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RPGWatch Forums » Comments » News Comments » Casual Gamers Don't Care About Reviews @ bit-tech.net

Default Casual Gamers Don't Care About Reviews @ bit-tech.net

December 10th, 2007, 17:57
This little article, entitled Casual Gamers don't care about bad reviews, at bit-tech.net examines one of our most discussed subjects, game reviewing, from a little different perspective:
Casual games tend not to get very good reviews from many of the big-hitters - that's a pretty well established fact. However, casual games also sell really well (much better than critically acclaimed classics like Beyond Good and Evil). Can you see the conundrum developing here?

Apparently, EA has the answer. President of Casual Games Kathy Vrabeck told Next-Gen just why she doesn't really care about game reviews anymore. Gee, thanks Kathy.

"I get less concerned about game reviews because the casual gamers don't read any of those things…It's a little bit amusing, in that it's people reviewing games against measures that are important to core gamers yet are not important to casual gamers," said Kathy.
The full interview at Next Gen is available here, and goes on to say:
There’s a long-running and rather pointless debate about the correlation between videogame reviews and sales. The fact is that they do and they don’t matter. It all depends.

Reviews are more likely to impact sales for a hardcore strategy title, for instance, as the genre’s audience is inherently more dedicated to gaming and is more susceptible to falling under the hypnotic spell of critics' comments, which help validate a purchase.

The average buyer of Take-Two’s dismally-reviewed $40 Carnival Games for Wii, however, isn’t going to be visiting Metacritic to find out if the Dunk Tank mini-game compares favorably against the aiming mechanics of Metroid Prime 3: Corruption….
…While Vrabeck calls the supposed mismatch of traditional consumer gaming sites and casual games “amusing,” in the same breath she admits that casual game reviews are “a huge issue in the press and in the industry.” So, to an extent anyhow, specialist reviews really do matter to EA Casual. And as the casual division inherently needs to be everything to everyone, whether they be middle-aged women, older men, kids, teens and ‘tweens, finding review venues “appropriate” for the target audience isn’t an easy task…
…Game critics, who are experts if only for the fact that many have played perhaps hundreds of games, will still insist though, shovelware is shovelware is shovelware, no matter who the intended audience may be.

But perhaps the execs leading EA Casual have a point, that—here it comes—specialist press outlets are playing casual games wrong.

Well, at least they're playing casual games from the perspective of a core gamer who’s seen it all, instead of a mass market Joe….

“As a game for grown-ups, it's true that [Carnival Games] is a ‘throwaway,’ but as a game to play with your family, it's a blast,” [Bill] Harris[ of Dubious Quality] said….
More information.

Where there's smoke, there's mirrors.
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December 10th, 2007, 17:57
I'm unsure why this is relevant from our perspective, though. They're discussing the really casual games, not reviews to RPGs
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December 10th, 2007, 18:14
I think it's interesting however, as it's a perspective from a side we rarely see, that of the publisher's attitude towards reviews. Yes, they are talking about casual games, but I think some attitudes towards reviews in general can be extrapolated from that article, and those are relevant to an RPG perspective.
Also, while this is an RPG site, I think a lot of people here play more than just RPGs so there's crossover interest.

You know the very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common. They don't alter their views to fit the facts, they alter the facts to fit their views, which can be uncomfortable if you happen to be one of the facts that needs altering.
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December 10th, 2007, 18:20
The state of the industry at large is certainly of interest to us, even if our primary focus is only a small piece of that industry.

Be it film, music, or games, I think the public has proved time and again that quality and popularity are largely independent. The comments from EA just show that "the suits" are taking notice.

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December 10th, 2007, 18:24
Originally Posted by Gallifrey View Post
I think it's interesting however, as it's a perspective from a side we rarely see, that of the publisher's attitude towards reviews.
That's true. Me, I'm lightly amused by her arrogance. Comes before the fall, y'know.
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December 10th, 2007, 18:31
I thought it made a few points about the difference between what's important to a casual gamer, and what's important to those who are perceived to be hardcore—and those factors are definitely in play when games are produced and funded.

Also the perpetual point is raised—do reviews sell games? Apparently for people who play games "seriously" they matter a lot in terms of sales or the contrast point that they matter not at all to casual gamers wouldn't be raised. I think it's a good sign that the casual market is looking for ways to mimic hardcore sales promotion—that it says hardcore is less niche than it's usually presented and more of a contender in its own right for game development dollars.

And also, it's kind of a slow news day.

Edit; There was a bit of arrogance there, wasn't there? I cringed the most though when she mentioned that her standard for a casual game being good was whether it deserved putting down the cell phone to play it…feminists everywhere will be hanging her in effigy.

Where there's smoke, there's mirrors.
Last edited by magerette; December 10th, 2007 at 18:39.
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December 10th, 2007, 19:11
Obviously, reviews are only part of advertising in the game industry much like the other mainstream forms of entertainment. You can't think of games as anything but mainstream now - Sony pretty much changed that with the PS1. Funny how Nintendo are cashing in all the rewards now though.
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December 10th, 2007, 20:12
Originally Posted by magerette View Post
And also, it's kind of a slow news day.
It's been slow for some time. Makes sense, with the major releases now behind us.

Is it just me, by the way, or has nobody reviewed Eschalon: Book 1 yet?
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December 10th, 2007, 21:28
First off, a seconding for the recommendation of Dubious Quality, Bill Harris' blog. He used to run Gone Gold back in the day, and, especially in terms of knowing the bigger picture of the console market, you'll be hard-pressed to find a better source. He also writes about his family, especially his son, and introduces the odd indie game (Space Rangers 2 FTW). Read, add to RSS feeds, and enjoy.

The article/interview was interesting, although I think reviews are more important than Vrabeck makes them out to be. Yes, casual gamers aren't as affected by reviews directly, but I think there's a lot more that's happening indirectly. First of all, casual gamers tend to turn to hardcore gamers for advice, and pick up buzz at the same time. Good reviews mean better feelings and impressions get passed down the line. Second, the line between the two is growing steadily more blurred, as casual games add depth (Puzzle Quest) and 'serious' games have generally lowered their barriers to entry. Third, GameRankings/Metacritic are far from bastions of the hardcore, and appear to be getting more attention from all sorts of sources, whether reviews, news, sales (MC scores on Steam), or just general word-of-mouth.

I can't help but feel 'hardcore' and 'casual' will have to be redefined relative to gamers, if they don't disappear entirely. The divide seems to be play-session-related… casual games finish a certain 'arena' in less than an hour, and generally 5-15 minutes, after which you restart or play a variant. Hardcore gamers spend most, if not all of the time, in a continuous gameworld, although the level to which this is present varies (RPGs more so, strategy less, FPS middling). When someone figures out how to bridge these two seamlessly, ie playing a 'casual' game on your mobile or PSP/DS, which is affecting your 'serious' game on your console or PC, they will be able to print their own money. People will lose their lives to it entirely. And, until then, there'll continue to be two classes of gamer, each shunning the other's taste for perceived differences that are disappearing steadily. The conjoined twins that compose the 'serious' and 'casual' gaming industry will keep on splitting and targeting their efforts, when they should be voicing basic questions bemoaned by man for generations: "Why can't we all just get along?"

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December 10th, 2007, 21:50
Originally Posted by Brother None View Post
It's been slow for some time. Makes sense, with the major releases now behind us.

Is it just me, by the way, or has nobody reviewed Eschalon: Book 1 yet?
Yes, sloooooow. I'll probably have our Eschalon review out next week and Scorpia should have hers up in the next couple of days.

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December 11th, 2007, 00:14
But perhaps the execs leading EA Casual have a point, that—here it comes—specialist press outlets are playing casual games wrong.
Interesting - and a point I make often. Cooking Mama - a 70% game - is brilliant … but will never get high scores. Because people blasting through FPS at breakneck speeds just don't get much of the appeal. I really feel that I have had to 'retrain my brain' to understand these things - and I thank my kids for that

But it is true that the audience that needs this information isn't looking for it … and the audience looking for game info doesn't care about these games … otherwise GamerDad would be a millionaire by now

But I also see a cop-out … people making crap games will now feel they can say 'we're misunderstood'! Um, no, we understand perfectly - Flipper Critters is crap, High School Musical DS is really good.

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December 11th, 2007, 11:33
Some games are better played alone and some others better with company. Using the same rating by typical bachelor gamers are not a good indicator for games designed to be enjoyed with friends and families. Casual games expanded the targeted groups even wider and it is illogical to expect the existing rating systems able to catch up to the changing environment.

In my case, I have been skeptical of the review scores and I tend to judge the reviews based on its context. So, scores haven't affected to me. Even in http://www.joystiq.com/2007/11/30/ru…al at Gamespot, after comparing both the original and the revised texts, I think some diplomatic word selection could have sufficed to subtly show the editor's honest opinion.
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December 11th, 2007, 13:17
If you look at news like this from the UK:

http://www.mcvuk.com/news/29118/GAME…by-90-per-cent

Now I'm not saying that 90% is all casual games, but I bet the Wii sells a fare few fun casual efforts.
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December 11th, 2007, 19:25
Originally Posted by Brother None View Post
That's true. Me, I'm lightly amused by her arrogance. Comes before the fall, y'know.
Funny you wrote that because as I read the article I had the same impression but was wrestling with the notion that I have a big negative bias toward EA to begin with. Turns out maybe there is some arrogance there.

Anyway, this article coming from EA, you really have to take the position of 'consider the source' from the get go.

EA isn't exactly known for it's innovation and ground-breaking ideas. Instead they like to crank out FPS #9,879,456 and Madden Football 2099. As a result EA games typically get mediocre to poor reviews for exactly the reasons she points out in the article. Which makes her article sound pretty defensive actually.

Unfortunatley, there is some truth in her words because sales talks. However, it's interesting she pointed out sales from early Wii titles. It's interesting because in the early stages of a new console it's pretty typical that the first wave of games are somewhat mediocre (perhaps with the exception of one super title to coax people into buying the machine early on in its life cycle). They are mediocre for a few reasons… developers are learning how the machine works and don't know all the little tricks they'll know 2 years later. They are on a rush to meet 'launch' deadlines, etc.

This is pertinent in any analysis using early game titles because when consumers buy a new console early on in its life cycle they are more likely to purchase titles they may not purchase when there are more, and better games available, years into the console's life cycle. So to make a statement pointing at sales for some early titles in a console's life cycle that are mediocre at best, my reasons why this happens vs. the authors' reasons why this happens are very different. I think it's more about the fact that there isn't a whole lot of choice yet and people are sorta compelled to buy some games after plunnking down $300 or more for the console.

That the author didn't base her analysis on trends that are well documented from past consoles such as the Gamecube, Xbox, or Playstation 2 makes me suspicous and sounds a little 'reaching' when using the wii, which is very new in it's life cycle.

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December 11th, 2007, 19:46
She wishes Causal gamers didn't read reviews, damn this is total crap and it's no wonder ea dishes out shovelware, with wackos like this running a division.

Clearly reviews are becoming more important as an educational device for parents and new gamers. Of course kids and newbs don't read them, they wouldn't know what they like or don't until they actually start playing games. Thankfully there are very good reviewers out there trying to help parents out like txa1265, however they are rare. atm.

Anyone else notice the corporatist technique being used here today? I say ea is feeling the heat with the crappy reputation they have rightfully achieved and are on a play nice PR campaign, before the holidays.
Oh, look at us we're really just regular people, just like you customers
Spoiler
who buy our games. We're so in touch with our customer's best interest we don't need to listen to them or the reviewers. Oh and those nice people overseas, they are so creative.

Edit
Of course reviews matter to experienced gamers, they have been ripped off by ea so damn often. Now waiting is important, if you don't want to get ripped off and Casual gamers are so new to the industry PR tricks, they don't know any better. What they are saying is they can shovel what they want to inexperienced gamers, lovely.

Trust me, most of the names I have been called you can't translate in any language…they're not even real words as much as a succession of violent images.
Last edited by Acleacius; December 11th, 2007 at 19:54.
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December 11th, 2007, 19:56
Kathy Vrabeck is saying, "We understand the people who buy these games, and the reviewers don't." And she's backing it up with sales figures. What a bitch. She's got a point, and that's even worse.

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December 11th, 2007, 20:12
It's Nintendo's deliberate tactics to expand the age group of game-players since, in Japan, the population of children have been shrinking. You can see this simply watch the titles they release. They are targeted to more sociable players with families and friends and the games become popular like epidemic. They know customers themselves advertise their games even through their blogs if they let them enjoy themselves good enough. To my eyes, comparing Wii and/or DS with older titles are more irrational than suspecting EA talks. At least, she's got a point.
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December 11th, 2007, 21:53
But perhaps the execs leading EA Casual have a point, that—here it comes—specialist press outlets are playing casual games wrong.

Well, at least they're playing casual games from the perspective of a core gamer who’s seen it all, instead of a mass market Joe….
I tend to agree … I once developed the theory of professional gaming magazine editors often being kind of biased, because they are used to have the finest machines in their offices for use - it's like being overfed with luxury.

Therefore they - in this theory - tend to rather look doiwn on games that are not so technically / graphically good, because they are just used to the finest technology (because their PCs allow it).

It's a bit difficult for me to describe - but if you re used to a Rolls Royce, you wouldn't consider a Beetle anymore fun, because of the "luxury effect" - although you still *can* have much fun with such a "waker" car.

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December 11th, 2007, 22:32
Originally Posted by Squeek View Post
Kathy Vrabeck is saying, "We understand the people who buy these games, and the reviewers don't." And she's backing it up with sales figures. What a bitch. She's got a point, and that's even worse.
The sales figures she cites are interesting. But her conclusions about how the sales figrues became what they became are dubious.

Her analysis would have been far better using data from the last generation of consoles (Gamecube, Xbox, & Playstation 2). There are too many variables in play when using on-going data from consoles very early on in their life-cycle. Too many variables, too many moving targets. Unless she has a crystal ball, her conclusions are easily debatable.

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December 13th, 2007, 01:12
None of the casual gamers I know actually buy their games. So the point is moot, no?
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