Does a Game Review Heavily Affect Game Purchases?

Does a Game Review Heavily Affect Game Purchases?

There are 2.2 billion active gamers around the world, based on Newzoo’s 2017 report. 47%, i.e. 1 billion of these active gamers spend money playing games. In the vast sea of video game titles, there’s a need to distinguish which games are interesting. Just like any product review, it is clear that the main purpose of game reviews is to give a valuable advice on whether a game is worth the player’s time and money. This purpose may be a good thing for gamers, but for companies, the importance of game reviews can be questionable, as it is uncontrollable whether certain reviews give justice to the games they developed and affect their income in any way.

Game reviews are basically just opinions, but what influence do these opinions hold, especially for game companies and potential buyers? Let’s see how game reviews actually affect video game sales.

The Key Elements of Game Review and Gameplay

For players, reading or watching a game review is not only about finding out if the video game is good, average or not at all. Game reviews are more than just scores, but about showing the audience what to expect in the game.

There are a lot of aspects that may have contributed to the game’s success, and reviews can be a contributing factor. One of Nintendo’s most anticipated game franchise, has released one of its highest selling games last year which is The Legend of Zelda: Breath of The Wild. The game has been reviewed Early Access by several top game review sites. People have fallen in love with its design, systems, and structures. Most of those sites if not all wrote down perfect scores which made the game land in the best-reviewed game ever list on Metacritic. Picture this: a well-known game plus good reviews from well-known sites? I doubt that not a single gamer in this world has been moved by influence. To no surprise, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of The Wild became a game with hit sales as well. According to Destructoid, Nintendo reported an 8.48 million sales of the game on the Switch alone, but there are 1.5 million sales more on Wii U version. Even for already popular games with strong fan bases, we can tell from Nintendo’s case that good reviews portray and contribute to the overall great reception.

However, it’s a whole different story for indie game developers. There are indie games produced in great quality or shape, but still hard to market even with the help of game review sites. According to Hackernoon, Ludomotion’s game, “Unexplored”, is such example. The game was reviewed by the well-known website with millions of online followers, PC Gamer. The article was expected to boost Unexplored’s sales given that had nice words about the game, and included the game’s brand new trailer. However, the sales increase that resulted from the review was estimated to be only about 50-70 units.

Rock Paper Shotgun (RPS) writer, who tweeted his admiration about the game, also reviewed Unexplored, but it was even before PC Gamer’s review. What surprised the developers was that Smith concluded his review saying “Unexplored is almost certainly going to be one of my favourite games of the year.” According to Ludomotion, there wasn’t any other coverage of their game except the review from RPS, but the units sold jumped amazingly to 720 units on their 2nd day of launch. Two more articles from RPS and Vice’s Waypoint drove up the game’s sales in May 2017. However, this isn’t a usual case –  there are other bigger coverages and reviews which still did not have such effect. For indie game developers, the correlation between game reviews and sales are still hard to determine given the examples above. For Ludomotion, however, they are certain about one thing; and that is “the genuine enthusiasm of the writer” made a meaningful difference in their sales.

Game reviews are usually composed of every concept of a game. Reviewers cover the graphics, music, cinematics, story, content, controls, and gameplay along with their own opinions for each of those elements. Opinions in game reviews should emphasize a strong judgement of liking or hating a specific game element such as features and glitches. Readers would rather see critical or controversial perspectives instead of reviews that are generic, and does not include any individual opinion. Such reviews may give the impression to players that the totality of the game was not well-analyzed. The quality of a review thus may lead to readers disregard the video game itself.

Game Quality is Imperative to Game Review

To maximize the potential of selling video games in the market, companies need to think ahead of what options are available in order to create a good reception of their products. This can be tricky, as using game reviews and scores may not always be a great KPI in portraying the entire picture, especially due to one-sided views.

Take for example when scores determine the fate of individual studios that must depend on publishers for financial and game distribution help. A critically well-received fan-favorite game, Fallout: New Vegas was developed by Obsidian Entertainment in contract with publisher Bethesda Softworks. The video game developer was promised to be given a bonus if its Metacritic Metascore averaged a value of 85. Unfortunately, the game lost by one point with a score of 84 which costs the developers million dollars. Metacritic’s reason for giving a lower score was due to bugs. This situation raises the answer that reviews are also suddenly becoming a determiner of quality to the extent of denying developers their success. A single or little difference through views and scores matter to developers because the industry has already welcomed the value of criticisms. Therefore, any organization, or perhaps publishers, will use these standard metric any way they see fit.

Some people argue that game quality shouldn’t be summarized by just a single score, and some question whether it is right for organizations to make business related decisions based on it.

On the other hand, game companies, especially developers, find that there is inaccuracy with review aggregation sites such as Metacritic. According to VentureBeat, Ubisoft had only steady improvement in its review scores in 2009. Though, they had their lowest average score of 76 in the year 2008. Furthermore, EA and THQ showed review scores improvement from 2007-2009. Despite having less improvement in review scores, Ubisoft still had healthy profits while both EA and THQ lost significant amounts of money over the same years mentioned.

There are also companies that produce light or casual games that feel “kind of torn about Metacritic,” said Graham Hopper, executive vice president and general manager of Disney Interactive Studios. They feel that some reviews are inaccurate because most of its critics are hardcore gamers. Hopper explained, “It’s [Metacritic] continual frustration for me. For our audiences, the scores are less useful than I would like them to be.” But for the hardcore games, he confirmed that they use and track the scores. He also added that, “A low-performing hardcore title on Metacritic tends not to sell well.”

All these review aggregation sites may not be the perfect measure of quality, but so far those are the closest to perfection that the industry has at the moment. Besides, purposes of game reviews cannot be totally undervalued. Not only does it stand as a purchasing advice to players, but it has also been flexibly used as an insight for game improvement, a key metric, and marketing or PR strategy. All of these purposes are leading to only one larger goal; and that is for customers to buy.

Game Reviews could play a Factor in Word-Of-Mouth

You may not please all the players in every gaming community. Reviews or scores can affect a game’s success in terms of revenue, but again, this may not be every time. Game reviews do not literally affect video game sales, knowing that there can be more reasons why a player decides to buy. If it does, and given some examples above that it does, it’d be hard to determine which factor of game reviewing made the difference. Is it the enthusiasm of the reviewer, the well-constructed insights? The similar genre preference or the focus on quality?

Nonetheless, reviews can help a game increase downloads or drive game purchases in terms of spreading valuable information in the form of word-of-mouth. This means the larger pool of potential players your game gets, the more chances of increasing the actual sales. If your games are getting negative feedback, it is still up to the player’s decision to try it out. In fact, rather than defamation, it is highly important that your game is out there being talked about. Hey, controversy also does sell.

Reviews are made not to dictate customers what to buy, but to help them see what they could find interesting and invest to. It is no doubt, safe to say that the most valuable game reviews are those that deliver honesty, objectivism, a full exploration of the game’s aspects, and well-explained opinions or insights.

Here in adish, with our game masters and game experts, you don’t have to worry about promoting your game. We make sure that every game is being reviewed thoroughly and that every aspect of the game especially the quality will be discussed and showed in detail. We ensure to deliver an excellent review as realistic as possible.