they are familiar with.
Second, it just show how much importance many people is giving reviews nowadays. Many people I know comments how they don't regret not following a review and buying certain poorly reviewed games and have lots of fun. I am one of those. Many games I bought with poor reviews showed up to be some of the best I played. Meanwhile many highly regarded games by reviewers were huge disappointments.
I would have missed this great game if I let 'reviews' have their way.
The reason for that, in my eyes, is that reviews are less and less a guideline for potential buyers and more and more just the reviewer saying how he felt about a game. It is like going to buy a car for 8 people and the seller trying to sell you a two seats car because he loves sports cars and hate vans. It is not anymore about talking about if a game fit what gamers want, but about one person saying what he wants.
That undermined the confidence many people I know had in reviews. Many, like me, just read reviews to see if the game have any kind of game breaking glitches or other technical problems, but ignore everything else. I prefer to trust my own guts nowadays and some of my friends opinions about games than any reviews. And I am not alone in this.
If consumers in general cannot take reviews as a guide to what buy or what avoid, one that answers the question 'should I buy this' instead of 'should the guy who wrote the review buy this', they will stop caring at all. They will just buy it over demos, previous experiences and the guy at the store recommendations than anything reviewers says over the net.
This lack of trust in reviews will cause distortions were bad and so-so games with strong marketing and brand appeal will sell way more than good and great games that have stellar reviews but lack the marketing power. This have implications on how publishers and developers do games in the future.
If they start believing that consumers don't trust reviews, they will just ignore them. For now, they give a lot of importance top them, more than they deserve. Many publishers make payments based on Metacritic's scores. But they do that because they see a relation between sales and review scores. If this relation is not there anymore, they will just concentrate in sales. And good games with relatively poor sales will have even less chance of getting a 2nd opportunity to show what they can do.
When people go buy a car, they want to know if the car will fill their needs, not what a random guy who loves cars want to himself. They watch Top Gear if they want to know someone opinions about cars. In fact, this may be what is happening here. Too many reviewers are acting like they and their reviews are a show apart instead of trying to help their readers to make a decision and that people read reviews to be entertained by them. That making reviews everything they aren't supposed to be.
Maybe many people writing 'reviews' should stop using this word as such. It clearly doesn't fit what many writers do in it. Opinion piece is more fitting to what many writers do. If they want that their opinions to be the center of the show, they must just go ahead and call it that.
Great game too. Bought day one without any regret. My guts were right about this one.
A review was, when I started gaming, writers trying to help gamers to decide if a game is worth their time and money. Today they are treated as a show in themselves, an opportunity for the writer to shine. And that is not very helpful to undecided consumers.
I am not sure what the future reserves, and if reviews continues this trend of being less and less helpful to make conscious purchase, I will say this:
Reviews doesn't matter. Don't base your purchases on them. Play demos, watch YouTube, ask a friend that have a copy to let you play it a bit. This will be way more helpful than any writer's opinion he/she tossed on a site. Above all remember: nobody knows what you like more than yourself.