Actually, I think this spans more than game reviews and finds itself in the “media review” category.
Shadow of Mordor is releasing next Tuesday, the 30th. Apparently it’s getting some pretty favorable reviews, well at least from those who’s opinions I find parity. It’s an interesting thing the review-before-launch. I mean, less so on those with massive marketing budgets and pre-orders (side note, I don’t have cable. Saw the first Destiny add last night).
I knew the game was coming, I saw a couple previews but had mostly set the game aside. Assassin’s Creed meets Batman is how I categorized it and it appears to be close enough to the truth. But the early reviews being positive is not something I expected.
The way I see it, if you’re not milking a franchise to death, any new game is a gamble. Sure, a developer wants pre-order to gauge interest. They are going to spend on marketing a fair bit to get the message out there. But it’s still a coin toss for a lot of gamers as to how the review determines purchase. People are like lemmings and reviews, in particular Metacritic, push people one way or the other. That said, a positive review has a rather noticeable impact on sales, just like a negative one does.
Timing of those reviews is critical. I’m reminded of the R.I.P.D. film. Not only were critics not allowed to release any reviews before launch, they weren’t actually provided a release candidate to review. The movie is quite bad, performed poorly, and is best forgotten. It would have made even less money if the negative review had come out ahead of time. Movie reviews often come out a few days before the actual film. GotG came out 2 weeks before and to glowing praise, which allowed a fair amount of word of mouth and positive spin to build up ticket sales.
Game reviews are usually on release day or a few days after, with a few exceptions. These are games that run the ~70% mark on reviews. Great games tend to have early reviews, Last of Us is a good recent example, Ni No Kuni is another than comes to mind. The Destiny reviews came out after launch (not that it mattered much in sales is appears) and the reviews are certainly mixed.
I’m coming to the conclusion that there’s a direct link between the release of a review in relation to the release date, and the quality of same game. The farther ahead the review date is, the better the game. Reviews that are post-launch are often times related to poorer games. Yes, I realize that the MMO space is harder to judge without other players, but the general vibe is there. An MMO in final beta is not going to be any different than a Release Candidate build for reviews. And no MMO is reviewed on raid difficulty, just end game accessibility.
Interesting food for thought.