Reduction in Reviews to Hit Indies?

13 10 2008

From the Introversion forums comes disturbing news that online game review sites may be cutting back on reviews. Money quote:

We’ve heard disturbing rumours from more than one source that major games websites are now cutting back on the number of games they review – and it’s games like Multiwinia that are getting dropped because there will always be hundreds of bigger games. If this is true and is widespread (as we are starting to believe), it has grave repercussions for all indie developers who rely on press reviews as their primary form of publicity.

Rock Paper Shotgun has a good overview of it all, including why games like Multiwinia struggle for exposure in print too, including flat out refusal from one magazine to review Multiwinia now or ever.

Both trends are extremely troubling, because while the long tail and digital tools may have ended certain forms of scarcity, much of the long tail is still pinned down to it. Development costs, even on small games, necessitate that sales migrate up the long tail to cover them. To do this requires a decent sized and intelligently applied marketing budget, and even the best marketers can’t successfully sell a game on the back of nothing. Business, even in virtual goods, is still pegged to a great many kinds of scarcity, and cutbacks at review sites threaten to recentralise a lot of trends and cultural mindshare.

For my part, as well as Rock Paper Shotgun I’d like to link to both Multiwinia and TIGsource. On the basis of things I’ve witnessed firsthand in comics, I strongly suspect that review sites are missing a trick by not highlighting the best indie games. The typical fodder of games over the past 25 years only became mainstream by the neglect of other markets. As shown at the links above, there’s a culture of people looking outside of that, and it could well become the real mainstream rather than a niche.

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Metacriticism

18 01 2008

Metacritic

At the Guardian, Keith Stuart has an interesting interview up with Marc Doyle, games editor of Metacritic:

I was watching the new Fox Business Network shortly after Super Mario Galaxy was released. The anchor was interviewing Reggie F-A of Nintendo, and across the bottom of the screen was a banner stating that the game has received a Metascore of 96. That floored me. More and more businesses and financial analysts are referring to Metacritic numbers as an early indicator of a game’s potential sales and, by extension, the publisher’s stock price. Apparently, they’re able to use quantifiable review data as a predictor of a games success before the NPD sales data is officially released.

The interview is overspill from a gamesblog column, which also has points out a flaw in aggregating review scores:

Others are worried about the homogenisation of score data. “Now, one rogue bad score can really drag down your average,” says PR veteran Cathy Campos, who handles the press for developers such as Lionhead and Bungie. “I worked on a game which quite unusually had scores which ranged from 100 to 33 – the Metacritic average (75) did not reflect the fact it was evidently a love-it-or-hate-it title.” In this way, quirky titles like Space Giraffe and Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games are lost in a grey goo of apparent mediocrity.





Plush Apocalypse

1 05 2007

I always like to have a new blog or two in my dailies, and right now I’m enjoying The Plush Apocalypse.

There’s a review of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. up there, and it points out a glaring hole which has consistently appeared in most others:

Pretty much every review I’ve read about S.T.A.L.K.E.R. goes something like this: “There are so many terrible things about this game, bugs, bad framerate, choppy animations, problems on Vista, unpolished, blah blah blah. But you should still play it because it’s cool and has a lot of ambience.”

These reviews say more about the crappy state of game criticism than the game itself, really. They simply fail to describe what makes the game compelling. My other complaint about most of the reviews of this game is that they don’t mention the Tarkovsky movie or the book by the Strugatsky’s.

He goes on to plug both of those gaps rather well; it’s worth reading.