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How much do review scores matter?

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Capcom’s released sales data for some of its recently revealed games – and the surprisingly good retail performance of one title in particular, Resident Evil Operation Raccoon City stands out.

According to Capcom, Slant Six’s zombie-themed tactical third-person shooter has sold nearly two million copies since its release. It’s a title that’s been pretty much universally panned by critics – which brings up a pertinent question.

Do game reviews really matter?

In my own review of the game, I painted the game as being boring and broken, and certainly not worth any sort of cash investment. It’s a sentiment that many reviewers have shared, with the title currently sitting at a decidedly terrible 52% metacritic average.  Yet, the game’s done rather well and sold enough copies to probably secure an undeserved and unwarranted sequel. All those reviews don’t seem to have done a thing to dissuade people from paying money for a terrible game, so how much do reviews actually influence gamers?

Interestingly, a study by Electronic Entertainment Design and Research (EEDAR) and the Southern Methodist University  has found that the opinions of reviewers – whether negative or positive – significantly swayed test subjects’ perceptions of game quality.

According to EEDAR the study “…allows us to conclude that high review scores can cause higher sales; that the relationship between commercial success and review scores is causal rather than a correlation.”

At GDC this year, EEDAR’s Geoffrey Zatkin revealed some interesting statistics regarding Metacritic scores:

  • Titles rated below 80 sell poorly
  • Average review score is around the 68-71 out of 100 range
  • Games rated in this range rarely sell over 100,000 copies.
  • Games in the 70-79 range sold only 62,000 units
  • Those in the 60-69 range sold roughly 57,000 units
  • 1,024 games were rated at 50 or below last year
  • These titles average 30,000 units in 3-month sales
  • 216 games rated at 90 or above in 2011
  • These titles saw average sales of 700,000 units

According to those statistics if reviews actually meant a damn, Operation Raccoon City should have only sold around 30 000 units. Instead, it’s sold nearly double the average game rated above 90 manages to sell through.

So how much do reviews really matter to you? They certainly haven’t for those who purchased Operation Raccoon City – or is its success just purely because of Resident Evil’s legacy?

Resident Evil Operation Raccoon City is available right now on Ps3 and Xbox 360, with a Pc version due later this month. I don’t recommend it – not that that matters.

Last Updated: May 8, 2012

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