Metacritic and the gaming press are obsolete

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That’s the sentiment of Double Fine’s COO Justin Bailey. Speaking at the Montreal International Game Summit, Bailey said that developers and publishers put far too much stock in to the review aggregator, particularly when it comes to hiring and firing.

“There’s no need to obsess over Metacritic,” Bailey said. “We’ve basically seen Metacritic all but become obsolete right now… We get obsessed with it. Other developers get obsessed with it. The press gets obsessed with it. But it doesn’t really matter, as far as the sales of the game.”

Bailey also said that the “traditional” press  (which now, oddly, includes websites) are equally as unimportant when it comes to quantifiable sales – with YouTubers contributing much more to game sales.

“I think who’s looking at the gaming press are for the most part other developers,” Bailey said. “And so it seems important to other developers. I’m just not certain how many gamers are going to the press. It seems they’re being siphoned off into Let’s Play and other avenues. They’re going to review sites as the gateway to find their reviews.”

I almost agree with him. I do think developers put too much emphasis on Metacritic. It’s not meant to be a metric for publishers and developers – but rather a useful tool for consumers; much the same way that prolific YouTubers can be tools for the consumer…when they’re not just being tools. while I don’t at all think that YouTube’s influence should ever be underestimated, I think where their primary influence lies is with smaller downloadable titles. They watch some Swedish, foppish blonde fellow screaming about some small, $10 or $15 game, and grab it off Steam – there and then. Judging from the hits we get on reviews – and much of it directed from Metacritic – I have to believe people still do use written reviews as some sort of metric, whether for purchase intent or just confirmation bias. Besides that, I believe there’s place for both traditional press and YouTubers when it comes to games coverage – and I think both are increasingly working and feeding off of each other.

Indie hero and developer of the impending Robin Hood-themed stealth game Volume  (and some other thing featuring particularly emotive rectangles) Mike Bithell seems to agree in some part, and suggests that developers ignore traditional press “at their own peril”

What do you think? Is Metacritic and the traditional games press on its way to obscurity. Is YouTube where you find your games critique, or do you still like to read reviews to help form your opinions and purchasing decisions?

Last Updated: November 12, 2014

Geoffrey Tim

Editor. I'm old, grumpy and more than just a little cynical. One day, I found myself in possession of a NES, and a copy of Super Mario Bros 3. It was that game that made me realise that games were more than just toys to idly while away time - they were capable of being masterpieces. I'm here now, looking for more of those masterpieces.

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