I am often reading articles, comments and tweets from people complaining about the review industry being corrupt and broken. I was just on one site that’s homepage opening gambit talked about how it was different, as it’s user reviews were not the product of bribes. Others complain that giving games arbitrary scores for graphics etc. is archaic, pointless and damaging to the industry as a whole. Here is my opinion, but I am more interested in yours!

When I started Yet Another Review Site, I was fairly naive to the whole industry.  I just wanted to write about games because I loved them.  I also wanted to give other people the opportunity to write about games, so made it a semi open platform to give others that chance.

Over the last five or so years, my aims and my goals for the site have not altered, but the opinions of the world around me have.  Years ago, when I read reviews in the hallowed paged of magazines like Commodore Format or Zzap 64 things were different.  You read reviews and previews to shape whether or not you wanted to buy a game.  Code was reviewed prior to the release of a game and the score to ultimately sell or kill a games sale instantly.  Anything over 7 tended to mean it was worth getting and developers were happy to get it (for the most part).  10 meant that if you didn’t own the game you were a fool and didn’t deserve it anyway!

These days it is all different.  I have had many conversations with my contributors as to why I bother to include scores on the site.  The general argument is about a couple of things.  The first is that scores can be bought, so what does it matter.  The second is the fact that people don’t tend to read reviews anymore to decide if they want to buy a game, they read them to validate the fact that they have bought them and where right in doing so.

To address the first element of that.  I have heard of people being offered ‘sweeteners’ to provide good reviews of games.  I have also myself been encouraged to score a game well that may not have really deserved more than a 4.  I might add, I have never acted on such a suggestion.  The other problem is the pressure to stay in business as a small review site.  Getting black listed by a company, when you are struggling to get any on board, is not a happy option.  If they send you their latest game and you give it 1 / 10 then it is within the bounds of reason to assume they may not want to send you more in the future.  Again, this is something I have had to come to terms with.  My opinion is, send me a good product – I will give it a good score.  If it sucks, it sucks and I will tell the world – constructively of course.  Also, 7 out of 10 is still a good score, but sadly many only view 9’s and 10’s as worthy scores for a ‘good’ game.

The second issue is more of a problem in my eyes.  You see smaller sites tend to get games very, very close to release date if at all.  Therefore, they may not get the review of the game out until sometime after the release of the game.  With the current trend for pre-order extras with every new game, people have often paid for a game weeks before any reviews start to surface.  So does the score matter at that point?  I personally think that scores can help.  I like to see an overall score of a game at least.  It may just be one person’s opinion, but if I am reading the review, I tend to trust that opinion already.  Then again, just look at Mass Effect 3 and the varied opinions people have had about that!  That is part of the reason YARS includes the Bias Adjusted Score!

These days I am convinced that getting a bad review from smaller sites will have no impact on a games sales.  I am even doubtful that bad reviews from the big boys can kill sales totally. I know the system can be played.  Sites like Metacritic, which are used as a litmus test for how good games are, have been gamed in the past.  People have deliberately set out to reduce the scores of certain games.  In the same vein some have been allegedly caught trying to increase the scores.

Is the games review industry really broken? No.  It needs to improve the public’s opinion a little and needs a few bandages here and there.  I also think that it needs to get a little less cliquey.  My view is that we are all writing about games, because we love them.  Smaller sites need to pull together and actually help each other out a little more.  I have been lucky enough to speak with dozens of site owners both small and large.  Without exception, the people I have spoken with all love games.  They all want the games industry to succeed in the UK.  The trouble is they are also very often run as a business and the bottom line is money.  You get money by getting people on the site so that people will pay you for advertising.  It doesn’t pay to help the little guys or each other.

Another point is that publishers need to accept that bad games get bad reviews and that the public are not stupid.  They know that if every site but three give a game 5 out of 10 and those three give it 10 out of 10 that something is a little fishy. We are not an inherently corrupt industry and for the most part we all genuinely love the industry.

Let’s hope that there is a way for us to all work together a little better as the games industry gets more and more mainstream coverage.  It is the best thing for games and will actually help all of us in the review world in the long run.

Let me know what you think in the comments!

Originally posted at http://www.yetanotherreviewsite.co.uk/the-games-review-industry-is-news~5302.htm