9GN: How IGN Went Overboard With Game Reviews
IGN gave 84 games a 9 or higher in 2012, which is considered “Amazing” on their scale.
I shouldn’t have to say anymore than that to render you speechless, but let’s look at the full description for a 9 on the IGN rubric:
“One of the best games out there. When this generation of games ends, people will look back and say, “This was one of the best games made for the system.” It might have a few flaws, but this is a must-buy.”
Again, that should be all I need to say. IGN says there were 84 of those in 2012. Seems incredible, right? 2012 was a surprisingly good year for games, but 84? How many games did you play last year? 12? Maybe 15 on the high-end? And yet IGN is telling us that when this generation of games ends, we will look back at 84 different games in 2012 (this isn’t including each version of a multiplatform title) and say it was one of the best games made for its respective system? That’s insane and it is becoming an issue. What is the average gamer supposed to do with that?
Of late, there is this idea that if a game gets anything less than a 9 or higher, it is crap. A game gets an 8 and fanboys freak out. 8 is still a perfectly respectable score, but for some people, it is apparently a matter of life or death. And they are right. According to Ben Kuchera’s article about review scores and sales, a game that gets a 9 on Metacritic is likely to sell THREE TIMES as many copies as a game that receives an 8. That is mind-boggling. And it might literally be the difference between profitability and closure for some companies. As stated, most people don’t play 84 games in one year. They play far less, roughly about 1 a month, let’s say. So which games are they going to buy? The 84 “Amazing” games or the rest of the non-Amazing crap? Reviewers wield far more power than they realize and while IGN is only one of many, they are the most prominent. For better or worse, they are the leading website, other than Metacritic itself, that people look to when seeking reviews. But their review scale and grade inflation have become completely insane, so much so that their reviews are now meaningless to me. I honestly don’t care what IGN gives a game now because so many games have received a 9 that I expect it out of ANY Triple-A title. In fact, when a game doesn’t receive at least a 9 from IGN, it must be a broken, unplayable mess (i.e. Assassin’s Creed abysmal 8.5).
Now, I don’t want to put undue pressure on them or tell them to give something a 9 so developers won’t lose their jobs. But it is clear that the review system in general, and the description in particular, is broken. There shouldn’t be 84 “best games made for the system” in one year. How on Earth could you even compile a top ten list? How did Hotline Miami, which garnered a just-short-of-Amazing score of 8.8, make it on their final Game of the Year list? Or FTL, which only got an 8? How are those games even on the list with Halo 4, which earned a stunning 9.8? With 84 “Amazing” games in 2012, how did two games which are only “Great” earn a spot on the GOTY nominees list? It makes zero sense.
And oh-by-the-way: last year there were 90 “Amazing” games and in 2010 there were a paltry 69. So this is nothing new. Don’t get me wrong; I am not suggesting that they are biased or that they are being paid off by publishers. I don’t truck with that nonsense. There are no conspiracy theories to be found here. But I do think they are quick to elevate a game to a stature that it doesn’t deserve. And by that, I don’t mean that the reviewer gave a dishonest review. I mean quite simply that their score system is flawed. And we have proof. Below is the list of all the games that have received a 9.0 or higher for the year 2012, which I have placed at the end of this article. At year’s end, it numbered 84.
Look, we know review inflation is something people have talked about for a while, but I don’t think we were aware the numbers are THIS staggeringly high. 84 games. I don’t know what percentage that is of games reviewed or released this year, but for the average gamer, who plays MAYBE a dozen a year, that’s insane. It’s gotten to the point where a game either “sucks” or is “Amazing”. I hate to break it to you, but there is a middle ground and many great games are found there. Other than changing their scoring system and what each score means, I honestly don’t know what can be done to alleviate this problem.
I played more games than most, roughly 15-20 games in 2012 and they weren’t all “Amazing”. Some were great, others not so much. And I played the things I thought I would like, that appealed to me, which usually pays off. So I just don’t think I can get behind the idea that there were 84 “Amazing” games last year.
And you know what? Neither can most other game sites. IGN recently reported that only 18 games had a 9 or higher average score on Metacritic. 18. Compare that to IGN’s 84. And IGN gave a 9 to all but 1 of those 18, with XCOM being the only exception (which is a controversy of a different order, in my opinion). The highest rated game of the year at IGN was Halo 4 with a 9.8. Halo 4′s Metacritic score is an 87, which is a full point less. So I think it is safe to say that they are out of step with the rest of the review crowd. And maybe that’s okay and maybe they would wear that as a badge of honor. But I think it speaks to a larger problem, one which I hopefully have successfully addressed here.
Reviews matter. They are an immediate guide to help consumers, both casual and core, ascertain which games to best spend their hard-earned money on. With games coming in at $60, a purchase is no small matter. Some people say that reviews shouldn’t matter because they often don’t matter in movies and music. But as is so often said when extolling the benefits of video games as an art form, video games are different. Reviews can tell you if a game is broken, if there is a bug that might hinder your progress or if a game has a secret area that extends the life of the game in a dramatic fashion. We rely on reviews as a barometer for quality and that isn’t changing anytime soon. Perhaps one day reviews will be inconsequential, but we aren’t there yet and until then, we deserve a better review system than the one we currently have from the biggest video game site in the world.
You can ignore this, you can tell me it doesn’t matter and that I am wasting my time and you’re perfectly within your rights to do so. But 84 “Amazing” games in 2012 should tell you something is broken with the system. And the only “Amazing” thing is how many games are labeled as such.
The 84 “Amazing” Games and DLC as reviewed by IGN in 2012:
(This list includes PC versions of previously released console titles as they were given separate reviews by IGN. Also, with the case of Pokemon: Black/White, IGN listed the reviews as two different entries, changing only the words “Black” and “White”. Since IGN is counting it as two different games, so am I)
Lumines: Electric Symphony
Super Stardust Delta
UFC Undisputed 3
Kingdoms of Amular: Reckoning
Jak and Daxter Collection
Sakura Samurai: Art of the Sword
Star Wars: The Old Republic
Alan Wake PC
Tales From Space: Mutant Blobs Attack
Sneak Beat Bandit
Plants vs. Zombies
Street Fighter x Tekken
Mass Effect 3
Silent Hill HD
Rayman Origins PC
Total War: Shogun 2
Sword and Sworcery EP – PC version
Batman: Arkham City: Harley Quinn’s Revenge
Metal Gear Solid HD Collection: PS Vita
Sid Meier’s Civiliation IV: Gods and Kings
The Great Big War Game
Orcs Must Die 2
Persona 4 Arena
Walking Dead Episode 3
The World Ends With You Solo Remix
Dark Souls Prepare to Die Edition
Mark of the Ninja
Guild Wars 2
Pokemon: Black 2
Pokemon: White 2
The Unfinished Swan
Need for Speed: Most Wanted
Football Manager 2013
Call of Duty: Black Ops 2
New Super Marios Bros U
Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition
Walking Dead Episode 5
NBA 2K13 Wii U
Borderlands 2: Mr. Torgue’s Campaign of Carnage
Far Cry 3
Persona 4: Golden
Trine 2: Director’s Cut
Mass Effect – PS3
Walking Dead Complete Game
Minigore 2: Zombies