We Give Metacritic Way Too Much Power

COG Considers: People Just Love Concrete Data So Damn Much

A recent quote from CD Projekt RED’s VP of business development revealed the company’s stance on Metacritic. Unsurprisingly, they’re straight-up enslaved to those numbers. In fact, it appears the 21-day delay was primarily to ensure that Cyberpunk 2077 doesn’t slip below a 90 on the infamous website. They’ve received actual death threats over this delay! People are absolutely furious! But none of that matters in the face of Metacritic and its final judgment. This isn’t the first time we’ve heard a developer or publisher beg favor from MC, and it surely won’t be the last, either. Maybe this is a bad thing?

Like, maybe we’ve given a bit too much power to Metacritic and its scoring average. I know, what a flaming hot take. I must be the first person on the whole planet to come up with such a revolutionary idea. But here’s the thing! Reviewers haaaaaaaaate review scores. Anyone who’s been in the business for long enough inevitably runs into the limit of their usefulness. Games are so much more than a number, which makes Metacritic all the more insidious.

Here’s a great example: I love the Pokemon franchise a lot. Like, a lot. I buy every single one when they’re released, often the same day they come out. But they almost never score that well, and they probably never will. I couldn’t give any one entry more than a 75 and feel good about it. But my feelings about Pokemon are so much more layered than that stupid number can express! There’s history, fixation, full-throated nostalgia, and floaty little feelings I have to shut off whenever I write ‘objectively’ about those games.

Plus, scores don’t always equal sales. The average Metacritic score for an Assassin’s Creed game hasn’t hit 90 in over ten years, and those games move some serious units. So much so, in fact, that Ubisoft has more or less restructured their entire stable of IPs to better resemble the franchise. Fortnite’s first scores were somewhere around 78, and that game left a crater-sized mark on the industry. I can’t find a Metacritic score for Among Us, and that game is all over the internet right now. Scores don’t mean everything!

CDPR delaying Cyberpunk 2077 just so their precious Metacritic score doesn’t take a hit shows a startling misunderstanding of what drives sales. Yes, people look at scores. But that happens after the buzz about a given game hits their radar. Right now, most of the press surrounding Cyberpunk 2077 is negative. While this isn’t the deciding factor in sales either, it’s at least on par with the Metacritic average. Just, chill out about your prospective score, okay?