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#1 Edited by liquiddragon (3383 posts) -

I was listening to an old Bombcast where a listener wrote in, concerned about the health of the Final Fantasy franchise because Final Fantasy 13 "didn't review well", a game that currently has an 83% rating at Metacritic(m). You hear this pretty often about a game, that it "didn't review well". This has come up a number of times in a competing podcast, where familiar faces remarked that games like Far Cry 2 (85%m) and Demon's Souls (89%m), among others that scored in the mid 80s, "didn't review well" upon their release. I'm sure the staff here have suggested similar things about other games in the past, though I can't recall specifically.

Some of it I guess is in relation to previous games from the series but other times, people seem to have a number in their heads about what a well reviewed game should at least score.

For me, even with how top heavy review scores are in gaming, in an aggregated setting, I just can't claim a game "didn't review well" if it has an 80 or above. Below 80, I don't think there are that many people over the moon about the game and probably a reasonable amount of negative reviews as well.

What's a good Metacritic score to you, what's a "well reviewed" game, and what does it mean to you when someone says a game "didn't review well"?

Boiled down, the question is, if someone tells you some new game "didn't review well", what's the highest average score that pops into your head?

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#3 Edited by Fredchuckdave (10824 posts) -

For a triple A game anything below 80 is bad. For smaller releases reviewers don't feel any pressure to give good scores so they're more prone to being honest about their personal experience; so if they played a little known difficult indie game (like say Bloodrayne Betrayal) and had trouble with it they might give it a shitty score for instance. If Demon's Souls had come out in the US at the same time as Japan with no zeitgeist it would probably have like a 70-75 on metacritic; with various entertaining reviews complaining about the difficulty.

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#4 Posted by TheHT (15861 posts) -

60s = probably not great but maybe a little something to it, but qualifies for not reviewing well.

50s or lower = bad.

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#5 Posted by TheRealTurk (527 posts) -

As you pointed out, that can mean different things in different contexts. Some games have a pre-existing series they are part of, so something "not reviewing well" will be relative. In the case of FFXIII, the current Metacritic sits at an 83. Which doesn't seem that bad until you consider that it was the first "mainline" FF game to score below a 90 and is almost 10 points below the average for the rest of the series to that point.

I also think that in discussing this topic with others, people tend to conflate "official" reviews that come from an established source with both sales and "word on the street" reviews. A game can review well critically but kind of get a "meh" response from the public at large, which can create a perception that the game didn't "review" well. For example, that could be what's happening with Hellblade right now. The "official" reviews currently have it at an 83, which seems pretty good. But the "word on the street," at least among the people I talk to about games, is that most everyone dislikes a lot of what they've played.

For me, personally, it's complicated. For full price ($60) games, I generally take my own preferences into account first by watching a Quick Look before I go for a game. If there isn't a Quick Look, then I'll ask someone I know I share preferences with whether they've played it or liked it. I'll only really look at reviews if those first two steps fail. But given there are so many good games out right now, I'm unlikely to buy a game sight-unseen unless it reviews an 85+.

I'm a little looser on indies/less than full price games. I might take a chance on a $10-15 Steam game because it isn't a huge loss if it turns out to not be good.

One thing I wish review aggregators would do is a have a better way of showing a "range" of scores. That would give you a better idea of how a particular average was reached. For example, if two games each score an 80 on Metacritic, and each has 10 reviews. I'm more likely to pick up one where the review scores are all pretty close to 80 as opposed to one where the scores have a lot of highs and lot of lows.

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#6 Posted by Efesell (4510 posts) -

It's kind of a tough question.

For me personally as it regards to actual purchasing decisions... below 50 is where I generally decide not to bother unless it's something I've been invested in for whatever reason.

At the same time it's also hard for me to see some big budget heavily marketed storied franchise splash in with a 70 or something and not consider it to have 'reviewed poorly' even if it's well within my own personal tolerance.

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#7 Posted by Dixavd (2901 posts) -

I don't think of Metacritic review scores this way. A review is very dependent on the person who wrote and the system which they used. If a game is reviewed by Giant Bomb, this always skews a metacritic score slightly because the only scores they can give (when converted from /5stars to /100) is 20, 40, 60, 80, or 100. While Giant Bomb is only one site, the effect occurs with all reviewers to varying extents. You can see this when you compare the minor differences in Metacritic scores between platforms because the different pool of reviewers skews in different ways (assuming one platform isn't significantly more broken than another).. I mostly avoid paying attention to Metacritic at all and only use it to get links to varying reviews to see what kinds of responses a game got.

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#8 Posted by yurimegumi (121 posts) -

2-star and lower so 40%, 2-star being "has redeemable qualities" and 1 being "what were they thinking".

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#9 Posted by Zevvion (5965 posts) -

A difficult question to answer because reviews don't matter for the quality/fun of a game. They are people's opinions. A small fraction at that. The best games every made have more than a small fraction of people who played it that disliked it. On top of that, metacritic often gathers review scores from 'respectable critics' who play countless of videogames every year, which actually means their expertise on any single game is more limited and to me, less valuable. On top of that, the score alone is even less valuable.

So we're talking about critical reception that influences a game's ability to produce a sequel. In that case, to be honest, anything below 80% or so can be insufficient. For Final Fantasy in particular, it sells well regardless of critical reception, so it could be at 10% and still be considered fine, as it won't affect sales that much to the point a sequel cannot be produced.

In the end I think metacritic is a poor source for almost any logical discussion terms on videogames other than how it was received critically. If someone claims a game was received poorly by critics, you can bring up metacritic to show it has 86% as evidence. But that is the only use case for it. It doesn't say anything on the quality itself. There's more than a few games that scored over 95% which I consider poor videogames and even more scoring lower than the magic number 80% which are way, way better games than the former.

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#10 Posted by CaLe (4799 posts) -


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#11 Posted by clagnaught (2124 posts) -

Low 70s is where I start to consider a game to be middling, mediocre, or mixed. 60s to 40s is what I think this game is just straight up bad, and beyond that you have increasingly worse trainwrecks.

In some ways there are two ways of looking at it. What score means a game is "bad" and what score is bad for the game. Publishers and game makers want good review scores, so they can ideally draw more people in and sell more games. When you get a bunch of reviews that are the equivalent of "Meh, it's alright", how much is that going to motivate people to buy your game?

To your point, a game scoring in the 80s doesn't mean it's bad. It means the game is good. If a previous entry was in the 90 to 95 range and a sequel is at 80, that probably just means the game is not as good as the earlier game; not that it is bad.

With some of the examples you cited, I think those are more interesting circumstances. Final Fantasy XIII in many ways is a good game, but the realities of its structure and story sat in later, which is arguably where a lot of the negativity comes from. It was lacking in some respects as a game, but at the time it was arguably one of, if not the, best looking game out there, and the battle system was fun once you got going. Also, I think Demon's Souls was always looked at highly. While that game is not for everyone and was a sleeper hit, it really resonated with the people who did like it.

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#12 Edited by whitegreyblack (1965 posts) -

I have had a perfectly fine time with games that are in the 50-70 % average review range... sometimes it's all about managing your expectations, and what your personal tastes are.

For me, I find that Metacritic and other review aggregators are occasionally only useful if you like to prefer to look at numbers and let them dictate your experience with a piece of media over choosing your own value-point to get that piece of media and then trusting your own opinion based on your own experience.

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#13 Posted by OurSin_360 (6177 posts) -

I dont know about metacritic but id say 60 is where games to be bad/middling. Most consider 70 the worst thing ever now which is insane, Andromeda averaged a 70 something and it became a "trainwreck". I think the game is just not great but its not horrible like the internet makes you believe, it deserved a 70 or 75. Seems like now you need to be a great game to be considered average.

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#14 Posted by Shadow (5356 posts) -

This website aside, most of gaming stuff has some sort of aversion to giving anything less than a 7 unless they think it's shit. So any game with a metacritic score under 70 is typically a pretty bad game

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#15 Edited by Zeik (5197 posts) -

Metacritic scores are pretty worthless, so I don't put much stock in them regardless, but it kinda depends on the game. If it gets hundreds of reviews and basically all bad that probably means something. If there are only a dozen reviews and half are good and half are bad that will weigh down the score significantly, but there's probably more going on than simply looking at the score would tell you. (Something like the original Nier is a good example. Or Deadly Premonition.)

I don't know, the idea of aggregating a bunch of subjective opinions into a meaningless number just seems really stupid to me, especially nowadays when gaming is so diverse. I don't understand why people put so much faith in that number.

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#16 Posted by paulmako (1958 posts) -

I used to years ago think that anything below 80 is bad, but I've seen plenty of games I enjoyed in the 70s so I don't really know anymore.

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#18 Posted by Kidavenger (4417 posts) -

I think an overall Metacritic score needs to be a lot higher to be impressive than an individual review because there is so many suspicious review sources that get included; seems like any shit blog can get listed and have an equal voice to longstanding proven reviewers.

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#19 Posted by Fezrock (731 posts) -

For AAA, I'd say sub-80 is bad; for smaller games, sub-70 is bad.

There are sometimes games with scores below that that I enjoy, but it's almost always in a genre that I'm really in to and that I can overlook somewhat serious flaws.

Also, I think review score inflation now isn't quite as bad as it once was. I think there was a time when 85 was a pretty hard cutoff, and anything below that was bad; that might be what the dudes were referring into in that Bombcast. FF13 was released in 2010, and I think score inflation was still at its peak then.

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#20 Edited by ArbitraryWater (15717 posts) -

While it certainly isn't at its height, the "7-9 scale" is still very much a thing for a lot of outlets, so it's often telling if something gets a lot of 6s and below or is in the low 70s on Metacritic.

Of course, I tend to put more stock into word of mouth from people who like the same things I like, rather than formal game reviews and I get the impression a lot of other people are similar. Even the "once in a blue moon" Giant Bomb review is often less useful than just reading around on the forums, because I know that the GB crew usually has drastically different tastes than. I do about a lot of things.

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#21 Posted by MonkeyKing1969 (7588 posts) -

Metacritic is a tool, ist can be used well like a hammer on a nail, or disastrously like a hammer on a human head. The point is how do YOU use the tool and what value do you put on what that tool creates.

I don't put much stock in Metacritic because they use rather poor quality sites to fill out their averages. So, this is how I use its. I pick a game and then I scan the list for sites I have knowledge of: 60.....70.........70........50.......80. Then I just average that out in my head. I do that because it's faster than visiting ten sites individually to see "if" they reviewed it. One site, scan the list, and I then have my answers to what the "current thinking" on a game is on that date. Overall score in meaningless.

If IGN give it a 40% and Giant Bomb gives in a 20% I have my answer.

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#22 Posted by Goboard (293 posts) -

All Metacritic cumulative scores are useless. It's only real use is as an easy place to find and read or watch many reviews.

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#23 Edited by jimothyjim (50 posts) -

If I was living in a pretend world where I was just buying games I'd never heard of based on Metacritic, 65ish would be my cutoff. I actually want to say 70 but 5 star review scales make it awkward. On a 100 scale I cut off at 70, but on a 5 star scale I cut off at 3 which would go to 60...

For anything around 60 I would want to have had additional information prior to launch that had intrigued me enough to look past the score. Maybe a genre I know I like, or an interesting mechanic I'm hoping is enough to overcome whatever isn't so good. Even just some screenshots that look cool, anything that piques my interest. I'm not necessarily thinking a 60 game is bad, but I already own 8 bajillion games and am interested in 10 bajillion more, so buying a game that got middling reviews and doesn't have my interest seems silly.

Anything 50 or under I'm not interested in unless there's something about the game that really gripped me. Keeping in mind earlier where 3 star reviews drag 70s down, they're also dragging 50s up towards 60. (I think that makes sense, right?). If it's getting 50s that means it's probably getting at least some 2 star reviews which is never good. Usually the reason I'd even consider a 50 or under is that it's in a very niche category I like so it becomes one of the best games by default.

Edit: I was a bit off track from the OP. If someone says it reviewed well I assume 80 or above, if someone said it reviewed badly I'm expecting under 70.

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#24 Posted by Shaunage (933 posts) -

In games, anything below a 60 is more-or-less non-functional. Game scores are ridiculous.

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#25 Posted by Belegorm (1848 posts) -


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#26 Posted by bybeach (6354 posts) -

60. But it has never been really beaten out of me to think on scale of 10 and not 5.

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#27 Posted by GundamGuru (786 posts) -

@dixavd: Jeff actually said a long time ago that he liked the way the five-star system was shown on Metacritic. Fives (100) and fours (80) are green and roughly correspond to recommended, threes (60) are yellow and represent middling, and twos (40) and ones (20) are red and bad scores.

Personally I think anything yellow (<80) overall on Metacritic is suspect, and I don't touch stuff under 70 unless I already know it's something I want to play for some particular reason.

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#28 Edited by uhtaree (951 posts) -

There's a higher bar for games than for movies I would say since you actually have to put effort into consuming it. I think the mid 60's maybe, any lower and I would only play it if I was craving more of that genre or series.

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#29 Posted by SarcasticMudcrab (383 posts) -

I tend to disagree with popular opinion and the reasons games are marked low generally don't bother me so I take my judgements off lets plays and unbiased footage and try to ignore scores, the negative backlash farce around ME:A completely sealed that for me.

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#30 Edited by Dixavd (2901 posts) -

@freedom4556: I found when Jeff said that. I only remembered how he said that reviewers shouldn't take notice of the aggregate sites when writing reviews. I also agree that the way the /5 stars values transfers is more pleasing than most other scales.

My issue stems from the way Metacritic solves the issue of multiple scoring systems by inserting/adding detail to the smaller scales. It's not unreasonable to use large pools of data to determine greater detail than an input*, however, I think that there is too much subjectivity involved in game reviews (both in interpreting the role of reviews, and the importance of certain aspects of games) to merit this approach. Metacritic tries to combat this by putting weights on different outlets for trustworthiness, however they keep their weights hidden. It's unclear whether this goes as far as reviewers within outlets, and whether they favour certain kinds of biases in reviews (such as previous reviews in a given franchise/genre).

Were Metacritic to reduce the scores down to just the colour-scale of Bad/Average/Good (or that's all people paid attention to), I may be more inclined to listen to arguments that use it. On the other hand, while the weightings of reviewers is purposefully left unclear, I cannot take on face-value that even this represents overall critical reception.

*Fun fact (because I like science)! The 2014 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded for effectively doing this: statistical analysis was used on cells' position data measured multiple times at the physical limit to create a detailed map at an even smaller scale. The crucial step was to extend this for living cells in real-time interactions.

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#31 Edited by Justin258 (15661 posts) -

Back when review scores were still things that I looked up before buying a game, 70 was my cutoff limit. But even then I'd be willing to go below 70 if a game had a feature that I thought sounded cool.

These days, I don't know. I hear about games on forums, watch videos of them on Giantbomb or on Youtube, and then put them on my wishlist for safekeeping and potential purchase later. If something looks interesting, it looks interesting, and I'll give it a shot if I get a chance.

@kingbonesaw said:

Don't have much to add other than that metacritic scores are dumb but I was wondering if maybe a score in the 80's means something different depending on where you're from? In Canada (at least when I was in high school) an 80-89 was considered the equivalent to an A- to A with anything above a 90 being an A+. 70-79 was in the B category, 60-69 was for the C's, 50-59 was for the D's and anything below 50 was a fail. Maybe different people interpret scores differently?

I do remember FFXIII getting lower reviews than past mainline FF games so maybe that has something to do with the "game not reviewing well".

Grading is weird in the USA. I don't know if it's this way everywhere, but when I was growing up, 93-100 was an A, 85-92 was a B, 78-85 was a C, 70-77 was a D, and anything 69 or below was an F, which is just nonsense. In college it was a more sensible 90-100 was an A, 80-89 was a B, 70-79 was a C, and so on.

In any case, people still want their favorite games to get great scores across the board and if something they're really anticipating isn't particularly adored by a handful of reviewers, some people consider it a "low score". As long as we have scores and especially aggregate sites like Metacritic, that's going to be a thing, because god forbid people actually put more stock in the content of the review than the number attached to it.

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#32 Posted by radiocage (498 posts) -

Definitely not, I lived in several different states and it was much more basic than that. 90-100 was A, 80-89 B, etc. F was 59 or below. Most schools do an A+, A, A- system, but the exact numbers vary.

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#33 Posted by viking_funeral (2881 posts) -

Fallout New Vegas probably deserved to review better than it did. The bugs were no more egregious than those experienced in Fallout 3 upon release, which seems to be what caused the brunt of the criticism. It seemed like it was just a safe time to take the Bethesda engine to task for its many flaws and it was safe to do so with Obsidian at the helm. Which, ironically, really hurt Obsidian as they had a contract with a payout dependent on metascore.

What's a well reviewed game? Now that is a hard question. How can we accurately equate a somewhat objective score to a subjective experience? I know that's the crux of the whole review score debate, and obviously there is some merit to review scores, but Metacritic scores are too broad to say anything is well reviewed (i.e. very accurate).

I rarely follow metacritic scores myself, expect to do very cursory research into whether a game is worth exploring deeper. That said, here is my rough scale based on personal experience:

  • 95+% --- I should probably play this.
  • 90-94% --- Well made game. I should look into this.
  • 85-89% --- Good game, could have some flaws. Watch some vids if not already interested.
  • 80-84% --- Could be good or not based on my tastes. Explore deeper only if interested.
  • 60-79% --- I should probably avoid these games unless there is something there I absolutely need to try.
  • 00-59% --- A dark abyss of nothingness and dread.
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#34 Posted by avantegardener (2369 posts) -

Well are they're are really two metrics of a games success, critical and finical. There are plenty of example of games that were critically lauded and sold poorly, and vice versa.

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#35 Edited by hippie_genocide (2441 posts) -

I doubt when someone on a podcast says a game "didn't review well" that they have the game's metacritic page up. They're going off of what they can remember which sometimes doesn't line up with the truth. Also, games can take on a life of their own in the aftermath of a release that don't get reflected in reviews, and it can influence what people think they recall. Like your example of FF13, an 83% is a good score but at least I feel like the general sentiment among gamers is that it's one of the worst Final Fantasy games. If I were to sit and talk about that game, I'd probably say something like yeah that game didn't review well, even though it actually did. Anyway, just wanted to give that perspective of someone casually talking games versus looking at list of games on metacritic and using the scores to determine a game's overall quality. For me, I think the breakdown @viking_funeral has given is pretty close to how I feel.