How Video Game Previews & Reviews Are Hurting The Industry

If we as video game journalists and fans aren’t less critical or a little more accepting of a industry that is still developing, we are going to go further down the rabbit hole of having nothing but sequels and remakes to look forward to.

Let me start this off by saying, I love writing for a video game website and I hope to do it for the rest of my life; with that being said video game websites are doing more harm than good for the industry right now. The video game industry is different than any other entertainment medium because unlike movies or television, video games are almost totally dependent on websites. No other entertainment medium sales revenue is affected by outside influences the way video game websites affect games. Video games like any other entertainment industry need to advertise their products, and that is where the issue of being totally dependent on websites comes into play. The video game industry is literally held hostage by video game websites. The problem is when you only have one major source for publicity, if that publicity turns negative (Duke Nukem) or does less/smaller previews for a game because it does not generate enough hits for the website, it will destroy any chance your product had of succeeding like Lost Odyssey or Shadow of the Damned. What this comes down to is, at the end of the day video games are more likely to fail sales wise because of the harsher standards that websites hold these games to. Movies can have low Rotten Tomatoes scores and still succeed (Transformers movies come to mind), same with books (Twilight anyone?); however a low amount of previews and poor review scores, hell even mediocre preview scores generally kill a video games sales instantly. Poor review scores and a lack of previews wouldn€™t be as bad but because of the dependence on publicizing video games mainly on video game websites, games that aren€™t AAA games tend to fade away very easily. The best example I can think of is Shadow of the Damned that was released earlier this year to mostly positive reviews but had very little build in preparation for the game's release (I didn€™t see one television ad) and the final nail in the coffin was the 7.0 review one of the biggest gaming websites in the world (IGN). The game sold terribly and was essentially dead on arrival, which is too bad because the game was one of my top games this year. What makes the situation even worse is that video game reviews and fans tend to be harsher than any other entertainment medium as well. There are not too many movie review sites that use a ten point scale, which many video game reviewers use. This results in video games being held to a higher standard than all other entertainment mediums, admittedly this is not always a bad thing, but there have been unintended consequences of using a ten point scale. For example, scores like the 7.0 that I mentioned above are now actually interpreted by many video game fans as a bad score; so games that get below an 8.0 generally don€™t sell. It is getting so bad that a phrase was created by video game enthuses to describe games that don€™t reach a certain review rating (anything under 9.0) €œnot a day one purchase€; in other words a game that is €œnot a day one purchase€ means in all likelihood a lost game sale. The reviews aren€™t the only reason video game developers struggle dealing with video game websites; previews of games has become huge business within the industry, basically previews of games are hype machines intended to be free advertising for the games. That is why we are seeing a flood of game trailers with nothing but CGI in them, video game developers have to leave a great first impression. The better the first impression a game makes, the more likely that game is to generate more hits for websites resulting in more previews i.e. free advertising. But the same problem with reviews pops up in that a few negative previews and people start to lose interest in the game. My whole reason for writing this article came up because of a terrible negative preview of the game Dragon€™s Dogma by Kotaku (a major gaming website). Basically the author of the article went on to say how he had no interest in the game because everything in the game had already been done. To the author€™s credit he brings up some combat issues in the article, but the majority of it is a negatively toned article based on his opinion that the game is more of the same. One quote €œAnd.... combat with dragons? Unless Skyrim fumbled this fall, why bother?€ is so asinine that it makes me wonder if there is any journalistic integrity at Kotaku (there isn€™t). Apparently because one game does something right no other game should bother trying to replicate it? Well you heard it here first; Call of Duty Modern Warfare did shooting games so well there should never be another game where you shoot at people ever again. Same problem a few days later at the same website, a preview of the game Dishonored where the author spends most of it making snide remarks about why he doesn€™t think the game will turn out well. It is this type of terrible journalism that is hurting the industry so much, people read these previews and they make decisions based on them, the same with reviews. Journalists like the ones above can shape people€™s opinions on games, that is why we are in so much trouble as an industry. We as video game journalist need to take into account that unlike a lot of other forms of entertainment like movies, people take our reviews into account before making a purchase. I don€™t hear people being deterring from seeing a movie because of a few bad reviews (insert whatever crappy movie you can think of that made a ton of money); but I have talked to a lot of video game fans who have not purchased a game based on bad previews or reviews. I mean it really pisses me off that people will defend Michael Bay movies as stupid fun but Dragon Age 2 is a terrible game because it had a few problems here and there. It is somewhat understandable because video games are so much more expensive than movies, but we as video game journalist need to be less critical in our reviews and previews so that certain games like Shadow of the Damned don€™t get overlooked. The only solution I can see to the problem is to take a step back and realize video games are still a new form of entertainment and need to be judged as such; a game may have issues but can still be fun no different than why people go see Michael Bay movies. If we as video game journalists and fans aren€™t less critical or a little more accepting of a industry that is still developing, we are going to go further down the rabbit hole of having nothing but sequels and remakes to look forward to.

I have been playing video games all my life but not only that I enjoy discussing them just as much as I love playing them. Therefore after going through college to get a criminal justice degree I became a freelance video game writer.