It used to be…All Metacritics were higher once upon a time because it was ten professionals rating them. Now, sort of anybody with a pen can rate them and it ends up with a bit of a wider track some times.
EA doesn’t usually get the benefit of the cult - ‘everybody has to rate it a hundred’ thing going on - that happens sometimes even when they may not, based on the review, have played more than the first fifteen minutes of the game. But that’s a separate issue.
Much hay has been made over the past few days over this pair of comments made by EA CEO John Riccitiello during William Blair & Company’s 28th Annual Growth Stock Conference, and as someone who technically operates as a blogger, it’s all real goddamn embarrassing. If these comments were really so damning, they would’ve stood on their own just fine, without any additional poking or prodding.
If there’s anything to be taken away from these quotes, it’s the disconcerting fact that big publishers are still putting so much stock in Metacritic scores, which should be used by consumers to make purchasing decisions, not by companies to make business decisions. That’s something that’s always bothered me as a reviewer, because I don’t write for developers or publishers, and I doubt many others do.
Some, it would seem, have seen these quotes as an exciting opportunity to shit on EA. Despite now being dwarved by the lumbering machine that is Activision Blizzard, EA has this evil-empire taint, and I could see a thin-skinned reviewer taking offense at the suggestion that they’re doing their job half-assed, making it that much easier to chalk Riccitiello’s comments up to corporate vanity and hubris. Which, frankly, almost proves Riccitiello’s second point.
Sure, I’ll call bullshit on his “playing the first fifteen minutes” comment, but there’s some validity to pointing out that people seem to take inordinate glee in taking shots at EA. Year-in and year-out, EA honestly publishes or develops some of the most exciting games that come out, but all anyone seems to care to mention is annual Madden updates and charging for weapons. Is it that easy to forget that EA puts out awesome games like Skate, Burnout Paradise, Spore, Boom Blox, and Mercenaries 2, or has a hand in distributing favorites like The Orange Box and Rock Band? Maybe this is too far, but I’d venture to say that people wouldn’t be having half the tizzy over the DRM on the PC version of Mass Effect had EA not acquired BioWare.
What do you guys think? Do these comments make Riccitiello a pompous ass, or is there some truth to them? Do you feel the need to “like” the people who make your games, or is a good game made by jerks still good?