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Joystiq Ditches Review Scores, Should Everyone Else?


Joystiq is doing away with review scores. Gone. Done. No more.

It’s a regular complaint of game writers and an increasingly vocal group of gamers: reviews have become all about the score and less about the content. What a critic has to say about a game has become far, far less important than the relatively arbitrary number thrown at the end of the thing. The result? An era in which Metacritic rules all, where publishers attach financial value to these nearly irrelevant numbers and readers run wild when AAA releases are ever ranked beneath an 8. We’ve all been guilty of this at some point or another; who hasn’t felt offended when a game they like gets a low score? (In my case, I tend to rejoice when games I don’t like get low scores, but I'm a bad person.)

In truth, the video game industry was really worse off from review scores in the first place, and Joystiq’s removal of them is just the sort of thing we should be seeing more of. Review scores benefit no one: critics will briefly put their entire lives on hold to play games for unhealthy amounts of time and crunch to write the equivalent of a book report only to have an arbitrary number, and not the words themselves, dictate the tone and nature of their experience. Developers and critics get jerked around as publishers push and pressure to manipulate the system any way they can because the people with cash money recognize the importance of that stupid average. Readers are sold short by conversations dominated by this score and not an intellectual breakdown of the actual games themselves.

It all sucks, and Joystiq’s removal of scores has cast light on just how much review scores have needed to go for a long time.

I saw it written once - if anyone knows the source, I’d appreciate it - that reviews are an inconvenience for publishers. They can control every element of a game’s release, every screenshot and trailer and detail and word, until it is in gamers’ hands… except for the review. That one element at the tail end of the entire marketing and release process is the one thing out of their hands, and it’s the one thing that can make or break everything. And while scoreless reviews would still have power, the removal of Metacritic from the procedure would probably have benefited us all.

Personally? If I had the power to hit a switch and change the business as a whole, I’d rather we do away with individual sites’ scores entirely and move to something which follows the Rotten Tomatoes concept of judging whether a critic’s response to something is positive or negative. Averages would still pop up in an overarching fashion, but less squabbling over specific sites' scores and more focus on the general idea would be some kind of improvement.

But alas, that’s not the universe we live in and it’s not the way the business works. For now, let us applaud Joystiq for wiping out these completely arbitrary review scores.

Keep an eye out for the next 4Player review where I give a game a completely arbitrary review score.


  • Davethezombie 5 years ago

    I do have to agree that gaming websites should simply do away with review scores. I always saw it as a tl;dr version of their review of the game so gamers could simply look at the score and see if they liked or hated it. Moreover, no matter what scale they use, 5 stars, out of 10, or worse, out of 100, the numbers become more meaningless as it becomes difficult to determine why reviewers chose that exact number value over another.

    I'm also not too much of a fan of RT's scoring system. Again, it's way too vague or arbitrary. If decent is a result of positive scoring, it only skews the audience's expectation of the quality of that product. Moreover, the RT score is dependent on the ratio of how many positives are given vs the negatives which again skews expectations of a product if say there is only 4 people who bothered to review such a product and all liked it, it'd be a 100% score, as if it was something of perfection. I've yet to see a review aggregate site for either movies or games that accurately represents a majority populous view on a product. But alas, it's the internet and people are random like that.

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    • Big Wazu 5 years ago

      I agree with you on basically everything. I remember when I was younger all I did was look at scores because I didn't want to read but, as I've gotten older, I could care less about the number. The content is what matters.

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  • theottomatic91 5 years ago

    I like pies

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  • pioshfd 5 years ago

    After reading reviews for Resident Evil HD, I could not agree more. A couple of them call it a classic back in its day, but possibly something the contemporary gamer won't appreciate. At that point, I didn't understand why the number was there at all...

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