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taterchimp avatar 10:30 PM on 05.14.2011  (server time)
Chart On: Sequelitis

I started playing through some newer games instead of going through my backlog, and I realized something: Half the games I was playing were sequels. I finished Bioshock 2, which is notable for not being as good as the original. The same can be said for Modern Warfare, Star Wars the Force Unleashed, and Kane and Lynch. Then you look at games like Red Steel, Mass Effect, and Just Cause, and it seems like the sequel can be very swingy. So I figured yet again I could sit down and do some journalism and figure out if there is a method to the madness that is the score for sequels.

I figure that there are two kind of games that get a sequel: The original was widely successful and got milked, or the industry had the money to spend on something that was lukewarm, hoping to build another success. I also figured that there would be a gap between the user and critic score, as even if a game is technically better, gamers are bitter jaded people, and don't care if a game is technically better if the gameplay is stale. So I wanted to show the distribution for the critic and gamer score for the original, and compare that to the sequel. I figured that good games would have bad sequels, and vice versa. All data used would be coming from Metacritic, and the game sampling would be whatever game I could think of that was a direct sequel (so not Halo 3 compared to Halo 2).

So to break down a little stats here, scores for games/movies/books should all be normally distributed, that is to say they should follow a bell shaped curve. Most should be average, and only about 2 percent will be exceptionally great, or exceptionally bad. Below is what this curve looks like for movies that are in theatres right now. This is statistically, pretty awesome. The average score is in the range of 50 to 60, with very few movies coming in at 90-100 and 0-20.

Now to find all of the games and compile their scores in the same manner as the movies is very time consuming, as the formatting is not the same on the website. However, it does list the average score given by a specific publication. And wouldn't you know it, the average game score is around 74 (our own Destructoid rates games at 72, on average). So if you take that above curve, and move it about 30 points to the right, you will get what the game industry looks like. But you cant have a game higher than 100 percent, so move all of those points to the 90-100 range, and you get the below:

Now if you want to get a further understanding of what this means, 2/3 of all games produced are considered to the be the top 20% of games. This starts to explain why I can't figure out how to spend my money on any given selection of games. Now that the score has been contextualized, see the below graph for games that got a sequel, by score:

These show the distribution for games that got a sequel. What does this tell you? For the most part, you have to do a pretty good job in order to get a sequel. Now an interesting angle from this is the gamer vs critic score comes in at about ten points lower. This could be a case of 'the sequel was better' or cross platform fanboyism reducing scores. Either way, the evidence is clear that usually bad games do not receive sequels. This is where things start to get interesting:

According to this second graph, critics are a little less fond of the sequel than the original game. Their graph is still pretty skewed towards higher numbers. Basically when a great game gets a sequel, it loses about ten points or so, critically. However, the gamer score tells a different story altogether. The score for all games should be normal. Taking the sample of games that got sequels skewed that curve so that the score was shifted about ten points positively. However the score for sequels, is back to being normal, with the score right back at the average. There is yet another image that is not shown in anything above, which is the change from the original to the sequel, as shown below:

To the critics, the game doesn't change too much. More was gained by the sequel than was lost from a critical standpoint. This makes sense, as the designers got to hear the complains about the original and fix the systems. This graph is very well concentrated around the center. Gamers however, seemed a little more polarized, and a few sequels took a fairly large plummet. I will admit that I manipulated some data for this, because in the case of Assassin's Creed intrusive DRM made the PC score lose around 50 points. This was not uncommon, so I tried to pick random platforms, and see if the cause was something I felt that was related to the game or outside influences. I don't really have some kind of underlying message that I was trying to spread by writing this. As with most things that I like to share, I just like to share because I think it was neat.

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