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Default Larian Studios - Thoughts on Game Journalism

March 4th, 2012, 10:05
Larian head Swen Vincke has an interview at Neoseeker and follow-up blog post on the state of game journalism. It's not specifically RPG related, although Dragon Age 2 serves as one of his examples:
Scoring is an issue in itself. As an editor, personally, I hate scoring. For awhile we didn't score our games; we brought it in eventually. I understand the need of it, and why it's useful, but it causes so many problems, with readers and PR. Idealistically I would like to eliminate scoring but that's not happening.
It's insane it can have such an impact. I was comparing numbers for Divinity II: The Dragon Knight Saga and Dragon Age II, because it had the same Metacritic rating (82). I went to look at the user scores for both games, and Dragon Age II had 73% user score on GameSpot, 70 on Amazon, and 42 on Metacritic, over thousands of votes. In our case it was much higher; our Metacritic fits more with our user score: 85 on GameSpot, 84 on Metacritic, 90 on Amazon. I know it's because it's purely PR machine work.
And if you look at the trends you see the initial Dragon Age II reviews were very high, and as you go over time…
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March 4th, 2012, 10:05
I always enjoy reading Swen's blog. It gives you a real peak behind the curtain of games development.
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March 4th, 2012, 20:44
I highly recommend a full reading of both the Neoseeker interview and Swen Vincke's follow-up blog post. Looking at game reviews as a consumer, its easy to suspect that something just isn't right with some reviews. These articles give some perspective from the game studio and from the perspective of a publisher.

Shoddy reviews. Although experienced gamers can easily shrug off the obviously bad reviews, for game developers its often a life and death experience — From Swen,
I saw a curve once from a [big publisher] showing the correlation for an RPG between Metacritic score and sales. There's an incredibly strong relationship, which is exponential. An 80 will get you a couple of hundred thousand sales, say, where a 90 will get you a couple million if it's marketed properly.
How about those glowing reviews of games that turn out to be mediocre or just plain crap? A few zingers from Swen:
…it's probably not the norm… [But recently] not sooner than I'd just done an interview with [a large magazien] was the advertising manager talking with us on the phone a couple of hours later about how many pages we'd wanted to buy, etc. So it does happen like that.
…You see situations where the guys going to review a game are invited to go to Venice, and they're going to spend a half hour with the game and a week in Venice in a five-star hotel…
I've seen a PR manager in action for one of my games make a 79 an 81.
Other topics include inexperienced reviewers and/or reviewers with little or no understanding of the game genre.

Swen believes there should be accountability for game reviewers and publishers of reviews. Seems to me that RPGWatch can, or perhaps already does, have some role here.

Swen recommends particular caution with 'day one' game reviews. He also recommends comparing user scores to review scores…

Lots more in the articles…

I'd really like to see reviews based on properly constructed panels of gamers for the particular genre…

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March 4th, 2012, 23:00
Great interview and blog. And as I've said before, I think reviewers (or reviewing sites) should be rated. The correlation of sales to metacritic rating is not surprising.
Last edited by Thrasher; March 5th, 2012 at 00:30.
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March 5th, 2012, 00:15
Here when we review games (usually bought, not supplied) we try to get 2 or more opinions. We can't really compete with the BIG sites on AAA games since they get advance copies and we have to wait till the official release. By the time we finish a game like Skyrim, a review would be a trifle late!!

If God said it, then that settles it!!

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March 5th, 2012, 10:47
Interesting read and actually makes me wonder if this came true (the scoring of reviewers) would the numbers of pre-orders drop on most releases (assuming gamers value the ranking of reviewers)?

I hope the above makes sense
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March 5th, 2012, 14:29
He has kind of hit the op of the nail. For many years now I wonder "but who reviews the critics" ? In my case, though, I rather meant music and film and especially literature.

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction. (E.F.Schumacher, Economist, Source)
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