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EA Sports' Moore: Metacritic Less Relevant To Wii Game Sales
EA Sports' Moore: Metacritic Less Relevant To Wii Game Sales Exclusive
June 10, 2009 | By Brandon Sheffield

For EA Sports' Wii titles, Metacritic is no longer the benchmark for quality, says label president Peter Moore. Now, it's user reviews.

Discussing EA Sports Active, which recently saw Electronic Arts' best launch to date on Wii with 600,000 units, Moore tells Gamasutra that "We're not going to Kotaku or Operation Sports on this one, we're going to Amazon."

"The thing is with the Wii, it seems to be for the gaming sites, it's the last platform they review," said Moore.

"It takes a time to get an actual review score. I would pretty much guarantee that just about every Wii game ships without a Metacritic rating because [reviewers] haven't got around, to it or they're not interested in reviewing it."

According to Moore, Wii titles seem to sell independently of their Metacritic rating -- some titles in the low 70s, for example, still sell multiples of millions. "So what truly is the value of a review on a Wii game?"

"Now, yes, you still want to get the best possible review score you can get but I think it's less critical to the success of a game on the Wii than it maybe is on Xbox360 or PS3," Moore concluded.

EA boss John Riccitiello recently said that the company would put 50 percent of its emphasis behind Wii titles in the coming year -- alongside the goal of raising the company's Metacritic ratings across the board.

But for Moore, Metacritic is not the perfect solution, especially on the Wii. "I absolutely guarantee you, the thing we're watching most closely now [with Wii titles] is things like Amazon - and I'll go look at women's magazines that have powerful websites, and then we look at what we call 'mommy bloggers'," he says.

"That's where those people go for their information. They are not going to Metacritic. They don't know Metacritic exists."

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Bob McIntyre
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This is painfully obvious. Of course Metacritic isn't useful. The Wii was aimed at non-gamers. Non-gamers are, by the definition of the term, uneducated customers with regard to video games. So they buy much more based on marketing/advertising/hype/brand recognition than on things like review scores. Of course they aren't going to be aware of a game's Metacritic scores!

It's a little disingenuous to imply that good Wii games get bad Metacritic scores, though, unless we're defining "good" as "high-selling," in which case Metacritic and sales being unrelated for Wii titles is a relevant fact.

steve roger
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I think he is just trying to rationalize and justify bad scores and the anticipation of bad scores. It is a fact that Wii games in general don't score well anywhere. Take for example, Wii Sports. As a stand alone title it is fun but is rudimentary and pretty lacking in content. But as a pack in that demonstrates the controller aspect of the Wii it is unmatched. So it is about a 7 on the scale. Value, graphics, presentation, sound, and the fact it is short drag it down from a critical point of view.

If they sold a Wii Sports 2, it would need to be significantly better to score well. But if you are selling it to the unwashed masses or packing it in again, it will sell bazzillions. Therefore, quality and amount of content won't mater.

I don't know if this kind of scheme is something to be proud of.

It may work for a while, but in the long run this the kind of thinking that got EA into trouble in the first place.

What I can't understand is why Moore thinks that this is a good think to say. Essentially, he is saying that his games are crap but they sell well anyway.

What I wonder is why this theory doesn't work for his his FACEBREAKER game.

Bob McIntyre
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Steve, you're right, there is a slight implication that his games aren't that good but that it doesn't matter. I doubt he intends to say that, but it's not hard to see how you could find the implication. On the other hand, maybe he gets the last laugh; his customers aren't going to read this site.

Russell Carroll
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I'm going to say it's only mostly true. I'll bet Tiger Woods 10 on Wii sells a great deal more copies due if the Metacritic score is high. It's not really due to the score though, there's been plenty of talk that Metacritic isn't used by anyone in the public to buy games for any console.

However, game review websites are used by gamers, and if all of the game review websites are giving a game high reviews, that definitely creates positive buzz that can increase sales. There is a very healthy group of gamers on the Wii (the same group that bought nearly 2.7 million copies of Smash Bros the month it was released, and made World of Goo the top selling WiiWare game for 7 months, and made Final Fantasy the WiiWare game that dethroned it). While high metacritic scores for a less core EA Active may not garner additional sales, high metacritic scores for a more core title like Tiger Woods will increase sales. Scores are more important on games aimed at more traditional core games. It's the game's audience, not the console audience that matters.

The Wii audience is diverse and there is absolutely a part of it that is following reviews and gamer blog opinions. Lumping the Wii audience together into one homogeneous group is going to always give a bad result. There are just too many Wii gamers.

steve roger
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That Facebreaker game sold a paltry 160k units and had an awful score of 54. I think a pretty good case can be made that while consumers don't actually search out and look at Metracritic, the scores themselves are a good indicator of what might sell and what won't. I just am not going to believe that an abomination of a game will sell well with a lot of marketing pointing to the control system. This is just going to end up biting EA in the arse.

(it would be great if Gamasutra could add this as an edit to my above post)

Brandon Sheffield
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Moore is not talking just about his own company. Look at the "scores" for Ubisoft's Petz series:

Or Imagine series:

(there are some movies in that search as well).

Basically, what you see is no review scores, and these games as a whole sell quite well compared to their costs. This is what people are making money with on the Wii, and some of the stand-out examples have no ratings. This is what he's saying.

Bob: I'm pretty sure he's talking about sales, which for him means "games people are purchasing/enjoying." As with all entertainment, I think you could say that "good" is entirely relative. You might think it's poorly designed, but your mom might think it's perfectly fine.

John Flush
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What? a console and its games not aimed at long term gamers don't seem to be affected by a game reviewing site? Seems logical.

And the best way to market it is word of mouth? Really I'm glad someone in the industry figured out this out. It is the only reason the Wii is selling so much, lots of word of mouth talking about how much fun, and different, it is.

The only thing he has wrong is that review scores don't matter. If the game is aimed at the hardcore gamer it will probably need a good review score. Even then it will be hard sell because the hardcore gamer doesn't play games for imprecise motion controls, which is one of the few things the Wii even has going for it.

Bob McIntyre
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Come on, Brandon. No need to bring my mom into this. Let's keep it civil, OK? ;-)

Jeff, I'm not sure about the "word of mouth" thing. There is definitely some of that going on, but the lines to pick up the Wii on day one were, by definition, not word of mouth. Nobody owned one yet, so it was purely hype. It's definitely part word of mouth, but a lot of it is Apple-style hype and status-symbol marketing and advertising.

Carl Chavez
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Metacritic is an inaccurate indicator of many game sales for a simple reason: the majority of reviews are by a segment of the population that is not reflective of the consumers, whether "educated" or not. In the case of Brandon's examples of the multi-million-selling Petz or Imagine series, the game reviewers are not between 5 and 10 years of age. The games' purchasers are most likely the parents, and probably the mothers, of the target audience. How can Metacritic reliably predict the success of such titles without canvassing the Internet for game reviews written by grade schoolers and moms? One cannot argue that Metacritic is a reliable long-term sales indicator if one also believes that market segments ("hardcore gamers", "tweens", "casual", "soccer moms", etc.) exist as long as Metacritic's compiled scores are almost exclusively drawn from the hardcore game media reviewers.

(And Bob, I think Brandon was using "your mom" as a group identity and not as an attack. Read it as "one's mom" instead.)

Bob McIntyre
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Carl, I agree with part of what you're saying. Game reviewers tend to know a lot about games, and tend to have been playing and analyzing games for a long time, so their views might be more representative of the "core" gamer segment than brand-new Wii customers. However, that doesn't even matter if the brand-new Wii customers aren't even reading the reviews in the first place.

Also, I disagree that being adults makes them incapable of rating a game made for five-year-olds. Think about it. Every movie or game or TV show, every product or service of every imaginable type that is made for five-year-olds is made by adults. The Little Mermaid, for example, was clearly aimed at little girls, but I guarantee that Disney didn't staff on little girls to make that product. Ubisoft doesn't have little kids design their Petz series either. A good reviewer should be able to review something made for a child without resorting to "this game is too childish for me, therefore it sucks." As for what percentage of reviewers are good, well, no comment.

(I realize Brandon meant it that way, I was just kidding around.)

Josh Parker
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As a developer having worked on XBOX Live Arcade titles before, I think the trend I've seen in reviews for XBLA titles was a lack of focus as to the intended/potential gaming experience. Personally, I think the same happens for Wii titles a good amount of the time as well.

For XBLA, it often felt like person reviewing the game didn't fully understand what it was they were the earliest days of XBLA titles the size of the games were limited to...what was it, 85MB I think...and yet they'd hit on lack of content or short play time, not enough unique textures or environments, etc. Some of the large budgets types like Robo Blitz could afford a procedural texture engine and stood out more, but I always felt like if the reviewer understood they weren't buying a AAA 8 hour content title, they would review it differently.

It would be hard for me to believe that same kind of lack of vision applies to Wii titles. I can't blame them, even I'd have a hard time grading something like, say, Force Unleashed when there's the big and flashy brother on the next-gen consoles. Even with Ghostbusters, we worked hard to make it unique from the next-gen versions here at Red Fly but I'm not going to be surprised if/when it's compared to the enxt-gen version from TRI.

Of course, all my opinion and it really comes down to your answer to the you want reviewers to be a (Wii player/XBLA player) and review it as a (XBLA title, Wii title), ideally a fan of the (3rd person shooter/RTS/Fighting) game genre, or do you want them to just be a reviewer reviewing a title? I'm sure there's plenty on either side.

Lance Rund
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Nothing makes a reviewer angrier than the general populace disagreeing with their pronouncements.

The fact is that if a game is poorly reviewed by "professional" reviewers but the "unwashed masses" like it, then the "professionals" are the ones who are just plain wrong. A reviewer is supposed to be a guide for people to decide "will I enjoy this game", not "SHOULD I enjoy this game". Reviewers aren't supposed to be in the business of telling people "you aren't having as much fun as you think you are"; they are in the business of "I think you'll have about this much fun". And in order to do that, the reviewer has to empathize with their audience. (It also helps that they know what they are talking about/are basing their judgments on first-hand information/don't bring a political bias or a "mad-on" for a given game company to the table, too.)

Now this doesn't necessarily mean that a game that sells well is well-liked... there could be millions of disappointed people who bought a game based upon marketing and found it was crap. However, reviews from "unwashed masses" on Amazon etc. will reflect this. The truth will make itself known.

Referring to the potential readership as "unwashed masses"... that's not good. That demonstrates clearly that a reviewer has no connection whatsoever to the people whom they are supposedly advising (and in fact a demonstrated contempt for their audience), and that they are in it not to inform people, but to make Pronouncements From On High. They need to learn the difference between "reviewing" and "editorializing" and "punditry". Those "reviewers" should probably reexamine their career choices.

Brian Crecente
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For the record we are reviewing EA Sports Active, we're just still playing through it, and none of our games have reviews, so they don't contribute to metacritic reviews.


Brandon Sheffield
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Hi Brian!

Yeah, that was one of the major things he didn't mention in there (but only because he didn't happen to, I know he's aware of the issue) - a lot of important outlets either don't use scores, or have their scores averaged in ways that don't represent what the reviewer is trying to say (ala translation of 1ups letter grades into percentage amounts).

Chris Melby
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Mr. Bob,

so the Wii, which released with games like Zelda was aimed at non gamers. That's rather silly to say the least. Your definition of gaming is obviously different than mine. I personally like variety, that's why I own a Wii, as it fills the void that PC gaming lacks. ;)

Anyways, I'm buying EA's new Tiger Woods 10, not because of a its metric score, but because it supports "Motion Plus."