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Dear Members of the Press,
In the advent of EA's most recent PR debacle entitled Sim City, it seems that many review sites have made some changes. Sites have shifted their tactics to withholding their reviews until after the public launch of a game, especially for games in a series that have been known to contain a notable multi-player component or have in the past been exclusively single-player (ala Sim City). Though I completely understand their thought process, I think their approach is completely wrong.
Today's games are massive. Gone (for the most part) are the days where your "big budget" boxed console game is so short that you don't even need a save file or passcode. They aren't the kinds of games you just sit down for an hour and find yourself defeating the final boss. On top of that, just about every AAA game today; for better or worse, has a multi-player component. Some games, like Lara Croft for example, arguably never needed a multi-player component. The part of the game that everyone is expected to play in a traditionally single-player series is likely the most important part of the review. Unfortunately it becomes up to the discretion of each reviewer on how hard the overall review/score should be anchored down based on a feature that many people will probably never use.
Reviews need to change and the solution is simple. Games need to have a single-player review and a multi-player review. With single-player and multi-player experiences being so completely different in nearly all cases, and sometimes developed by separate teams or companies, it makes sense to treat them as such. Reviewers should stop sticking to the old tropes that say just because a feature was shipped on the same disk that it must be part of the same experience. This was probably true before idSoftware invented death-match in 1993 but times have changed and it's time for reviews to change.
This simple tweak allows the reviewers to, at their discretion, withhold the multi-player review until public servers are available without damaging the credibility of what might be an amazing single-player experience because of wildly different weights of multi-players' influence on the overall score of a game. Of course games like Sim City, being always on and lacking a single-player experience, would simply have to wait until after launch entirely.